Germany’s Global Responsibility
Children from Kosovo arriving in a refugee champ of the german army, Tetovo, Macedonia. The Kosovo conflict of 1998–99 created hundreds of thousands of refugees. NATO intervened militarily in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. It was the first time the German army had been sent on a combat mission since the end of the Second World War (photo credit: Marco Urban).

In the years immediately following German reunification, Germany was hesitant to exercise its newly gained sovereignty on the international stage, such as with UN-mandated military deployments. International observers characterized Germany’s passive stance as “checkbook diplomacy.” The turning point for German foreign policy and security policy came in 1998–1999, during the conflict in the former Serbian province of Kosovo. The war led to massive human rights violations as well as the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians. On 24 March 1999, Germany participated in a NATO operation to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and reinstate peace. The operation was controversial among German politicians because it lacked a mandate from the United Nations. For the first time in Germany’s postwar history, a Chancellor decided to deploy the Bundeswehr on a combat mission. In 1999 Schröder used his position as president of the EU Council and member of the G8 to initiate a peaceful end to the conflict. The military operation ended in June of 1999. Afterward the United Nations sent a peacekeeping force made up of soldiers from Germany and many other nations to Kosovo. Since the Kosovo conflict, the Bundeswehr has taken a more active role in international military operations – a sign of Germany’s increased sense of global responsibility.