Military Wiki
Volker Rühe
German Federal Minister of Defence

In office
1 April 1992 – 26 October 1998
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Gerhard Stoltenberg
Succeeded by Rudolf Scharping
Member of the German Bundestag

In office
14 December 1976 – 18 October 2005
Personal details
Born 25 September 1942(1942-09-25) (age 80)
Hamburg, Germany
Political party Christian Democratic Union (1963–present)
Alma mater University of Hamburg
Occupation Teacher

Volker Rühe (born September 25, 1942) is a German politician affiliated to the CDU. He served as German Defence minister from April 1, 1992, succeeding Gerhard Stoltenberg during the first government of a reunified Germany in the fourth cabinet of Chancellor Kohl, to the end of the fifth Kohl Cabinet on October 27, 1998. During his time at the Defence Ministry Rühe played a central role in placing NATO enlargement on the German political agenda.[1] He unsuccessfully ran for the office of minister-president of the German state Schleswig-Holstein in the year 2000, eventually losing against incumbent Heide Simonis.

Early political career

From 1976 to 2005 Rühe was a member of the German Bundestag. After the Christian Democrats returned to power in 1982, he joined the CDU/CSU parliamentary group’s leadership under its new chairman Alfred Dregger.

Under the leadership of CDU chairman and Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Rühe held the position of Secretary General of his party from 1989 until 1992, including during the period of German reunification.[2] In this capacity, he succeeded Heiner Geissler and was put in charge of administrative matters and electoral tactics.[3] At a party convention in late 1992, the CDU surprisingly replaced Rühe with Heinz Eggert, a representative from East Germany, as one of Kohl's four deputies.[4]

Federal Minister of Defence, 1992-1998

As Germany's longest-serving defense minister, Rühe oversaw the country's integration of the former East German army, expanded Germany's role within NATO and was an early proponent of NATO's expansion eastward. He also proposed more spending on defense[5] and won public backing as well as cross-party support for a Bundeswehr role in international peacekeeping, thus overcoming a German aversion to the use of force—in any circumstances—prevalent after 1945.[6]

During his time in office, German military forces were engaged in numerous UN-linked operations outside the NATO region, including 1,700 soldiers in Somalia (logistic support); 122 in Cambodia (medical unit); two ships with combined crews totaling 420 people in the Adriatic Sea (air-navy patrol); 60 in Bosnia-Herzegovina (relief flights), and 40 in Iraq (UN monitoring staff).[7]

Rühe frequently expressed frustration with restrictions on German troops joining international peacekeeping missions and faced public criticism of the increasing deployment of German military forces abroad. In 1992, the SPD (unsuccessfully) filed a legal challenge in the Federal Constitutional Court, arguing that the deployment of German forces in the Adriatic violated their constitutional limits on their use.[8] Later, Rühe had to inform the German public in October 1993 about the death of Sgt. Alexander Arndt, a 26-year-old army medic; Arndt had become the first German soldier to die on duty in an area of tension since World War II after he was shot by an unknown assailant in Cambodia.[9]

Under Rühe’s leadership, Germany began destroying stockpiles of tanks and other heavy weapons in August 1992, becoming the first country to implement the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.[10] After failing narrowly to stop the Eurofighter Typhoon project when he took office in 1992, Rühe negotiated down the number of aircraft the air force ordered, as well as the cost of each.[11] In 1993, he canceled plans to buy Lapas, a $1 billion American-designed high-altitude reconnaissance system, after it was revealed that the system’s German subcontractor was at the center of a political scandal about reported bribery of Bavarian Minister-President Max Streibl.[12]

In 1997, Rühe suspended a lieutenant general and instituted disciplinary action against a colonel after it was revealed that Manfred Roeder, a neo-Nazi with a criminal record of bombings, had been invited to give a speech to the country's most prestigious military academy in 1995.[13]

Later political career

Between 1998 and 2000, Rühe served as the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

By 2000, Rühe was considered a potential opponent of Angela Merkel for the CDU leadership; however, he eventually dropped out of the race.[14]

In 2004, Rühe was named by the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to lead Germany’s campaign for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.[15][16] That same year, Schröder sent Rühe to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on the Orange Revolution.[17] Between 2014 and 2015, he headed a crossparty committee to review the country’s parliamentary rules on military deployments.[18]

Other activities

Corporate roles

  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Senior Advisor[19]
  • Hamburg-Mannheimer Versicherungs-AG, Member of the Advisory Board[20]

Non-profit organizations

  • International Crisis Group, Member of the Board[21]
  • European Leadership Network (ELN), Member of the Advisory Board, Member of the Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe[22]
  • Atlantik-Brücke Foundation, Member of the Board of Trustees[23]
  • German Civil Service Federation, Member

Political positions

Domestically, Rühe was an outspoken advocate of tighter immigration laws.[24]

In 1985, Rühe strongly urged that Europe's four major powers – France, Britain, Italy and West Germany – formulate a common European position on the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative.[25]

In 1995, Rühe withdrew an invitation for his Moscow counterpart, Pavel Grachev, to visit Germany after Grachev insulted leading critics of the war in Chechnya. At the time, this was regarded as throwing into question German-Russian military cooperation on European security issues following the country’s reunification.[26] During the Grozny ballistic missile attack in 1999, Rühe called for freezing Western loans to Russia.[27]

In 2013, Rühe appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and François Fillon[28] at the Valdai Discussion Club. He was quoted by Neue Presse expressing sympathy for Putin and arguing for an intensive dialogue between the German government and "the Kremlin" on the subject of the American proposed "missile defense system". "We are talking as if Iran already had nuclear weapons... we can't continue with deterrence, like during the Cold War." In 2015, he joined other foreign policy experts, including Igor Ivanov and Ana Palacio, in calling for a possible Memorandum of Understanding between NATO and the Russian Federation on the Rules of Behaviour for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters between the two sides.[29][30]


  1. Hyde-Price, Adrian (2000). Germany & The European Union: Enlarging NATO and the EU. Manchester University Press. p. 149. ISBN 0719054273. 
  2. Members of the Commission Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  3. William Tuohy (August 23, 1989), Kohl Names New Party Aide Amid Flap Over Campaign Tactics Los Angeles Times.
  4. Craig R. Whitney (November 5, 1992), Berliners Await the Return of a Capital. And Wait. New York Times.
  5. The Schleswig-Holstein Question Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2000.
  6. Volker Rühe, Germany’s next foreign minister? The Economist, August 20, 1998.
  7. Tyler Marshall (October 16, 1993), A Death in Cambodia, an Uproar in Germany Los Angeles Times.
  8. Carl Schoettler (July 23, 1992), German chancellor wins vote supporting Adriatic force to monitor embargo Baltimore Sun.
  9. Tyler Marshall (October 16, 1993), A Death in Cambodia, an Uproar in Germany Los Angeles Times.
  10. Germany Begins Cutbacks Under Weapons Treaty Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1992.
  11. A new pilot? The Economist, June 19, 1997.
  12. Craig R. Whitney (February 4, 1993), Germans Cancel Big U.S. Purchase New York Times.
  13. Alan Cowell (December 16, 1997), First, Army Neo-Nazis, Now Racists on Internet Worry Germany New York Times.
  14. Roger Cohen (March 18, 2000), A Political Newcomer Breaks Rules in Germany New York Times.
  15. Jeffrey Gedmin (October 15, 2004), National interest is behind Germany's UN bid Financial Times.
  16. Ralf Neukirch (September 16, 2010), Germany Renews Campaign for UN Security Council Seat Der Spiegel.
  17. Benjamin Bidder (March 20, 2014), Ex-Verteidigungsminister Rühe: "Putin hat versagt" Der Spiegel.
  18. Jan Techau (June 17, 2014), Germany’s Budding Defense Debate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  19. Andreas Förster (May 9, 2012), Gazprom: Putin und seine Komplizen Frankfurter Rundschau.
  20. Mathew D. Rose (May 7, 2005), Unternehmensbeiräte Geschacher hinter der Mauer des Schweigens Spiegel Online.
  21. Board International Crisis Group.
  22. Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe European Leadership Network (ELN).
  23. Board of Trustees Atlantik-Brücke.
  24. Stephen Kinzer (September 2, 1992), German Unrest Expected to Bring Tightening of Law on Immigration New York Times.
  25. 4 Moving Up: Key German Leaders of the Postwar Generation Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1985.
  26. Sonni Efron (January 23, 1995), Chechen War Drives Wedge Between Russia, Germany Los Angeles Times.
  27. Chechens say they downed 2 jets; Moscow denies claim CNN, October 23, 1999.
  28. Valdai Conference: Russia's identity and values The Economist, September 20, 2013.
  29. Urgently Wanted: A Protocol to Keep Russia and the West From Slipping Into War Newsweek, October 10, 2015.
  30. Robin Emmott (August 26, 2015), Russia, NATO need new rules to cut risk of war, ex-ministers say Reuters.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerhard Stoltenberg
Federal Minister of Defence (Germany)
1992 – 1998
Succeeded by
Rudolf Scharping

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