For decades Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany have gone to extraordinary lengths to cultivate as low a profile as possible on defense and national security policy matters. However, since the Gulf War, the Federal Republic has come under growing pressure from its allies to assume a greater international security role. Slowly, reluctantly it has acceded to these demands, albeit at the expense of considerable internal angst and turmoil. At the same time, German decision makers have sought to preserve as much as possible the old approach to security policy. Consequently, the long-standing German norms eschewing the use of military force have been gradually displaced, although not wholly replaced, by norms of multilateralism. Rather than a dramatic break with the past, the Federal Republic's actions in Kosovo and Afghanistan can be seen as the culmination of a series of incremental steps that had begun a decade ago.
To substantiate these claims this paper will first briefly outline the origins of the Cold German national security practices and the peculiar constellation of domestic and international factors that shaped them. It will then consider in what ways these factors have both changed, and not changed, since the end of the Cold War and sketch the trajectory along which German defense and national security policies have evolved since 1991. Finally, the paper briefly examines the Federal Republic's response to the Kosovo and Afghan crises before offering some general conclusions about the likely future evolution of German security policy.