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Continental Anchor: Future US Collaboration with a Reforged German Security Apparatus

A deepened bond of security between the United States and Germany would serve both nations’ security interests in the long run in this new age of security challenges.

Cover Image for Continental Anchor: Future US Collaboration with a Reforged German Security Apparatus
Source: Reuters
Article byRule Johnstone
March 28, 2023

In his autobiography, Panzer Commander, Wehrmacht armor officer Hans von Luck repeatedly clarifies that much, or most of the German army during World War 2 had not only no interest, but legitimate antipathy towards the policies of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. In his view, mirrored by much of the German soldiery, his primary motivation was to the people of Germany - not psychotic policy of the Nazi regime - and the self-imposed duty to be the most effective professional soldier possible. When the reader looks past the Nazi patina of reading a Wehrmacht officer’s book, they get a sense of the highly skilled technical abilities of the Wehrmacht, traits embodied in the most effective military traditions of the previous several hundred centuries of Imperial Germany prior to Hitler’s ideological hijack. After eighty years of war guilt, the West needs that sense of professionalism and martial expertise back in a resurgent Germany anchoring a continental Europe against common foes such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China.

Despite opposing each other in World War II, there was equal American respect for German tactical and technical proficiency as there was German appreciation for American ingenuity and creativity on the battlefield. Now in cooperation rather than opposition, these positive cultural traits remain and could provide fertile soil ready for tilling if security ties are deepened between the United States and Germany. Though strengthened diplomatic and security ties have many positive components, the driving force behind this cooperation is the local knowledge brought by Germany to the alliance coupled with American national security resources. The additional cultural complements mentioned above are simply icing on the cake of a deepened relationship of trust and engagement.

The analysis here is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the full multilateral benefits of alliances and cooperation. Rather, the intent is to point out some benefits of highest yield for both partners in modern-day interstate cooperation. Of particular importance is the organic enrichment of expertise that occurs when professionals of cooperating services are able to learn from those with different skills, enabling intelligence officers of both partners to cross-pollinate and enhance their existing skills.

When it comes to combined military and intelligence cooperation, there is no substitute, both strategically[1] and tactically,[2] for local eyes on the ground. Whether using a technical term like HUMINT (human intelligence) or a general one, such as situational awareness, the concept is the same: nothing beats local knowledge of an operational environment. The crucial point is that local knowledge is augmented with American heft and know-how. For this approach, the Jordanian-US intelligence relationship provides the prototype for the current age. Despite the differences between Jordan and Germany, the principles of cooperation for enhanced operational capabilities remains the same.

The Jordanian relationship became the “template[3]” for intelligence cooperation because of the exceptional HUMINT capacity Jordan contributed. As the creator of George Smiley, John le Carré said: “[Jordan’s] exceptional HUMINT capabilities allowed the GID…to sit at the ‘high table’ in the global intelligence fraternity alongside agencies such as the CIA [and] Britain’s MI6.[4]” It was specific knowledge of the “bad guy’s” culture and networks, as well as the Arab psyche more broadly,[5] that made Jordan such an invaluable partner to the United States, despite the country’s relative size compared to the US.

Though Germany and Jordan are very different states, the same principles of cooperation apply. For one point of reference, in the same way as Jordan provides cultural knowledge of the Middle East, Germany would be likewise invaluable in the war effort against Russia in Ukraine, as Germany has by far the most Russian speakers of any Western European nation - over two million -and double that of Israel, another notorious hub of Russian speakers. The combination of professional espionage capabilities, knowledge of the human and strategic terrain in Europe, as well as this language endowment in the populace, makes Germany a prime candidate for deepened security ties with the US during this critical geopolitical moment.

There would be several components to this deepened relationship. The first is the American contribution of resources and technical expertise. Particularly important is the hard-won experience of soldiers, intelligence professionals, and special operators from the last two decades of war in the Middle East and the collaborative approach pioneered through on the ground innovation during this period.[6] Though of obvious import to the Ukrainian conflict, this experience also transfers to police forces, as American inter-agency cooperation included the Army’s elite Delta Force training FBI agents in various combat skills.[7]Conversely, as Delta trained federal law enforcement, so too were the Delta operators provided training in investigation techniques critical for intelligence exploitation.[8] In short, the cross-training of skills between America’s frontline professionals would likewise provide operational windfalls in proficiency to an ally like Germany. In addition to these invaluable on the ground skills, American security cooperation also contributes the full suite of technical resources - such as extensive drone and satellite surveillance, and the personnel to analyze this information as seamlessly as possible - to the relationship.[9]

In addition to military and intelligence-driven activities, deepened financial cooperation would bring not only economic benefits, but national security windfalls as well. The US Treasury’s efforts to track money trails of international terrorism have been documented,[10] but these same approaches could also apply to a state-on-state conflict, as in the modern-day targeting of Russian oligarchs as punishment for Russia’s war against Ukraine. Generally speaking, this is the ability of “the Treasury Department, finance ministries and central banks, and financial regulators around the world [to use] their unconventional tools and influence for broader national security purposes.[11]” For the Ukraine conflict specifically, this could take the form of not only analysis on the efficacy of sanction packages, but also applying various forms of pressure to Vladimir Putin and his oligarchical power base. The Treasury has developed advanced capabilities “considered essential in any strategy of national security import[12]” through its practice of isolating and excluding “suspect people, institutions, and money[13]” from the international financial system.

This analysis of multilateral structural improvements of security institutions cultivated through deepened military and intelligence ties is not meant to focus solely on the directed aim of policy. Rather, it is also meant to highlight the organizational benefits when professionals with different tendencies, experiences, and backgrounds share their knowledge. A narrow focus on stated policy objectives at the cost of ignoring the value of organic organizational improvement is to misconstrue the value of cultivated partnerships, whose windfalls for the individual professional go far beyond the bureaucratic neatness of press releases and check-the-box “victories.” Rather, it is the cooperation with, and exposure to professionals of other organizations and nationalities which drives the absorption of institutional know-how. This organizational bonding of sharing expertise and similar values entrenches long-term bonds of legitimacy between security institutions and nations. A deepened bond of security between the United States and Germany would serve both nations’ security interests in the long run in this new age of security challenges.

[1] Freedman, Lawrence. Ukraine and the Art of Strategy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pg. 10.

[2] Prado, Ric. Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2022. Pg. 366.

[3] Katz, Samuel M. No Shadows in the Desert: Murder, Vengeance, and Espionage in the War Against ISIS. Toronto: Hanover Square Press, 2020. Pg. 66.

[4] Ibid., 62.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kitfield, James. Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies, & Special Agents Who are Revolutionizing the American Way of War. New York: Basic Books, 2016. Pg. 209.

[7] Ibid., 139.

[8] Ibid., 138-139.

[9] Ibid., 202.

[10] Zarate, Juan C. Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013. Pg. 93.

[11] Ibid., 11.

[12] Ibid., 144.

[13] Ibid., 91.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent that of the IWAB platform.