Ursula von der Leyen

'We Must Brace Ourselves for a Long Fight'

vonderleyen Marko Priske for HB
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Intervening in foreign wars is unpopular in Germany, but not taking action to support allies could have consequences too, the defense minister said.

  • Facts


    • On Thursday Germany confirmed that it would send reconnaissance jets to help the French military campaign against IS in Syria.
    • In Great Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to convince Parliament to authorize airstrikes in Syria.
    • On Thursday, French President François Hollande met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempts to form an alliance against the IS.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

This week Germany announced that it would join the fight against the Islamic State by providing France with military support for its air strikes, which it has stepped up following the terror attacks in Paris earlier this month.

Berlin plans to send Tornado reconnaissance warplanes to support the French attacks on strategic IS sites in Syria, pending the German parliament’s approval.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday that Berlin would also send a Navy frigate to escort a French warship off the Syrian coast, in addition to  airborne refueling operations. This follows an announcement on Wednesday that Germany would deploy 650 more troops to Mali to relieve the French-led mission there.

In a statement, French President Francois Hollande’s office said that Thursday’s decision was a “very major contribution, showing Germany’s will to play a front-line role in the fight against the mutual curse” of IS.

The support come as Germany increasingly finds itself under the threat of possible terrorist attacks. Berlin police on Thursday night arrested two men suspected of planning a terror attack in Germany, and raided a mosque in west Berlin after getting a tip, which turned out to be false, that weapons and explosives could be hidden there. Last week, a soccer match between the Netherlands and Germany was called off in Hanover.

Ms. von der Leyen is a member of the center-right Christian Democrats and has been regarded as a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is a trained physician and served as family and then labor minister before being named defense minister in 2013.

In an exclusive interview with Handelsblatt, Ms. von der Leyen discussed Germany’s role in the fight against IS, and argued that despite intervention in Syria being unpopular in Germany,  the European Union’s biggest and most prosperous country could not sit on the sidelines as partner nations are attacked.


Minister, at France’s request, Germany is joining the fight against the Islamic State. What exactly will the German army’s contribution be?

Germany has put together a strong set of measures to support France. It includes high-value reconnaissance capabilities, but also in-flight refueling and protection for the French aircraft carriers near the Syrian coast – all designed to reinforce France in its fight against IS.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.