in: IMI/DFG-VK: Kein Frieden mit der NATO

Marshall Center & NATO School: NATO in the Bavarian Mountains


von: Franz Iberl | Veröffentlicht am: 8. Januar 2009

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Pictures an maps mentioned here can be found in the German PDF-Version on pages 59-61: http://imi-online.de/download/webversion-imi-nato.pdf

The NATO School in Oberammergau and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (Marshall Center) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian mountains play a remarkable, if not immediately visible, role for NATO. Both institutions have been involved in matters which have already been discussed in several other inputs – such as security sector reform in Bosnia or the reinforcement of borders in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Despite their different histories and organizational and financial arrangements, the two institutions must be considered in tandem, not least due to their geographical proximity. The two sites are near to each other; the map shows them nestling prettily in the Bavarian mountains (see satellite image, for example). They are located around 90 minutes by train from Munich.

After 60 years of NATO, it is worth casting a glance back at Bavaria as well. Astonishingly, even we failed to recognise, for a long time, precisely what role this type of institution was intended to play. In its peace activism at the end of the 1970s and afterwards (we all remember the Cold War, Ostpolitik, détente … ) the newly re-emerged peace movement looked around and was almost astonished to see the extent to which the region had been militarized. The book Das Pulverfaß. Rüstungs- und Raketenzentrum Südbayern published at the time by the German Communist Party (DKP) provides an overview and is a record of those times. The map it contains shows a bewildering array of military sites: numerous barracks, airfields, missile and radar installations, and of course the arms industry. There is no mistaking the fact that Southern Bavaria has long been a key defence centre. The US and Bundeswehr barracks at Garmisch and Oberammergau are shown on the map – but there were so many of them at the time that in our peace activism, it was almost impossible to target them individually.

Since then, however, the situation has changed dramatically. At first sight, it seems to be more positive: there are far fewer military sites. Instead, what we are witnessing is a massive restructuring with a concentration of the focal points at fewer locations with a new range of tasks. The Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) are now involved in operations abroad, and structures are being overhauled. US military sites have shifted as well, mainly eastwards. At the same time, NATO’s strategies are now being developed in the heart of Germany and Bavaria serves as a retreat for conferences and seminars. Both the School and the Center have major significance for this NATO policy – a significance which is underestimated by the public. Both institutions form a key element of the current military structure in (Southern) Bavaria.
BIFA – the Munich Citizens’ Initiative for Peace and Disarmament – came across both institutions while looking for interesting targets for the Easter peace march, „Ostermarsch Draußen“.

The Marshall Center

The US Army was thinking of closing down operations in Garmisch altogether when the restructuring began. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US realised that there was an opportunity to engage in Eastern Europe more strongly than ever before. The military structure with the barracks was to be abandoned (as we all remember, the military had lost its “old enemy”), but then it thought of a new way of using the site. So in 1991, United States European Command (USEUCOM), which has its headquarters in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, set up the Marshall Center: its establishment in 1992 was endorsed by Colin Powell (who signed its founding document), Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney. The Marshall Center became a German-American partnership when a memorandum of agreement was signed with the German Ministry of Defence in 1994. What this means in practice is that the Center is under the authority, direction and control of the EUCOM commander-in-chief, while the tasks of guarding and to some extent financing the Center are Germany’s responsibility.

The Marshall Center is one of five US regional centres whose aim is to “strengthen worldwide security cooperation”. Its mission is described as follows: “to create a more stable security environment by advancing democratic institutions and relationships, especially in the field of defense; promoting active, peaceful security cooperation; and enhancing enduring partnerships among the nations of North America, Europe and Eurasia.” [1]
Within this framework, “support” has also been provided for some years to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Mongolia. Apart from the language, which gracefully conceals the real intentions, the claim to have a say in what happens in other countries is clear from the outset.[2] Ulrich Sander wrote a short article on this topic in 2006, which was published in „Zeitung gegen Krieg“ and quotes from a flyer produced by BIFA at that time[3]:
“The ‘allies’ do not only have airbases and manoeuvre areas – they also have institutions as a kind of ideological aircraft carrier right here in Germany. They do not leave the field to the Bundeswehr academies, the Bertelsmann or Böll Foundations – the US gets down to business itself.”

Geopolitics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

This small but select luxury institution is one of the hotspots in current global policy debate. It is an ideal location to forge personal contacts with foreign military personnel and policymakers. These contacts serve to build American influence in Europe and Central Asia, the long-term goal being NATO expansion. The strategic considerations underlying these activities are clearly expressed by former US National Security Advisor (and now an advisor to Barack Obama!), Zbigniew Brzezinski, for example:
“Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and from the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behavior of geostrategic players. […] Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”[4]

Mostly, the countries along the Russian and Chinese borders are regarded as “geopolitical pivots” – the very countries which are a key focus of the Marshall Center’s attention. Uzbekistan is a particularly good example: the Marshall Center has been at pains to build relations with that country’s military staff. Indeed, the former Director of the Marshall Center, Robert Kennedy, visited the Uzbek capital Tashkent himself on 10 September 2002. By that point, 89 Uzbek military and civilian officials had visited the Marshall Center since 1993. The utter indifference shown by Western governments towards human rights violations in Uzbekistan is apparent from this report by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador in Uzbekistan: “Karimov is one of the most vicious dictators in the world, a man who is responsible for the death of thousands of people. Prisoners are boiled to death in Uzbek jails.”[5]

Karimov was also a guest in the White House in 2002. There are numerous photos of George Bush shaking Karimov’s hand. The George C. Marshall Center is proud of these “success stories”: they play an important role in building military relationships between the US and the countries of Central Europe and Central Asia. Michael DeLong, Deputy Commander in Chief of United States Central Command, commented in 2002 that the Pentagon “would not have access to Central Asia bases (e.g. in Uzbekistan) to fight the war against terrorism were it not for the relationships” established, in part, through the Marshall Center.
A number of Marshall Center alumnae have gone on to hold important posts in their home countries; the Center’s “Hall of Fame” includes Georgian Defence Minister David Tevzadze; Josip Stimac, Commander of the Croatian Air Force; Gaidis Zeibots, Chief of the Defence Staff in Latvia; Valerii Muntiian, Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine; and Oleg Shamshur, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine.

Other links are formed through the Partnership for Peace (PfP), a programme of cooperation which strengthens ties between individual non-NATO partner countries and NATO. What is particularly striking is how even a neutral country such as Switzerland is quite unabashed in giving substantial support to NATO through this channel. The Marshall Center has cooperation agreements with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and uses the Institute’s Internet facilities for its own courses (as does the NATO School, see below). In a similar fashion, Austria too is recklessly gambling with its neutrality, which is so important for peace policy. Despite the massive political role played by such institutions, they still attract minimal public attention. People are now fairly familiar with the Bertelsmann Foundation, with its lobbying agenda, but institutions such as the Marshall Center and the NATO School rarely receive any serious attention at all![6]

NATO School, Oberammergau

The NATO School is located at a barracks site which, from 1937 to 1945, was occupied by soldiers from the 54th Mountain Signal Company. The Company was part of the 1st German Mountain Division, which was notorious for its war crimes. During the war, some of the buildings were used by the Messerschmitt Company to develop rocket propulsion systems (probably the V1 and V2, Hitler’s “wonder weapons”). After the war, the site was initially used as a barracks by the US Army. It has been used by NATO since 1953. Since then, more than 130,000 officers and civilians have attended courses at the School. The School now runs around 80 courses per year for approximately 10,000 participants. In its profile, the NATO School describes itself as follows:
“The NATO School serves as a centre for individual education and training for military and civilian personnel from NATO, Partnership for Peace, the United Nations, Mediterranean Dialogue, and NATO cooperation countries.”[7]

The NATO School therefore provides training for the military and all categories of associated civilian personnel, with tuition provided by NATO personnel. The NATO School describes its mission as follows:
“Our mission is to conduct individual, operational-level education and training on NATO’s current and emerging strategy, concepts, doctrine, policy, and procedures in support of the two Strategic Commanders in order to improve the operational effectiveness of the Alliance.”

Its mission, then, quite clearly consists of “operational-level education and training”, i.e. actual military training for the battlefield. As Colonel James J. Tabak, Commandant of the NATO School, explains, “We are the only training institution in the world to teach operational military principles from a practical, as well as a theoretical, perspective.” The questionnaire for prospective course participants, which can be downloaded from the homepage, also makes it clear just how practical and operationally-oriented the School’s courses are intended to be. Participants are asked to state whether and in which capacity they will be deployed in conflict and crisis regions in the coming 120 days.

The NATO School claims to be committed to global security within the framework of international understanding. The course content paints a rather different picture, however: alongside general courses for senior personnel, training on NBC/WMD defence, and medical planning and analysis, the School also runs practical courses for current operational situations, e.g. Afghanistan, or for multinational “peace support operations” in general. More specific courses focus on press relations or “information operations” – which used to be known as “psychological warfare”. “Civil-military cooperation” (CIMIC) is becoming an increasingly important element of the programme as well. Every year, more than 10,000 course participants experience the multicultural and multinational training content provided by the School in Upper Bavaria. For example, Pakistani and Afghan soldiers have also attended courses at the NATO School in Oberammergau. Besides the attendance-based courses, there are also comprehensive Internet-based courses; as with the Marshall Center, some are run in conjunction with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (so much for Swiss neutrality).

Breeding grounds for autistic parallel worlds

It seems that both institutions run courses and conferences and disseminate NATO ideology. So in what ways do they differ? NATO School delivers “operational-level” training; in other words, it provides instruction for occupation forces and is geared towards their needs. This involves an exchange of military experience which supports policy implementation. The teaching staff often come from the military operations themselves. The Marshall Center, by contrast, focusses on “Alliance policy” and “exerting influence”, e.g. within the framework of NATO’s eastern enlargement. The Center is more conceptual in approach, producing documents and engaging in research cooperation in line with NATO’s political objectives.
The two institutions’ objectives are therefore different – and yet they have many common features. In recent years, we have increasingly been forced to witness NATO troops from every possible country being deployed as occupation forces. Naturally, this has nothing to do with defence. Whereas defending one’s own country from attack does not need much justification to motivate the troops, far more “persuasion” is needed to convince soldiers to risk their necks in other countries for a very different set of objectives. So besides the traditional PR agenda, which is ongoing, engaging with and securing the commitment of the general public and military personnel alike is essential.

In the community of which these institutions form part, NATO’s “linguistic rules” are accepted without question, while students come to grips with the practical aspects of occupation policy. This dual role – on the one hand, to serve as a fighter while simultaneously acting as “friend and helper”, on the other – is not easy to fulfil. Then there are the obvious complexities associated with the role as an occupying power which is required to assume direct responsibility for civilian tasks; this is where civil-military cooperation comes in. Both institutions must be viewed in the context of the “ideological offensive” of recent years. The aim is to convey the message that “we are democracy” unthinkingly and without the slightest scope for contradiction. The training provided is sold as “the export of democracy and freedom”, whereas in reality, it is about protectorates and occupation. The Marshall Center and the NATO School are instruments of this policy of violence and thus exert as much power as “visible” weapons do. In reality, unlike wars in which an enemy is defeated by military means, the “new” conflicts are about exerting control in foreign countries – an entirely different agenda. These bastions in the Bavarian mountains are emblematic of this new “intelligent” colonialism.

They can thus be regarded as “breeding grounds for autistic parallel worlds”, representing a worldwide network of NATO members and political decision-makers. It was a stroke of genius, on NATO’s part, to locate them amid Bavaria’s charming landscape, which imparts a holiday mood and offers a sense of seclusion. It is easy to imagine how “important contacts” are forged and sealed outside the “formal framework” of the study programme.

Yet again, NATO has successfully persuaded everyone involved to believe its own lies, and that, of course, is vital if its military operations are to be effective. The local economy is the proud beneficiary as well – the advertising in the local tourism and hotel industry is clearly geared towards the NATO clientele, and local politicians fall over themselves to be helpful to the military. With tours and even an “open day”, NATO presents itself to local people as a friendly partner – just as the military attempts to do elsewhere as well.

Endnotes

[1] http://www.marshallcenter.org/mcpublicweb/en/nav-mc-about-mission.html
[2] This is what Ambassador Ischinger, the new Chairman of the Munich Security
Conference, will have meant when he refers to “global governance” in his comments in the
Süddeutsche Zeitung; see “Das Gute an der Krise”, guest commentary in Süddeutsche
Zeitung, 15.12.2008
[3] www.bifa-muenchen.de/bf2006/OM-Draussen-2006.pdf
[4] Zbigniew Brzezinski: The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic
Imperatives, Basic Books, September 1998.
[5] Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, in “Democracy Now!”;
19 January 2006.
[6] This is also apparent on the Internet: for example, if the search term “Marshall Center” is
entered, the search engine lists the relatively small BIFA website immediately after the
Marshall Center website. The same thing happens with the NATO School: BIFA is listed
immediately after the School. This goes to show that there are not many organizations
dealing with this issue!
[7] All the following quotations* are taken from the website: www.natoschool.nato.int
*Translator’s note: with the exception of Commandant Tabak’s comment, which is a free translation from the German.

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