German Foreign Policy: The unadventurous eagle

Europe’s biggest economic power seems reluctant to have a foreign policy to match

From the Economist:  “Germany has entered a new era of ambivalence and nationalist calculation,” wrote Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist. Some French voices echoed many others in demanding that Mr Westerwelle be sacked. German analysts were hardly kinder. The abstention was a “scandalous mistake”, thundered Joschka Fischer, a former foreign minister. Mr Westerwelle and Angela Merkel, the chancellor, have called into question “the basic principles of German foreign policy”, said Der Spiegel, a weekly. Even members of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) found it hard to justify the abstention. . . .

More worrying for Germany’s friends is the feeling that the abstention revealed a changed Germany, one of sharp elbows, shallow loyalties and short-sighted reckoning, which will be harder to live with than the more reliable ally of old. The country is pursuing a new “non-aligned foreign policy,” claims a recent paper by the European Council on Foreign Relations. Jan Techau, European director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, worries that “this government is creating a huge geopolitical void in the centre of Europe.” He adds that the pro-West consensus that has underpinned European peace since the second world war is “slowly dissolving.” Some analysts even speak of a Sonderweg, a new version of the “special path” for Germany advocated by 19th-century reactionaries.

This new Germany, the argument goes, does what it must to stop Europe’s single-currency area from breaking apart but not enough to resolve the crisis (see Charlemagne). It chops military spending with little regard for Europe’s (and NATO’s) defence needs. Transfixed by the rise of China and other trading partners in the emerging world, it neglects its neighbours. It finds investment in collective endeavours, such as NATO and the EU, altogether too burdensome. . . .

The anchoring of Germany in the West is not in question, says Ruprecht Polenz, the CDU chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign-affairs committee. Since the Libya wobble, Germany has scrambled to reassure its allies. Mrs Merkel now proclaims the UN resolution to be “our resolution.” Germany has begun participating in AWACS surveillance missions in Afghanistan, freeing up other NATO resources for the Libya operation. Germany may contribute to a UN mission if one is needed for southern Sudan which is seceding in July. (That will coincide with Germany’s occupation of the UN Security Council’s rotating presidency.)

None of this will be enough. The political and financial costs of sustaining Germany’s alliances are rising. Its partners need to know that Germany is prepared to continue paying the price.  (graphic: Peter Schrank/Economist)

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