Peace Time: Germany Prepares For Internal Disaster

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August 30, 2016: For the first time since the end of the Cold War (and the threat of Soviet invasion) in 1991 Germany has prepared a civil defense plan. Unlike the pre-1991 plans, which had to deal with a major invasion from the east, the 2016 plan is for dealing with domestic terrorism on a wide scale. Civilians are urged to stockpile emergency food supplies for ten days and water for five days. Few other details have been released so far although there are indications that some Cold War era items will be revive, like the use of the military (active duty and reserves) for counter-terror operations. Cold War plans saw heavy use of civilians organized and trained to help out as well.

Since 1950 the primary German disaster relief organization has been Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk (THW for Federal Technical Relief). Originally THW was only for West Germany as East Germany was under Soviet occupation until 1990. East German had a much larger and more militarized civil defense organization. This was needed to support the dozens of Russian combat divisions in East Germany (or nearby countries) that would move west to fight NATO. West Germany also had a lot more military personnel (active duty and reserve) assigned to “rear area security” and civil defense. By the 1980s both Germanys were trying to prepare for heavy use of small (“tactical”) nuclear weapons in wartime, as well as chemical and biological. Europeans on both sides of the Iron Curtain (separating West Europe from Soviet occupied East Europe) were appalled by this prospect and that was a major reason for the communist dictatorships collapsing in in East Europe and Russia between 1989 and 1991. Currently THW has about 80,000 staff, most of them volunteers.

While Russia is again making threats of invasion and nuclear warfare the main threat now is civil disorder triggered by the growing number of Moslem refugees. German intelligence has known about this danger for over a decade. In 2006, for example, German intelligence estimated that about 3,000 of their 3.5 million Moslem residents would commit terrorist acts to further the al Qaeda cause. The Germans also noted that there were 24 active Islamist groups in the country, with over 31,000 members altogether. Many of those young al Qaeda enthusiasts lack the leadership and technical knowledge to pull off a major attack. While these 3,000 men are all for terrorist actions, only a few are willing to kill themselves doing it. The situation has gotten worse over the last decade and now Germany has over 20,000 potential Islamic terrorists to monitor. German law prohibits preventive detention, so the best the Germans could do was try and identify the most likely terrorists and keep an eye on them.

Britain thought they had a similar situation but had it under control. The July 7, 2005 bombing made it clear that some British Moslems were actually very eager to act, and the government surveillance program had not caught them. After the 2005 attacks, an opinion survey found that some 18 percent of British Moslems felt little, or no, loyalty towards Britain. Worse yet, about six percent of British Moslems (largely males, and younger ones) are in favor of the attacks. That's over 100,000 people. This percentage was later found to be similar in France and Germany.

German politicians are now sufficiently alarmed to allow preparations to be made to deal with a worst case. But some have pointed out that this would require the revival of conscription and that is still political poison.

 


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