SPIEGEL: Minister de Maizière, during his recent speech on the future of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that there are two categories of NATO partners: those who fight and those who dig wells. Which category is Germany in?
Thomas De Maizière: In Afghanistan, we’re demonstrating that the Bundeswehr (eds. note: the German military) is a fighting army whenever it has to be.
SPIEGEL: When it comes to NATO’s mission in Libya, Gates recently said that Germany, among others, wasn’t doing enough. What is your response?
De Maizière: Our decision to not participate in the military part of the Libya mission was based on carefully considered reasons. It remains correct. But that doesn’t put us in the category of mere well-diggers, as you put it.
SPIEGEL: Have you no bad conscience at all, given that your NATO partners in Libya are running out of steam and munitions?
De Maizière: The Americans did ask us for military assistance again at the most recent NATO meeting. We turned them down. But we have made things easier for the alliance by allowing German AWACS planes to participate in the mission in Afghanistan. And there’s one thing I’d like to add: When you start something, you of course always have to know how long you can keep it up.