Ten Years of Cooperation Between the Bundeswehr and the American Jewish Committee

Dr. Peter Struck, German Minister of Defense 

A warm welcome to the Federal Academy for Security Policy!

I am very pleased that so many prominent people have come together to recognize an important relationship.

The intensive 10-year relationship between the American Jewish Committee and the Bundeswehr fills us all with gratitude.

We are grateful not only because of Germany's special obligation to the Jewish people.

We are also grateful that we have found in the American Jewish Committee a partner that has worked so successfully for international understanding and German-Jewish dialogue.

We have you to thank for the fact that Bundeswehr soldiers are no longer thought of in connection with the Wehrmacht, but are understood and perceived as the armed forces of a democracy who stand up for human rights.

It is also the AJC that is to be thanked for the fact that people in Germany have a better understanding of the culture and interests of Jews, and not only American Jews.

In addition, you provide a very welcome forum for transatlantic dialogue, which is extraordinarily important for Germany.

It is our duty and imperative to continue promoting and expanding this dialogue. This dialogue is at the same time an expression of pragmatic German policy.

Solidarity and friendship with the United States of America and Israel are constants in German foreign policy.

The decision by the US not to withdraw from Germany in 1945, but to maintain a permanent presence, introduced an element of stability to Europe.

Because of this, it was possible to enter into the project of European union. Thus Europe's coming together after World War Two is both a historical achievement of Europeans and the result of farsighted American foreign policy.

From the beginning, the transatlantic relationship, based on common values, ideals and interests, was more than a simple alliance of necessity.

Europe and North America share a common cultural and intellectual history, as well as common political experience.

Both have the same concepts of representative democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In almost 60 years, a tight web of connections has emerged between Europe and the US. It covers all areas of political life, from security policy to economic cooperation to cultural relations.

The reactions to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington demonstrate clearly and without doubt that the foundation of the transatlantic community of values remains remarkably sustainable.

However, the structure of the transatlantic community requires constant maintenance if it is also to provide the next generation with a secure home.

The commitment will pay off: we are talking about nothing less than the permanent anchoring of the transatlantic partnership in the minds and hearts of a new generation of Americans and Europeans.

Only transatlantically are we capable of taking on the future together. Only transatlantic action will guarantee a future in freedom, peace, democracy and prosperity.

The question, therefore, is:

How will Europe's relationship to America be structured?

This is a core political and strategic question. It is clear that rivalries and duplication of capabilities can only be detrimental to both sides.

Not only is there a high degree of correspondence between the basic values of the transatlantic partners; there is also an agenda for overcoming global challenges that urgently requires joint action. There is hardly a political or security challenge of any significance today that that can be resolved by a nation working alone.

For the USA, too, this means that multicultural action to cope with global security problems is generally the better option. Here is where European partners come into play.

But it also means that the USA, as a major political and military power with special obligations and interests, relies on the support and shared responsibility of its European partners in managing crises and conflicts -- in Europe, but also outside of Europe.

The German Marshall Fund's widely noted study "Transatlantic Trends 2004" in September underscores these facts. It shows that 79 percent of all Americans want the European Union to take a leadership role in international affairs.

A Europe that is able to act and willing to take on responsibility would be better able to make its influence felt on its American partner.

But, conversely, this also means that a rhetorical right to be listened to and to participate cannot be separated from a willingness to act jointly with our American partners.

Today there are well over 25,000 European soldiers deployed in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The replacement of SFOR with the EU's ALTHEA operation is a further example of a strategic partnership between Europe and America. Both are working closely there in the guise of NATO and the EU.

Those who have organized cooperation between NATO and the EU know that the cooperation and the division of labor between NATO and the EU are not static.

Both the EU and NATO are undergoing thoroughgoing processes of adaptation to changing conditions.

The development of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) cannot be viewed in isolation from the NATO of the future.

The adaptation of both security institutions can only be carried out complementarily – on the basis of trust and transparency.

A common basic strategic understanding between the Europeans and their American allies on their security agenda also seems indispensable.

NATO should once again be used more frequently as a forum for strategic discussion. This is where, above all, transatlantic dialogue should take place.

At the same time, the desired strategic partnership between NATO and the EU must also include strategic exchange on global security issues.

I am convinced that the new American administration will strive for this exchange and will strengthen transatlantic relations.


In addition to the transatlantic connection, a further unshakeable pillar of German foreign policy, now and in the future, is resolute support for Israel's right to exist.

This includes resolute support for the right of Israeli citizens to live in peace within secure borders.

This position cannot be qualified and will continue in the future to determine the unique character of our relationship with Israel.

We advocate it emphatically in all multilateral and international institutions.

It also determines our attitude toward other dialogue partners in the region.

Moral responsibility toward Israel has, over the decades, turned into concrete, everyday cooperation.

A network of relationships has developed in numerous areas of policy, especially in all questions that affect Israel's security. This network makes Germany one of Israel's most important partners today.

Because we are so closely connected, we follow current developments in the region with particular attention.

Most important, of course, are the questions of a successor to the deceased Yasir Arafat and the situation in Iraq.

We note with dismay the continuing images of violence and terror – in part because, despite all the victims, the agenda of problems to be solved remains the same.

Germany sees no other options but to stabilize Iraq as rapidly as possible and prepare the way for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

There is no realistic alternative that will bring Israel lasting peace and the Palestinians a state of their own.

This road, too – based on each side's respect for the right of existence of the one and the dignity of the other – we wish to travel together with the USA.

For without the USA, this road will not be possible. It must ultimately lead to a lasting, peaceful neighborliness between two states and peoples.


Round birthdays and anniversaries are generally an opportunity to look back on the successes achieved.

The year 2004 recognizes ten fruitful years of cooperation between the AJC and the Bundeswehr.

The results of this dialogue are impressive:

Since 1994, future young officers have been visiting the AJC every year as part of an educational trip. Over 300 participants have now experienced their hospitality.

This has also been the case since 1999 for various classes of the Bundeswehr leadership academy, which have been able to visit the AJC in New York and the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

There have also been a number of visits by prominent members of the AJC and talks by David A. Harris to the leadership academy of the army officers' school and the Bundeswehr universities.

The Bundeswehr maintains lively, deep and friendly relations with our contact in Germany, the AJC office in Berlin.

We can be especially proud of the fact that in past years we have also undertaken concrete relief measures for needy people.

A joint humanitarian relief operation by the Bundeswehr and the AJC, together with the Order of St. John, to benefit Muslim refugees in Macedonia speaks for itself.

All this is evidence of an unusually open, friendly and lively relationship. It is considered by the Bundeswehr to be especially enriching, and we could no longer do without it.

I look forward to a continuation of this relationship and would like now to honor an outstanding representative, representing the entire AJC.

Mr. Harris,

For ten years you have worked actively and successfully, both for positive transatlantic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the American Jewish population and for good, close relations between the American Jewish Committee and the Bundeswehr.

In the process, you have been most interested in mutual information and the dispelling of reservations rooted in a tragic shared history.

You have invested all your energy and a great deal of personal commitment in this endeavor. You consider it a crucial obligation to convey to the German people the interests of American Jews.

Through your work in the international arena, you have earned high esteem, and you have rendered outstanding service in improving Germany's standing among American Jews.

You stand for German-Jewish dialogue, and you, like the American Jewish Committee in general, advocated the reunification of the German people.

You have strengthened the transatlantic pillar through activities both in the USA and in Germany.

For example, by inviting German representatives to the American Jewish Committee's annual meeting. But also through your own speeches on transatlantic dialogue in Germany.

The good contacts to the Bundeswehr that came about through your mediation and that of the German General Consulate in New York have made a lasting contribution to better understanding within the German-Jewish relationship.

As already mentioned, you have given lectures over the years at various Bundeswehr educational institutions and have made it possible for German officers to visit the American Jewish Committee and the Holocaust Museum in the USA.

You ensured that mutual interests were fostered and intensified. In this way, you contributed to dispelling the reservations that still exist regarding the German armed forces.

Mr. Harris!

Your outstanding commitment deserves special commendation. (The auditorium rises).

"For rendering the Bundeswehr particular service, I award Mr. David A. Harris the Bundeswehr Honor Cross in Gold."

I thank you.

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