Germany is beginning 2019 with two high-profile roles in the realms of defense, and diplomacy. As of 1 January, a German brigade will form the core of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the same time that the nation is beginning a two-year stint as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council. Berlin has pledged to assume a larger role in global affairs. These two endeavors will certainly give it the opportunity to do just that in the coming year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her domestic political clout deteriorate over the last year, and is now turning her attention to the international front in the hopes of securing a more prominent position for Germany on the world stage.
With its seat on the UN Security Council, Germany will look to extend and strengthen multilateralism and the strength of the UN. Climate control, peacekeeping, crisis management, and conflict resolution are other subjects that the Germans appear poised to address during their time on the security council. Germany will also use its position to push back against the United States and President Trump’s “America First” policies which are in direct opposition to the multilateralism so coveted by Berlin.
Germany is taking on a vital role as it assumes the lead in NATO’s VJTF. The 9th Panzerlehr Brigade will act as the main component for the task force in 2019, with supporting attachments coming from the Netherlands and Norway. France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania will also be providing forces as well. The VJTF is a brigade-sized formation of 8,000 NATO troops and serves as a rapid reaction force. Its creation came about following the 2014 Wales Summit where NATO leaders agreed the establishment of such a force was necessary given events taking place in Ukraine at the time. Although the VJTF can be deployed to any region of Europe its primarily focused on potential deployment and operations in the Baltic states during a crisis.
With these new positions of international responsibility, and leadership also comes added scrutiny for Angela Merkel. Her coalition government is a fragile entity at the moment and any misstep abroad could collapse the entire structure.