Notes de l'Ifri Notes du Cerfa
German forces near Camp Marmal during a patrol outside of Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan November 2009

Circumstantial Pacifism: Political Parties and the Participation of the Bundeswehr in Foreign Operations Notes du Cerfa, No. 160, Ifri, April 2021

In Germany's parliamentary democracy, political parties play an important role in mandating Bundeswehr missions abroad and in overseeing their deployment. The political debate on these deployments is polarized between opponents, who are called “pacifists”, and supporters, who are called “militarists”.

There are many reasons, including historical ones, for Germany’s unease about military deployments abroad. But the issue of “pacifism” is often a catalyst that prevents the parties from having a calm discussion on the question of military interventions and leads them to be very cautious on this issue. However, party attitudes toward military intervention is likely to play an increasingly important role in the debate. In the run-up to the September 2021 federal election and in the face of an increasingly fragmented political landscape that may lead to the formation of a three-party coalition, this issue may prove crucial because of the political differences between the parties.

Moreover, in the current transatlantic and European context, this issue has become a marker by which Germany’s credibility on the international stage and vis-à-vis its partners in the Atlantic Alliance will be determined. Indeed, this German reticence is less and less accepted and understood, and military interventions are one of the key issues on which a candidate must take a stand in order to appear a credible contender for the chancellorship. Many parties are shifting their positions and debating future federal military deployments. These divisive issues within the parties could influence the choice of the future coalition.


Paul Maurice is a Research Fellow at the Study Committee on Franco-German Relations (Cerfa) at the French Institute of International Relations - Ifri, where he specifically works on issues of German domestic policy and Franco-German relations in the context of European integration.


This publication is available in French: "Un pacifisme à géométrie variable : les partis allemands et la participation de la Bundeswehr à des opérations extérieures" (pdf).


Alternative for Germany (AfD) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer Bundeswehr Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Die Linke Foreign operations Free Democratic Party FDP German defense policy German election 2021 German political parties North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) The Greens Europe Germany