Germanys Foreign Policy under Angela Merkel By Christian Hacke by gdf57j


									                Germany’s Foreign Policy under Angela Merkel
                             By Christian Hacke
The grand coalition has been in power now for nearly two and a half years. While Chancellor Schröder
appeared to follow a Sonderweg, a specifically German way in foreign affairs by steering the country
away from old commitments, estranging the relationship to the United States and building up a new
axis between Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, making Germany more or less float between East and West,
Chancellor Merkel has developed a distinct mix of traditional attitudes and new approaches to German
foreign policy.

The return to tradition refers especially to style and diplomacy: Merkel’s foreign policy record so far
shows her preference to convince rather than to threaten and to persuade rather than to punish. She
has pursued a strategy of predictability and transparency to assure that mistakes in style, as
happened under the Schröder/Fischer government, would not inadvertently be perceived as changes
in substance.

Merkel opts for multilateral diplomatically approaches, takes conflict resolution seriously, and does this
mostly by default but tries to do so by choice. Above all, Merkel seeks a return to Germany’s role as
an honest broker and mediator in Europe, seeks better relations with the United States, more
responsibility in security matters, and a not always unshaken balance between interest-based and
value-oriented policies, but does all of this in a much smoother style.

Merkel is a liberal, she deeply believes in the western values of freedom, human rights, and
democracy. From personal experience in the former East Germany, she knows the difference between
freedom and dictatorship and she is distrustful of a state which tries to control every aspect of the
society and the economy. Like many people from Central and Eastern Europe, she has a positive
image of the United States as a bastion of freedom and democracy. And like them, she is suspicious
of Moscow’s intentions, especially when it comes to the Kremlin’s effort to regain influence outside its
borders, be it with military or economic means.

Another characteristic of her foreign policy style is her preference for teamwork, transparency,
dialogue, and discretion – a style of rationality, matter of fact-ness and low-key public appearances.
These qualities, also extremely helpful in international affairs, have won her high praise abroad and at

She has shown that she can hold the grand coalition together by compromise. But nevertheless,
Merkel’s chances to show leadership - especially in foreign policy - and to champion bold initiatives
have been limited.

Consequently the foreign policy of the grand coalition must include the position, the ideas, and the
foreign policy of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Previously Schröder’s chief of staff and
main confidante, Steinmeier personifies the Social-Democratic foreign policy of the Red/Green
government and positions that seem to not be far from former Chancellor Schröder’s position.

Merkel has to deal with a Social-Democratic foreign policy that has a strong neutralist, anti-militarist,
socialist, and pacifist tradition. She has had to compromise in many ways, as has Steinmeier. But
astonishingly, there has been no major controversy between the two that might have endangered the
grand coalition’s foreign policy or the coalition itself. No new Kosovo, no new Afghanistan or Iraq.

The range of agreement between Merkel and Steinmeier seems to be broad and they have a solid
working relationship. Both are pragmatists rather than ideologues and both are open to convincing
arguments. However, Merkel puts greater emphasis on values, Steinmeier on stability. Their
cooperation can be seen as an allocation of complementary roles, bringing together different German
foreign policy traditions. Merkel shows a clear pro-American and pro-Israel stance while Steinmeier is
much closer to Russia and understanding of Putin’s policies. In fact, the policy towards Russia created
the greatest rift between the two so far, resulting in a middle course that saves Germany from the
extremes of open confrontation on the one hand and from surrendering to Putin’s strategic offensive
on the other.

The effectiveness of German foreign policy depends on robust, vibrant, and effective international
institutions. In the time before 1989, Germany’s foreign policy was highly effective because it could

  This essay appeared in the August 8, 2008, AICGS Advisor.
use robust international institutions – notably NATO and the European Communities, which both
prospered despite many setbacks and crises – as “power multipliers.” After unification, both
institutions have continued to anchor Germany firmly in the new European order, and thus have
provided German foreign policy with additional leverage.

But Germany not only needs support from allies and partners but also must support other partners
forcefully in case of need. Cooperative foreign policy and vibrant institutions rely on effective and
balanced bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the member states.

There is one element of continuity among all German governments from the 1950s until today:
Germany’s commitment to European integration. Merkel and Steinmeier entered office in a difficult
time in the history of European integration, presiding over the EU in the first half of 2007. After the
failure of the proposed European constitutional treaty Berlin had to recalibrate this European project.
The German presidency was rather successful as the broker of the Doha negotiations. The council of
ministers granted the commission a mandate to negotiate free trade with India, the Asian countries,
and South Korea. Also, Germany showed a strong interest in transatlantic free trade agreements.

The most striking success in Merkel’s foreign policy agenda also with regard to her double role in the
presidency of the G8 and the EU can be seen in the field of climate policy. With her keen sensibility of
what the public wants and needs, Merkel realizes that climate change is viewed by the German and
European public as a key issue. Consequently she has done her very best to demonstrate her ability
to deal with this challenge.

During this time, Germany successfully insisted on setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse
gases and for the extension of renewable energy. This was done not only for political and
environmental reasons but because of new business opportunities for German companies which have
particular expertise and highly competitive environmental technologies. Therefore, Merkel quite
cleverly used her dual presidency to create a positive dynamic, as the climate policy results of
Heiligendamm have shown. This new global vision has been strengthened by the fact that the UN has
been confirmed as the most important international forum for climate negotiations.

However, in stark contrast to other nations such as Great Britain, France, Russia, the United States
and others, Germany still excludes nuclear energy from the energy mix – thus preventing the EU from
developing a long-term energy and climate policy that relies on nuclear power.

German security policy under Merkel and Steinmeier has continued the geographic extension of
German security, the participation of German armed forces in various out-of-area-missions, and
(although belatedly) reform efforts to transform the Bundeswehr from a territorial defense force to a
deployment army. But the government’s room for maneuver is limited by a tight federal budget and the
still-important impact of Germany’s “culture of restraint.” The current budget estimates allow no scope
for adequate modernization under the present structure and form of military service.

The participation in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and subsequently in ISAF has further
exacerbated the old problem: a tangible shortage of employable and sustainable specialized
personnel. Moreover, limited sustainability, deficits in command and information systems as well as in
reconnaissance, strategic transport, mobility, and precision-guided munitions still set very tight limits to
present and further missions of the Bundeswehr.

Today and for the foreseeable future, the German armed forces remain the least deployable, mobile,
and sustainable of NATO’s and the EU’s leading armies. Many specialists observe that the
Bundeswehr has too few forces for power projection missions because its structure is still geared
towards the outdated necessities of territorial defense.

In the case of Afghanistan, the political leadership categorically wants to avoid any German
involvement in combat because the Afghan mission is unpopular and because of the tendency to
emotional pacifism amongst the people as a reaction to German history. During the Iraq War, Merkel –
then leader of the opposition – attacked Chancellor Schröder for not showing enough solidarity with
the allied U.S. Today both the chancellor and secretary of defense are members of Merkel’s CDU
party, yet nothing has changed concerning the half-hearted solidarity.

Angela Merkel has not initiated a fundamental transformation but has pursued a high degree of
continuity in Germany’s security and defense policy. Continuity also marks the structural problems the

  This essay appeared in the August 8, 2008, AICGS Advisor.
Merkel government inherited from its predecessor. As a result of the fundamentally changed security
environment and the very different demands it poses for German security and defense policy, the two
core elements of German’s foreign and security policy - multilateralism and the culture of restraint – no
longer overlap and reinforce each other. The issues of transforming the Bundeswehr - and of when
and how to use military force - and the persistently severe economic constraints on defense spending
illustrate the cross-cutting pressures of domestic and external demands that make it extremely difficult
for the government in Berlin to remain consistent and faithful to these two traditions at once. The
Berlin Republic, thus, is confronted with a delicate choice the Bonn Republic never had to make: a
choice, or at least a trade-off, between the country’s reflexive commitment to institution-building on the
one hand, and the deeply ingrained beliefs and convictions of Germany’s foreign and security culture
on the other. Political decision makers in Berlin thus face the unenviable task to strike a balance
between the “Scylla of collective memory” and “the Charybdis of contemporary emergencies” in ways
that ensure the predictability and reliability of Germany’s security and defense policy. Partners,
friends, and foes alike will only believe Berlin’s willingness to deploy troops when this deployment is
no longer made hesitantly, half-heartedly, and without clear strategic rationale.

This essay is the result of an AICGS conference on "German Vulnerabilities in a Globalizing World,"
which was held in March 2008 with the generous support of the National Intelligence Council, the
University of Birmingham, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and the International Association for the Study of
German Politics (IASGP).

  This essay appeared in the August 8, 2008, AICGS Advisor.

To top