On September 24, Germany held an election for its federal parliament, the Bundestag, and as many forecasters had predicted, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) emerged as the strongest party.  For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, six political groups consisting of seven parties sit in the Bundestag. With new parties entering the Bundestag, a more fragmented parliament and proportional changes in seat distribution will alter political decision-making for the coming legislative period.

It is not yet clear what the government will look like. Martin Schulz, chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), rejected a continuation of the coalition partnership with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. Conversely, the CDU does not completely exclude continuing the “grand coalition” with the SPD. Over the next few weeks, Merkel’s conservative party will also hold coalition negotiations with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party. Economic and business issues figure prominently amongst the important topics that the politicians and experts of the parties will discuss.

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While analysts agree that diplomacy is the ideal route to ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, they disagree on whether the United States sending defensive weapons to Ukraine will achieve that end.

On September 22, the Atlantic Council, in collaboration with the Charles Koch Institute, hosted a debate between experts: Should the United States Arm Ukraine?

The divisive prospect of sending US weapons to Ukraine as further defense against Russian aggression in the Donbas could, according to those in favor, defend US interests on the world stage. Alternatively, countered those opposed to the idea, it could escalate the conflict in a manner detrimental to US national security.

Analysts both for and against sending weapons to Ukraine argued that a decision must be predicated on a consideration of what is in the best interests of the United States, yet the opposing sides diverged on how to achieve those ends.

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European parliamentarian Elmar Brok says post-election Germany is no “problem case”

Elmar Brok is the longest-serving lawmaker in the European Parliament (EP), a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who’s known her personally for nearly three decades. Brok, who spoke out forcefully against the extreme right during the recent election campaign, has no patience for handwringing over the results of the September 24 election.

Merkel was re-elected to a fourth term, but it was also the first time that a far-right political party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), won seats in parliament since World War II.

“Eighty-seven percent of Germans voted ‘not nationalist,’” he pointed out, referring to the other major parties, the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens. “In what [other] country of the world would you get such a result?”

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was re-elected on September 24, will be a “lame duck” in her fourth, and likely final, term in office, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Atlantic Council board director.

“There are those in her party and sister party that will want to start having a discussion about ‘after Merkel,’ and that number will go [up] as of today,” Ischinger said in an Atlantic Council press and members phone briefing on September 25. However, he added, “she shouldn’t be counted out. She’s been very good.”

Ischinger joined Annette Heuser, chief executive officer of the Professor Otto Beisheim Foundation and Atlantic Council board director, and Stefan Kornelius, foreign policy editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung, to discuss the implications of Merkel’s re-election, not only for Germany, but also for its relationships with international partners such as the United States. Atlantic Council President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Kempe moderated the conversation.

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If the United States is to succeed in tackling Russian meddling, it needs to address vulnerabilities—dark money and shell corporations—that are “an open invitation to the Russians to continue their election interference,” US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said at the Atlantic Council on September 26.

The United States faces something of a predicament because dark money and shell corporations are vehicles of not just foreign, but also domestic political influence, Whitehouse said. He and US Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) delivered keynote addresses at STRATCOM DC: The First Transatlantic Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformation in Washington, DC.

Describing opacity as the “vehicle that enables weaponized fake news and politicized corruption,” Whitehouse added: “Transparency and sunlight are the enemies of Russian election interference.”

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In the German elections on September 24, Germany’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) emerged once again as the most popular party, securing a fourth term for Chancellor Angela Merkel. While the question of who will lead Germany was answered, the question of which parties will govern the country—and in what coalition—is far from settled. As coalition negotiations between the parties unfold against the backdrop of competing foreign and domestic agendas, the future of German energy and climate policy hangs in the balance.

Germany’s approach to clean energy on the world stage, namely its support for the Paris Climate Agreement and promotion of the clean energy transition as a foreign policy priority, is unlikely to change in any meaningful way. With strong domestic support for clean energy policy, there is also little doubt that the German energy transition, or Energiewende, will continue.

Rather, the question is one of ambition.

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European ambassadors to the United States on September 25 defended the nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is working, while warning that reopening negotiations would be a nonstarter and walking away from the deal would have serious consequences.

This joint defense comes as US President Donald J. Trump, who has to certify to the US Congress by October 15 that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement, has reiterated his displeasure with the deal.

Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig, said the onus is on those who seek to renegotiate the deal to prove that first, renegotiation is possible, and second, it will deliver better results. “We don’t think it will be possible to renegotiate it and we believe there is no practical, peaceful alternative to this deal,” Wittig said.

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In a year of unpredictable elections in the United States and in Europe, Germany’s federal elections on September 24 went as expected: Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected to a rare fourth term, signaling that a majority of Germans want more of the same for the next four years. And, why shouldn’t they? Germany has enjoyed low unemployment, historic budget surpluses, and is the undisputed (if reluctant) leader of Europe. But, despite the desire for stability among most, the elections also signaled a growing disenchantment with the mainstream and a desire to shake up German politics, even if just a bit.

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Atlantic Council experts share their take on the outcome of the German elections. Here’s what they have to say:

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Interview with the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party came in first, which is good news. But the strong showing by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in elections on September 24 is evidence of the fact that the nationalist wave remains a significant factor in Europe, according to the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried.

“The populist and anti-liberal wave, which many had optimistically concluded had crested and was in decline in Europe after the French, Dutch, and Austrian elections is still a significant factor in European politics,” said Fried, a distinguished fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future of Europe Initiative and Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.

“The bottom line is that the election outcome is not the best, but it’s also not the worst,” said Fried, who, in his forty-year career in the Foreign Service, played a key role in designing and implementing US policy in Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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