28 July 2023
On June 14th, Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz and four of his ministers unveiled the country’s first ever National Security Strategy. The almost 80-page document titled “Integrated Security for Germany” is the government’s response to a changing security environment, increasing multipolarity, threats to democracy, society and the economy, and the impact of the climate crisis. In addition to outlining external and internal threats, the new strategy determines responsibilities and presents goals and measures to make the country more robust (“wehrhaft”), resilient and sustainable. The main goals are: shaping a “free international order that respects and upholds international law, the Charter of the United Nations, the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition on the threat or use of force, the right of all peoples to self-determination, and universal human rights” (p. 11) as well as effectively responding to the climate crisis and other challenges of our time.
The announcement by chancellor Olaf Scholz, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius did not come as a surprise: drafting a National Security Strategy had been part of the governing parties’ coalition agreement. Still, the initial endeavor gained immense importance after the start of Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine and became a top priority for the German government.
The strategy intensively covers Germany’s national security through its membership in NATO and national defense. It further assesses the economy, society and global trends through the lens of national security, dealing with terrorism, digitalization, natural resource consumption and the spread of misinformation, among other issues. This analysis focuses on the role of energy and raw materials for Germany’s national security and how these topics affect the country’s transatlantic partnerships.
Germany requires a secure supply of energy sources and raw materials. Ranking as the fourth largest economy in the world by GDP in 2022, the country’s primary energy consumption lies at around 3.300 TWh per year. With the beginning of Russia’s brutal war of aggression, Germany’s energy supply was fundamentally challenged, as it had been relying heavily on gas imports from Russia. One and a half years later, Germany largely eliminated this dependence by rapidly finding alternative energy sources. Many different raw materials are critical for Germany’s industrial value chains, especially for new technologies in the digital and green transformation. But the country imports the majority of its consumed critical raw materials, making it highly dependent on other countries. As the global market for raw materials is changing due to rising demand and geopolitical tensions, a secure supply for Germany is endangered.
In light of Russia’s war of aggression, a changing global order with China emerging as a global powerhouse, and the Covid-19 crisis demonstrating the fragility of global supply chains, the German government now strives to safeguard the supply of energy and raw materials and reduce one-sided dependencies to ensure national security. This should be done without impairing economic openness and innovative capacity. In the future, Germany’s supply chains for energy and raw materials must align with the country’s foreign trade and investment principles, including sustainability and human rights standards.
Germany’s first steps towards these goals are strengthening ties with its current allies and diversifying its mineral supply relationships by investing in new partnerships with up-and-coming countries in Asia, Africa and America. Projects in cooperation between these new trading partners should always be designed to benefit both sides and foster sustainable development in the partner countries. The Federal Government plans to provide targeted support for raw material projects in the business sector, e.g. by creating institutional frameworks. Companies will be incentivized to strategically stockpile critical raw materials. From now on, Germany will monitor critical dependencies to determine which raw material supply chains should be diversified and calls for an EU-wide early warning system. To decrease dependencies, the country also strives to use energy and raw materials more efficiently and examine the potential of the circular economy and domestic extraction.
To decrease dependencies and strengthen supply chains, Germany supports an ambitious EU trade agenda and new trade agreements. In this context, the Federal Government welcomes the European Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), proposed by the European Commission in March of 2023. The national security strategy picks up on many of the CRMA’s objectives, such as increasing preparedness, promoting supply chain sustainability and raising ambition on recycling strategic materials.
Since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the German government has been fundamentally reevaluating with whom to conduct business. Thus, its National Security Strategy strongly emphasizes strengthening cooperation with reliable partners. Even though the United States and Canada are not specifically mentioned in the paragraph on energy and raw material security, the document states in the introduction that Germany is “firmly rooted in the transatlantic alliance, which expresses our close ties and partnership with the United States” (p. 11) and declares “consolidating the transatlantic alliance and our close partnership based on mutual trust with the United States of America” (p. 21) as a central interest.
Regarding secure supply chains, the United States adopted “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals” in 2019, which specifically recommends expanding cooperation with the European Union and Canada on critical mineral exploration, processing and recycling. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 covers incentives to greatly expand the domestic production of critical minerals, to which the EU responded with the CRMA. The transatlantic alliance has a strong foundation of shared values and a mutual interest in promoting sustainability and decreasing dependency on China; thus, enhanced cooperation in the field of energy and raw material security is only reasonable and at the top of the agenda. Indeed, on June 14th the European Commission moved forward with the Critical Minerals Agreement negotiations with the United States. These developments on the European level are fully in the interest of Germany, as defined in its security strategy.
Germany’s National Security Strategy was met with positive reviews, both from critics and its international partners. Especially for its "clarity and an optimistic tone" and ambitions to assume more responsibility in the world. At the same time, it received criticism for being vague and lacking concrete measures of implementation. It remains to be seen how much of the planned measures the Federal Government will implement and how successful the strategy will turn out to be.