Germany’s foreign policy 16th July 2010
In response to Hans Kundnani (June, 2010), I’d like to point out that Germany has always had a distinct post-war foreign policy. The Hallstein doctrine of trying to isolate and delegitimise the East German state was replaced by Willy Brandt’s outreach to Moscow, an initiative which reached its nadir when the SPD-FDP government came close to endorsing the suppression of the Polish Solidarity union by the communist regime in December 1981.
In the early 1990s, Germany’s unilateral recognition of Croatia precipitated the decade-long Balkan crisis, though the massacres at Srebrenica—while EU governments stood on the sidelines—changed public opinion in favour of allowing German soldiers to serve overseas.
The secret deal in November 2002, by which Germany supported France’s demand that there be no reform of EU agro-subsidies and Paris agreed to endorse Germany’s neutralist-pacifist stance split Europe in half ahead of the Iraq intervention. But again, it showed a distinct German foreign policy stance.
Germany is unlikely to boost military spending in the near future, because if Berlin spent as much of its GDP on defence as Britain and France, the German military profile would alarm its neighbours. German foreign policy therefore is condemned (or freed) to be based on soft power and to be rooted in multilateralism rather than go-it-alone nationalism. Germany needs partners more than is realised.
Germany’s Russlandpolitik is dictated by its need for markets as much as dependency on Russian gas. The rejection of nuclear power leaves Germany obliged to have a positive relationship with Russia, but no more so than the west’s dependency on oil means closing eyes to unsavoury regimes and abuses of human rights in oil exporting nations.
And the notion that Germany should stop exporting makes little sense. Europe is not a grouping of zero sum national economies in which each nation must have equilibrium in trade balances. German workers and unions have made sacrifices to modernise the German economy and on the whole Germans pay taxes—apart from the usual dentists with Luxembourg bank accounts. The Bild Zeitung does go in for lurid headlines and distorted reporting, but a nation that produces the Sun and Daily Mail is in no position to lecture others on press excesses.
Recently John le Carré wrote movingly about his life-long love affair with German and Germany. I can think of no other European nation that over the last half century…