Germany in the Rescue of the West – From German Austerity to German Activism? What Germany is willin

The world as we know it is changing. A seemingly rogue American president wants to make America great again – and the rest of the world, well, who cares. A Russian president aggressively attempts to restore Russian greatness. He annexes European territory and militarily supports a dictator who doesn't shy away from throwing chemical bombs on its own people. A Chinese president secures his dictatorial reign for eternity, and strategically but quietly positions China as the world’s most powerful nation. The liberal international order as we know it seizes to exist – unless someone is willing to safeguard it.

In 2015, Merkel embellished the TIME’s cover as the Person of the Year: She was named the “Chancellor of the Free World”. Two years later, just after Trump’s surprising victory in the U.S. elections, the world handed over Obama’s baton to Merkel, not to Trump. She was crowned the leader of the (entire) free world. However, the optimism ebbed off. Germany’s ability and, more importantly, Germany’s willingness to answer the long-standing call to take over greater responsibility in the world is severely being questioned. In a world where economic strength is translated directly into power, Germany is powerful. But in today’s conflict-ridden world, military strength increasingly determines power. In this Hobbesian world, Germany is weak.

In 2018, Germany places itself on the sidelines. A young and dynamic French President, who seems slightly as narcissistic as the American one, is buddying up with Trump. Macron does not shy away to use military force and is being respected for that. Just a week ago, Trump, Macron and May joined forces to launch a missile attack on Syria to penalise Assad’s alleged chemical weapon attack on Duma. Germany wasn't even asked to join the table let alone the military action. Is this the new, isolated Germany? Is Germany even able to rescue the West if it wanted to?

Germany’s economy is booming, but the country is politically paralysed with yet another unpopular Grand Coalition. Since the Euro Crisis, Germany has evolved to be the leading nation in Europe. However, its relentless enforcement of German Austerity has created new fault lines and left Europe feeling less united. The visionary French President seems to fill Merkel’s lack of vision for Europe. Outside of Europe, Germany sends mixed signals. Towards its historic and closest ally, the United States, Germany seeks to maintain good relations whilst emancipating itself. In the world, there is no other nation that profits more from a global infrastructure that allows international trade. Yet, Germany’s interconnectedness and dependency on exporting goods is at the same time its biggest vulnerability. Germany has been free riding on the American security umbrella for too long, many claim. What is Germany willing to pay to safeguard the international liberal order from which it benefits so clearly?

Several obstacles remain for Germany to overcome its current ambivalent position. Germany lacks a clear objective and strategic culture in foreign policy; it needs to start defining a national security strategy. German military capabilities demand substantial boosting and military spending needs to be significantly increased. Further, only in a strong and united Europe can Germany thrive. Therefore, it must retreat from its divisive austerity policy. Only then Europe may grow closer again and find common answers to its pressing security questions. Lastly, Germany’s biggest handicap for a more active foreign policy is domestic reserve. Germans generally reject the idea of global leadership. Public opinion needs to be shaped more actively so that Germany is politically willing to step up its game. Foreign policy begins at home.

1. Framing the Context: Germany at Home, in Europe, and in the World

Experts familiar with Germany’s strategic position called for caution when Merkel was hailed as the new leader of the free world. Next to an anti-military public, Germany is situated in complex web of multi-level relations within Europe, with the United States and other global powers such as China, Russia or Turkey that curtail Germany’s ability to act.

Germany at Home – reluctant to lead?

At home, Merkel has to manoeuvre in a context that is unfavourable to a more active German foreign policy. She is confronted with a fragile political situation, a military in dire condition and a reluctant public. After months of inaction, Merkel’s conservative party managed to form a government with the social-democratic party so that Merkel could stay in power for a fourth term. This constitutes yet another unpopular Grand Coalition that does not promise great dynamic in policy. Further, in this constellation the new risen right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) secured itself the spot as opposition leader – to everyone’s dismay and concern.

When it comes to German military capabilities, the picture is almost embarrassingly dire. Despite repetitive demands to increase its military spending, Germany still spends only 1,2% of its GDP on defence (equivalent to 37 billion EUR, in 2016). Germany had de-prioritised military spending for the last decades, which stands in line with the strong belief in exercising foreign policy through multilateralism, not through military. After the German unification in 1990, military spending dropped from 2,4% of GDP to 1,4% ten years later.1 Only recently, Germany has begun to put emphasis on increased military spending, which can be seen in a respectable increase in absolute terms: Germany increased its military expenditure by 5 billion EUR since 2007. This absolute increase is not reflected in the GDP percentage, since Germany’s economy has been booming and its GDP steadily growing. So, even though Germany’s military spending increased, the relative importance of military expenditure has not experienced its necessary boost, leaving Germany at an all-time low of 1,2%. Certainly, Germany’s anti-military public and party factions do not help the case. The Green Party and the SPD, who has been in government on and off since 1998 and currently heading the finance ministry, strongly oppose increased military spending as they consider it “armament policy”.

German military is not only understaffed, but also under-equipped, and several military hiccups have drawn negative media attention. In 2013, a big scandal erupted when a confidential report on the German military forces in Afghanistan unearthed that the German standard rifle G36 shoots highly inaccurate under strong solar radiation. In 2015, German soldiers were allegedly executing NATO training sessions with broomsticks, since the original equipment was under repair. Since then, one report after another pinpointed German military’s defections. Today, experts estimate that only in between 30% and 70% of German weaponry is operative; whereas the situation of German tanks have improved since 2014, German Air Force and helicopters are still in worrisome condition (less than 50% are operable) and German Naval Forces are almost insignificant.2 In February, the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Armed Forces Hans Bartels presented his annual review and stressed the “deficiencies of personnel and material in all areas of the armed forces”. According to Bartels, apart more than 21.000 high- and mid-ranking positions are currently vacant. The Commissioner concludes that German military is “virtually not deployable for collective defence” and unprepared for the possibility of a larger conflict.3 A damming verdict for Europe’s most populous country.

More than anything in German military policy, words and actions differ. It seemed that 2014 marked a year of change in German attitude towards foreign and security policy. At the Munich Security Conference, former President Joachim Gauck surprised everyone with an invoking speech. He called for a rethinking in German foreign policy, demanding Germany to significantly expand its foreign engagement and to act more determined. Germany should not categorically say “No” to military operations.4 In line with Gauck’s speech, the Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen trumpeted at the same security conference that German indifference is no option anymore: “If we have the assets and capabilities at hand, then we also carry the responsibility to engage”. Four years, a Russian annexation and Syrian war later, these words seem like much ado about nothing. Where is German military engagement? Admittedly, Germany has shown more readiness to deploy its armed forces abroad, including Afghanistan, Mali, Iraq or the Baltics. But the current dismal condition of Germany’s military does not allow for more. And as we have seen just past month in realm of the American, French and British missile attack on Syria, Germany is not believed a reliable military partner. At this years Munich security conference, Ursula von der Leyen, still Defense Minister, tried to reconcile their partner’s claims by promising to continue to boost military spending. She announced that Germany is committed to greater burden sharing within NATO. But will actions follow words this time? The coalition has at least agreed to add 10 billion EUR to the military budget over the next four years. However, fixing costs might well melt much of these additional resources. Further, the coalition agreement demands that every additional Euro spent on defence should be matched by development aid. This reflects Germany’s combined military approach but might just hamper hopes of a real, strong German military.

In contrast to leading military nations like the United States or France, Germany possesses a parliamentary army, which means it needs parliamentary approval for every new or prolonged military action. On one hand, this limits Germany’s quick, reactive striking capability. On the other hand, military action needs public support – which does not exist. Germans are reluctant to accept the use of military force, rooted in the “never again” motto, never again should Germany act as a violent power. Along these lines, Germans often deflect European leadership by claiming that the last thing the continent needs is a Germany that is once again militarily too powerful. A recent survey by the Körber foundation underscores the German reserved public opinion: 52 percent said that more restraint in world affairs was beneficial. The ageing population does not help the case. Former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted when he retook office in 2013 that demographics are a major constraint on Germany playing a larger role in foreign policy. An ageing society is less dynamic and open to change than one with greater proportions of younger citizens.5

A reluctant public, low military spending and defective armed forces, a stagnant political system – these internal issues greatly challenge Germany’s ability to taker over greater responsibility in safeguarding the liberal international order.

Germany and Europe – economic strength equals power?

From a German perspective, the European Union is vital. Germany can only be thought of in a strong and united Europe. Germany can only have interests alongside European ones. According to Daniela Schwarzer, Head of the German Council on Foreign Relations, the EU provides the country with a ring of friends. “And it allows Berlin to multiply its own international weight, to the extend it can win support for its positions among partners in the EU.”6 However, Germany’s intra-European popularity has taken a deep dent. During the Euro Crisis, Germany evolved as a “hegemon by default” and the German question was renewed: What role does Germany play in Europe? Do we have a European Germany, or rather a German Europe? Unfortunately, a decade long German austerity penance has dismantled European cohesion and left Germany greatly unpopular among its European partners. Is Germany too strong for a strong and united for Europe?

The European Single Market and the American security umbrella made Germany the most powerful player in Europe. Security was externally provided, so military capabilities weren’t necessary. Europe was largely defined by economic interaction. Hence, economic strength was directly translated into power.7 But Germany wasn't always the economic powerhouse in Europe. In 2004, Hans Werner Sinn, Germany’s leading economists, named Germany the sick man of Europe. Ten years later, Germany would grow to a GDP of almost 3 trillion EUR. In 2017, Germany recorded an all-time high budget surplus of 36 billion EUR (just about the amount that would be necessary to fulfil the 2% NATO quota). The key to Germany’s success can be partly found in the drastic labor reforms that were introduced in the early 2000s under the social-democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. His Agenda 2010 and Hartz Four Reforms allowed for greater labor market flexibility, constrained wages and cut unemployment benefits. Further, Germany has kept upgrading its industrial base so that Angela Merkel told the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair laconically: “ We make things people want.”8 On the other side of the coin, as we have seen earlier and in contrast to other big European economies, Germany has avoided costly foreign engagements and refrained from boosting its defence budged. Germany has benefited from the American security umbrella the most.

The European Union is a peace project. Currently, populism and Euroskepticism threaten this Nobel-prize-winning quasi-utopia. Many argue that the Euro Crisis, and especially Germany’s handling of the Euro Crisis has fuelled these populist and anti-European tendencies. Smaller nations perceived an unfair distribution of powers. They often complained that Germany was using its economic weight to impose their stance on issues such as the Euro Crisis but also later migration.9 In the (in) famous summer of 2015, Merkel unilaterally decided to open German borders for Syrian refugees to cross. And later demanded other European countries to take over their fair share of burden and allow equal redistribution of refugees – so far without success. But also France grew more and more uncomfortable with a too powerful Germany. However, in Germany’s defence, Germany can never do it right. Due to their economic strength, Germany is expected to take over the biggest financial burden – but without having a say at all? German leadership is expected but Germany shall not become too powerful, please. Obviously, the German question remains as difficult as ever.

Times have changed since the Euro Crisis. Angela Merkel has found a new contester for European leadership and economic power is challenged by military strength. The young and dynamic French President Emmanuel Macron could not be a more contrasting figure to Merkel, and yet reaches for Merkel’s baton. In his refreshing Sorbonne speech, just days after the German elections, Macron outlined his vision for Europe including a joint European army, the long-overdue completion of a banking union and a common fiscal budget. It was practically a direct invitation to Merkel to join him on his journey to advance Europe. But Merkel’s reply is still outstanding. Macron is taking things in his own hands, leaving Germany behind. Just past week, we witnessed a bizarre French-American get together. Two vain cocks celebrating their male bonding through repeated handshakes, kisses and flattering words. The jury is still out on whether Macron’s pompous visit was effective. Nonetheless, Macron seems to have positioned himself as Trump’s closest buddy while being his biggest critique. Besides the grand show, Macron held an energetic rebuttal on issues such as climate and the Iran deal in front of the US Senate. Macron fought for the international liberal order. And Merkel? She was allowed to visit as a sideshow after Macron had left.

Lastly, military power may become a determining factor inside Europe. Since Trump’s presidency and retrenchment politics, the American security guarantee is questioned and leaves Europe to step up their game in defence and security issues. This would greatly enhance the French and British position inside Europe since they would then be able to project power through their superior military capabilities also inside Europe, not only beyond. Germany’s power derived from economic strength would fall short, or need to be pared with military strength. 10

Germany needs Europe to be strong. However, Germany’s power inside Europe is crumbling. The failure of Germany to jointly tackle a partly homemade migration crisis with its European partners is a showcase. Germany finds itself more and more isolated. Firstly, because too much resentment might be left due to Germany’s austerity measures that have not even led to a successful recovery. Secondly, Germany’s economic strength might not translate into power anymore. Third, a more dynamic and active French President challenges Germany’s leadership role.

Germany and the United States – an old ally estranged?

The transatlantic relations are under strain. The American president criticises Germany’s trade surplus and low military spending. He is dangerously toying with the idea of raising tariffs on car imports, clearly targeting Germany’s strong car manufacturing industry. Merkel’s reaction remains the usual: keeping calm. Only during the German election’s peak phase, Merkel surprised with emancipatory words during a campaigning speech in a rustic Bavarian beer tent: “The time in which we could completely rely on others are on the way out (…) We Europeans truly have to take our fate into own hands.” Is Germany entering a post-Atlanticist era?

The United States overtook France as Germany’s biggest export market. However, this trading relationship is quite unbalanced. As Hans Kundnani, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, analyses: “Since the financial crisis of 2008, Germany and the United States have found themselves on opposing sides of arguments about imbalances in the global economy.”11 Justifiably, U.S. officials have repeatedly criticised Germany for profiting from an undervalued Euro, which unfairly boosts Germany’s exports. The United States on the other side is suffering from a trade deficit for a long time. For Trump the solution to this imbalance are greater trade barriers – a return to neo-mercantilism. However, a world with more trade barriers would greatly endanger Germany’s economic success, a success that depends on export for almost half of its GDP and a third of German jobs.

After Trump’s election and before Macron, Merkel appeared to be not only the economic but also moral stronghold of the West. Already in 2002, Charles Kupchan forecasted “The End of the West” due to a clash of civilisations between the United States and Europe. The Americans still live(d) by the rules of realpolitik, viewing military threat, coercion and war as essential tools of diplomacy. Whereas Europe, and in particular Germany as Zivilmacht, has spent the past fifty years trying to tame international politics, setting aside guns in the favour of settling conflict through multilateral international organisations.12 Kupchan believed that the once united West was well on its way to separating into competing halves. Fifteen years later, the West is in danger of breaking up. But a retreating United States, rather than an up stepping, competing Europe threatens the liberal international order.

Germany remains ambivalent towards its historic ally, the United States of America. Rooted in its economic strength, Germany might have threatened the American leadership, but Germany was never able to compete on a military basis. Nor did it have to. Germany benefitted greatly from the American security umbrella, which it will never be able to substitute with its own. The transatlantic relationship is marked by an economically strong and independent Germany vs. a military weak and dependent Germany vis à vis the United States.

Since Trump, the German-US relations have complicated further. Only 11% of Germans have confidence in the US President.13 Der Spiegel dedicated six covers to the American President as “an unpredictable threat to liberal values”. The publication of an Atlanticist manifesto by a group of leading German foreign policy analysts triggered a lively debate between Atlanticists and Post-Atlanticists: Should Germany “preserve” the transatlantic partnership or “decouple” itself from the United States.14 The Atlanticists warn against Germany turning its back on the United States, since it “would bring insecurity to Germany and ultimately Europe”. The Post-Atlanticists stress the long-term, structural shifts in American foreign policy that have started long before Trump and will not end with Trump. “The U.S. can no longer and will longer be the stabiliser and protector of Europe”.15 America’s skepticism about multilateralism, globalisation and its role as global hegemon providing public goods for everyone predates Trump. Germany has contributed to this backlash by having been one of the biggest free riders on the American guaranteed liberal international order. Subsuming the slightly polarised debate, Hans Kundnani emphasises “the Post-Atlanticists radically underestimate the dependence of Europeans on the United States in security terms”.16 This leaves Germany in its ambivalent situation between economic strength and military dependence. Its room for manoeuvre, then, heavily depends on Germany’s change of heart in military terms.

Germany in the World – only an economic force to be reckoned with?

Germany has become a global power. Its economic strength is globally reckoned. It is the world’s most popular country. In 2014, Germany could top the title of world exporting champion with the world soccer champion – “Germany is Weltmeister” as Roger Cohen titled in the New York Times. Merkel is said to have sway of the world’s strongmen Erdogan, Putin or Xi. The question remains, whether Germany’s global power only derives from its economics strength, or whether Germany is considered as a political player as well. Is Germany willing to exert its power for interests that go beyond its own, to safeguard the liberal international order?

Germany is a deeply globalised country that has huge stakes in a liberal, rule-based international order as it secures international trade. A recent McKinsey study found that Germany is possible the “most connected” of all major economies.17 The ability to send goods, people and information safely around the globe is key, which requires the existence of a physical infrastructure – which until now is provided by the United States.18 Germany has groomed a complex global web of largely economic ties, which strongly impact German foreign policy. Hans Kundnani and Stefan Szabo developed the concept of Germany as a “geo-economic” power: to use one’s economic weight to pursue German interests, without asserting to military force.19

For a long time, Germany refrained from an active foreign policy. World affairs, however, have pushed Germany out of its comfort zone, as witnessed in its relations with Russia and Turkey. After the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, it seemed that Germany would finally take over its leading role. Merkel’s external impact was never greater than during the Ukraine crisis. Germany evolved to be the crucial intermediary between Moscow and Kiev, drawing up the Minsk Agreement. Leading the West’s confrontation with Russia, Germany unified Europe to implement economic sanctions against Russia. This active move broke with Germany’s traditional equidistance to Russia. Geographically and economically, Germany used to always have closer ties to Russia than its Western comrades. Many German businesses share investments in Russia. All the stronger were the sanctions’ impact – even though German businesses’ resentment against the sanctions are growing and building pressure on Merkel. Along the same lines, Merkel emerged as a leading figure in forging a migration deal with Erdogan. Yet again, she went into the negotiations with Germany’s economic weight in the back: to use it as a stick or carrot.

Finally, Germany’s relationship to China is as close as it is controversial. Both share many common characteristics such as their dependence on exports, big trade surpluses or the claim of being deflationary powers. Both underwent a similar trajectory, transforming their political economy to an export nation. Both are left with similar vulnerabilities. But there is one big difference: China is following its own authoritarian version of capitalism that does not adhere to German, Western ideals. As former Head of Policy Planning at the Foreign Office, Thomas Bagger, concludes: “We have every interest in China’s peaceful, non-violent rise, and eventual transformation. But what are the instruments to bring this about?”20 In the last decade, German and Chinese interests were well aligned. The wind has subtly changed direction. Germany has collected internal and external criticism for abiding – if not indirectly supporting – Chinese human-rights-violating, undemocratic interpretation of capitalism. Further, Germany is more and more worried about China’s growing influence in Europe, heavily investing in strategic sectors. Only recently the German think tank Global Public Policy Institute published a critical report on Chinese investments in Europe and how they threaten Europe’s cohesion.21 In my opinion, the German-Chinese relationship deserves very close attention. It could carry an interesting potential in forging an unconventional partnership to safeguard – at least certain – elements of the liberal international order both benefit of: a secure, rules-based international system.

2. Understanding German Interests and Objectives

Germany’s interests are directly shaped by its political-economic situation at home, in Europe and in the world. The complex context that is described above leaves ambivalent optimism for Germany to safeguard the liberal international order. Too many constraints hamper Germany’s ability and willingness to act as a stronger international, political player.

Germany’s domestic interests are clearly to remain economically strong but militarily cautious. However, how long may Germany maintain this imbalance of economic strength and military (public) reluctance? In light of the manifold military aggressiveness that Germany is surrounded with, can Germany truly afford to stay militarily silent? The migration crisis has not at least shown how closely foreign and domestic policy is intertwined. Or is it possibly good that Germany as the geographic heart of Europe plays the role of a calmer, mediating participant that promotes diplomatic rather than military solutions to conflict?

In Europe, Germany’s interests have been and always will be alongside European ones. Only in a strong Europe, Germany can thrive. Clearly, the Euro crisis has strained European cohesion and Germany’s stubborn austerity policy has made Germany quite unpopular amongst its European allies. Therefore, Thomas Bagger defines Germany’s objective as follows: “it is imperative that Germany charts a path forward for the Eurozone

and the entire European Union that revitalises the

entire European economy—not only the German one.”22 It is certain that many Germans have very different ideas on how this path should look like. Further, the German-French motor is key for a stronger Europe. Fortunately, Germany’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has acknowledged the importance of a closer German-French cooperation. A day after his inauguration, Maas traveled to Grance to meet with Jean-Yves Le Drian, his French counterpart. He announced that Germany would work “very intensively and quickly” to follow through on Macron’s plans to reform the European Union. It will be worthwhile to hold Maas to his words. Most likely to be fulfilled is Germany’s increased support of the European Defence and Security Union.

With the United States, Germany desires to strike a tricky balance of maintaining traditionally good relations whilst emancipating itself. The obvious question remains, from what exactly Germany wants to “emancipate” from: the American hegemony? The American security umbrella? The likelihood of that seems slims. Although measures are undertaken to at least appear as if Germany is serious about reaching its 2% NATO objective. Defence Minister Von der Leyen, Foreign Minister Maas and Merkel have officially promised that Germany will steadily increase its military budget. However, words are yet again not matched by action. Just past Wednesday the Social Democratic Finance Minister Scholz presented the budget plan for this legislature – and the promises made during the coalition talks are not met by far. With the announced incremental defence budget increase, Germany would only reach 1,3%. Besides the grievance about military spending, it is clearly in Germany’s interest to appease the American grievances about global trade imbalances. Germany must avoid an agitated American president who follows through with his threats to radically raise tariffs.

On a global level, Germany’s economic interests have mainly defined German foreign policy. Surely, Germany is interested in maintaining the global physical infrastructure that enables global trade. To speak about further concrete German interests and objectives outside of Europe is very difficult. They are left unspoken, if not undefined. Reactiveness rather than pro-activeness marked Merkel’s foreign policy in the past. This is unlikely to change. Circumstances rather than specific interests will shape Germany’s global foreign policy. However, Germany’s reactiveness may result in being left behind, as witnessed in the recent Western joint missile attacks on Syria.

3. Recommending Strategies – From German Austerity to German Activism?

In a time where economic strength translated into power, Germany evolved to be a “reluctant hegemon” in Europe. When then the world turned south and strongmen like Erdogan, Putin or even Trump attacked the liberal international order, much faith was put into Merkel to take over leadership. Unfortunately, Germany has not proven itself to the task. Public rejection of German global leadership and increased military involvement pose the biggest handicap for a more active foreign policy abroad. But Germany’s engagement differs from inside and outside of Europe. During the Euro Crisis, Germany threw around its economic weight to force German austerity on all Euro countries. It started to extend this “geo-economic” power to shape Europeans external action towards Russia and Turkey. Economic strength is Germany’s most useful – and possibly sole - foreign policy instrument: whether as a carrot or stick in form of sanctions. However, times have changed. Realpolitik has returned and with it the importance of military strength. If Germany wants to safeguard the liberal international order as it is – a rules-based system rooted in multilateralism -, Germany needs to act differently. After all, Germany has benefitted the most from a secure liberal international order.

The stars do not align well currently. Germany finds itself on the sidelines of world politics again. In Europe, Germany has made itself unpopular with its austerity penance and is being overtaken by a visionary French President who sticks to his words when it comes to military interventions. In the United States, Germany has been aggravating many political elites long before Trump. Germany continues to build up trade surpluses, yet fails to fulfil NATO’s 2% quota. Overall, the West is fed up with a German foreign policy whose actions do not match its words.

Germany must act: define a clear direction, build capabilities, create political will and forge strong partnerships.

1. Germany needs to define its own national security strategy. Despite the country’s growing international weight, Germany’s foreign policy culture and institutions have remained weak. Germany’s objectives are vague, to say the least. Surely, this is rooted in Germany’s traditional self-understanding as a Friedensmacht. But Germany cannot mask its inaction behind its “never again”-motto anymore. Only with a national security strategy, Germany can turn towards a more pro-active foreign policy.

2. Germany needs to boost its military spending to become a believable partner. Increased military spending is necessary to retrieve the country out of its current weaponry misery and to pare its economic strength with a military one. Further, Germany should consider revising the parliamentary approval for military engagements. Only when Germany has a functioning army it can deploy quickly, Germany might be able to become a real force to be reckoned with.

3. Germany needs to shape public opinion in order to secure the political will for greater foreign engagement. Domestic constraints are huge and the negative media attention German military has been receiving clearly doesn't help the case. German’s feel uncomfortable with the thought of a strong military, which is also mirrored by German’s reluctance to join the armed forces. Becoming a diplomat, yes. A military officer, no. A targeted media strategy that transparently connects Germany’s interests with a more active foreign policy could positively influence public opinion.

4. Germany needs to forge strategic partnerships inside Europe to break out of its current isolation. To prepare fertile ground for renewed European partnerships, Germany must retreat from its austerity policy. It must leave room for other countries to grow economically in their own way. Possibly, a weaker Germany might help Europe to become stronger. Economic and security issues are linked. Hence, Germany needs to open up to the idea of a European fiscal and political union, which poses a precondition for a common security and defense policy. Finally, a novel German-French division of labor could serve as an innovative solution to Europe’s issues: Germany could provide economic growth while France provides security.

Whether Germany can safeguard the liberal international order will be decided first at home and then in Europe. Germany finally must acknowledge its global responsibility and strategically define the next steps of its foreign policy. Otherwise it will not only become globally insignificant, but it will endanger its own future as world’s most popular economic powerhouse.

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4 Gauck, J.. (2014). „Deutschland muss bereit sein, mehr zu tun“. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Available at:

5 Szabo, S. (2016). „Germany: Resurgance, Stagnation, or Decline?“. In Is the West in decline? Edt. By Rowland, B. Lexington Books: London

6 Schwarzer, D. (2017). „Germany cannot afford to be a geopolitical bystander“. DGAP. Available at

7 Speck, U. (2014). „Power an Purpose: German Foreign Policy at Crossroads“. Carnegie Europe. Available at

8 Szabo, S. (2016). „Germany: Resurgance, Stagnation, or Decline?“. In Is the West in decline? Edt. By Rowland, B. Lexington Books: London

9 Speck, U. (2014). „Power an Purpose: German Foreign Policy at Crossroads“. Carnegie Europe. Available at

10 Kundnani, H. (2017). „New Parameters of German Foreign Policy“. Transatlantic Academy. 2017 Paper Series. No. 3.

11 Kundnani, H. (2017). „New Parameters of German Foreign Policy“. Transatlantic Academy. 2017 Paper Series. No. 3.

12 Kupchan, C. (2002). „The End of the West“. The Atlantic. November Issue 2002. Available at

13 Pew Research Center. (2018). „6 charts on how German and Americans view one another“. Available at:

14 Kleine-Brockhoff et al. (2016). “In Spite of It All, America.” German Marshall Fund of the United States. Available at http:// donald-trump-german-perspective.

15 Lau, J. & Ulrich, B. (2017). “Something New in the West.” ZEIT Online. Available at relationships-values.

16 Kundnani, H. & Puglierin, J. (2018). „Atlanticist and “Post-Atlanticist” Wishful Thinking“. German Marshall Fund of the United States. Policy Essay 2018. No. 1.

17 McKinsey Global Institute. (2014). “Global flows in a digital age.” Insights and Publications. April 2014. insights/globalization/global_flows_in_a_digital_age.

18 Speck, U. (2014). „Power an Purpose: German Foreign Policy at Crossroads“. Carnegie Europe. Available at

19 Kundnani, H. “Germany as a geo-economic power”. Washington Quarterly. Summer 2011: 31-45.

20 Bagger, T. (2015). „The German Moment in a Fragile World“. Washington Quarterly. Winter 2015: 25-35.

21 Benner. T, et. al. (2018). „Authoritarian Advance. Responding to China’s Growing Influence in Europe“. Global Public Policy Institute. February 2018.

22 Bagger, T. (2015). „The German Moment in a Fragile World“. Washington Quarterly. Winter 2015: 25-35.


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