With questions about a two-tier system for NATO and concerns about certain members being unreliable or not sharing the burden, a ruling by the German Supreme Court comes as more bad news. The issue this time was the deployment of German AWACs along the Turkish border with Iraq in 2003. The article notes that:
Germany had sent its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes at the request of its NATO ally, Turkey. Germany provided crews to man NATO planes that flew surveillance flights near Turkey’s southern border which were meant to protect Turkey against an Iraqi attack during the US-led invasion. Schroeder’s government described the 2003 deployment as a “routine” NATO operation.
However, although a NATO flight in conjunction with Turkey would seem fairly uncontroversial, there was a much deeper issue at hand for the Germans, the risk of war. The AWACS were sent to patrol the border and to be able to alert and direct Turkish fighter jets in the event of an attack by Iraq, most likely with missiles. And although the planes are unarmed and used solely for command and control purposes, the risk that they could have become involved in a war was real, according to the German Supreme Court. Therefore, the previous government of Gerhard Schröder, acted illegally and unconstitutionally by putting the German military in a situation in which it could have potentially been involved in armed conflict. Only the German parliament has the authority to do such.
First of all, this ruling puts the Chancellor on a much tighter leash that before and strengthens the German parliament. It does not however, affect any current operations such as in Afghanistan, Djibouti or Kosovo nor is it likely to cause trouble for any politicians who were involved in the decision at the time. Yet, it could complicate future decisions, mostly minor ones, and subject them to prevailing political whims which may in turn further damage Germany’s reputation as an ally of the United States and as a reliable NATO member. However, outsiders do need to retain a bit of perspective as the Germans, and indeed their form of government, is rather explicit in its intention to keep the majority of power in the hands of the elected representatives of parliament and prevent an overly strong executive branch from repeating World War Two.
On a related note, this is also bad if not fatal news for the CDU’s proposal to create a German NSC.