Political resolve for collective defence

There are occasional polls about alliance resolve, and whether the populations of certain countries would be willing to go to war if the alliance was attacked. A recent one incidentally asked this again, with a somewhat typical result.

I strongly doubt that such hypothetical poll questions are useful at all.
Aside from that, translations often change the actual meaning and most likely interpretation of a question very much, so you need to know the actual question and know the language to actually understand what was asked. I inquired the pollsters from earlier such polls for the German wording of the question, and none ever replied - so I won't give them the benefit of a link.

'Some people' simply LOVE  such poll results, for they fit to their prejudices, and then many of them go on fantasizing further. I won't honour this with any links either.

Instead, let's look at how the political mobilization for war actually looks like historically and likely also in the future.
In modern times an important step was to kill the idea that war is avoidable. An aggression by another power makes this obvious (reducing the question to whether to participate). Aggressors need to use different devices; typically a great urgency is suggested (such as Blair's lie about "45 minutes" threat by Saddam's non-existing missiles), or poor defenceless people about to be massacred (Kosovo, Russian intervention in Eastern Ukraine, and the story about Yezidis on a hill encircled by ISIS eerily sounded like a failed try, though it was partially true).

Another important step is the endorsement of war. Trusted figures - politicians*, journalists* - support going to war or abstain but favour it (by the choice of topics, guests and narratives for political discussions, for example). This would happen before almost any war, but is absent in advance of any poll about political resolve to defend the alliance.

And then there's the general manufacturing of consent**, a kind of crowd-sourced subconscious propaganda effort by political parties and the press that favours a certain narrative to the degree of eliminating dissenting ones from almost all public discussions.
I must admit that Putin somewhat undermined the manufactured consent of the West by somehow attracting at least many far right folks as a kind of hero of theirs, establishing a channel for a Russia-favouring dissenting narrative. Sadly, they've so far never been more fair than the establishment one and the establishment narrative would almost certainly prevail in the foreseeable future.

Last but not least, we don't have plebiscites for the decision to go to war. Almost any German government would agree*** to article 5 proclamation and initiate V-Fall / Verteidigungsfall (state of war) without hesitation if the alliance defence criteria were objectively met by an aggression. There may be some salami tactics-style minor border incident that would not trigger such a maximum response, but most likely it would lead to a Spannungsfall (military mobilisation).
There's no realistic option for a German government to limit participation in collective defence to token, symbolic contributions even if it wanted to: Many German military forces are under NATO command and would not be directed to deploy by the German minister of defence or chancellor, but by the CO of SHAPE once there's an aggression.

And yes, we'd ignore much red tape if there's an actual war. We'd have to.

Thus in short: Nobody is 'ever going to gain my respect' for his or her 'quality of thought' by proclaiming that Germans would not defend NATO.****

_ _ _ _ _

And now a special message to Americans: It's disrespectful to question German resolve to defend the alliance in the event of an actual aggression against it. After all, we agreed to the article 5 activation and participated in that Afghanistan bollocks of yours because of it - in response to anything but an actual aggression against the alliance. The Baltic countries and Poland may discuss this topic, but you Americans better join the waiting queue on this topic at the very end!


*: Probably "trusted" less than ever before, so maybe this isn't all that applicable to near-future conflicts any more). 
**: I introduced this term 'manufactured consent' only recently on this blog, but I've actually read the book more than a decade ago already. I added this line of argument to the blogging because revisiting the old meta topics became somewhat stale. 
***: Anything else is unthinkable in the German political landscape that saw even the greens agree to the Kosovo war. We can revisit this diagnosis once there's a PDS Die Linke-only administration (that's never going to happen unless the Soviet Union reappears and overran us).
****: It's different with EU members that are no NATO members; hardly anyone perceives the EU as an alliance even though it's one. The media would probably hurry up to put the spotlight on this in the event of an aggression.


  1. What is your gut feeling how much support a non-NATO EU member under attack would receive from Germany?

    Let's assume Finland was being attacked/pressurised by Russia with East Ukraine type plausibly denied hybrid warfare salami-tactics etc. A heavy political/diplomatical plus information barrage would onbviously be included in the Russian war effort.

    I doubt Finnish side could expect troops, but would there be lethal material support or just tough words with some targeted sanctions?


    1. The stereotypical reaction would be to send recce Tornados, a Patriot battery, some equipment, maybe an air force security squadron (~defensive inf coy).
      I do suppose that the Ukrainian style of actually-not-really-plausibly-deniable aggression wouldn't work against Finland because most likely the EU would use NATO's SHAPE to coordinate a deployment of the various rapid responses forces and most importantly, the West would bomb such fake hybrid aggressors with air power and guided artillery munitions.
      Remember; Georgia and Ukraine aren't nearly as much part of "the West" as is Finland.

      I suppose in the event of a conventional invasion of Finland by Russia most of the Bundeswehr would deploy to East Germany, Poland and Lithuania, but two (mountain and airborne) infantry brigades and a fighter wing equivalent with security elements would likely be sent to Finland (with one brigade sent to a quiet sector). The ground combat mission would take weeks to materialise, during which the public would be informed about the EU Treaty's alliance function.

    2. Finland is also more ethnically homogenous, accessible to the West (even flippantly, on social media like Imgur, Finns enjoy a positive reputation in the Anglosphere due to their wry national humour and generally excellent language skills), and well defended. The Estonian defence minister's suggestion ("Shoot the first "'self defence forces volunteer'") is broadly accepted as a valid principle, which is important given population distributions and the existence of predominantly Finnish local defence units and a still-more-robust-than-most-others reserve structure.

      I think we need a better (more vulnerable) example than Finland to test this question.

  2. I find your assertion that German Soldiers would obey NATO generals rather than German politicians rather unlikely.

    1. That's not what I claimed. Of course they would obey their national CinC. Yet that CinC (minister of defence in peacetime, chancellor in wartime) would not withdraw them from NATO command. The political hurdle to do so is extremely high, particularly during a crisis. The entire German grand strategy was built on integration with the Western powers.

      Remember, de Gaulle withdrew French forces from SHAPE command during the 60's. Even half a century later people still mistake that move for France having left NATO. National forces under SHAPE command or not is a huge decision.

    2. Of course, they remain under NATO command, they are just forbidden to leave Germany or fight Russians...

    3. You know how this sounds?

      This sounds like someone has a huge prejudice and is willing to write any nonsense to insist on said prejudice.

    4. So the German Government imposed no conditions on the use of its soldiers in Afghanistan?
      They were entirely SHAPEs to use as it saw fit? SHAPE had complete access to all German Military resources?

    5. Maybe if you read again you understand the article finally. Parts such as "Many German military forces".

      Besides, the German troops in AFG were almost all under ISAF HQ cmd and all contributing nations imposed limitations.