Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

The Hostage Dilemma: The Case of Rudolf Blechschimdt

Posted by K.E. White on October 15, 2007

Should government negotiate with terrorists? In particular, should government cave into terrorists demands to rescue a kidnapped citizen? 

Der Speigel probes the kidnapping of Rudolf Blechschimdt in Afghanistan, and the mixed results of German team that negotiated the release:

Blechschmidt was released in the middle of last week, but his freedom came at a high price. A German crisis team has agreed to a hostage exchange deal for the first time since 1975, when the “2nd of June Movement,” a left-wing terrorist group, managed to secure the freedom of seven imprisoned activists in exchange for the then-chairman of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Peter Lorenz. Blechschmidt and five of his Afghan employees who had also been kidnapped were released in exchange for five of the gang’s accomplices, plus several hundred thousand dollars in ransom.

A convoy accompanying the liberated engineer arrived at the German embassy in Kabul at about 7 p.m. local time last Wednesday. A German military doctor hooked Blechschmidt up to an IV to treat him for dehydration. By evening, Blechschmidt was eating pasta with German Ambassador Hans-Ulrich Seidt, and the next day he flew home to Germany.

A Success and a Setback

The release marks the end of an almost three-month ordeal for Blechschmidt, a civil engineer, but for the German government it represents both a success and a setback. The crisis team was able to save a German citizen’s life; but by paying for it in money and prisoners it undermined the policy German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) frequently cites as a political mantra: “The German government will not let itself be blackmailed.” Indeed, the word has surely gotten around, among other would-be kidnappers in Afghanistan, that Berlin does in fact let itself be blackmailed, at least in extreme situations.

The hostage crisis in Afghanistan has also dashed the German government’s hopes that its crisis management team could this time act as mediator rather than as an ATM for kidnappers — with an unlimited line of credit.

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