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November 6, 2009 |  10 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Josef Braml

Germany's Grace Period is Over

Josef Braml: The US will no longer give Germany a free-pass on sharing “the burden of global responsibility.” As skepticism of American foreign commitments broadens at home, and with Chancellor Merkel’s address before a joint session of Congress, Germany is no longer in a position to drag its heels on issues that the US finds most important. Furthermore, if Germany hopes to have any future sway in US politics, fulfilling expectations now is necessary.

On November 3, 2009, Chancellor Angela Merkel became the first German head of government to address both houses of the US Congress since Konrad Adenauer. The USA expects Germany to reciprocate this honor in the form of sharing the burden of international troop deployment, more state investments to revitalize the world economy, and a willingness to impose stronger sanctions on Iran. Conversely, due to domestic politics, Merkel's call for climate change legislation will fall on largely deaf ears in Washington. 

It is no accident that the invitation was offered by the "Madame Speaker" of the House of Representatives.  Nancy Pelosi embodies the expectations of Americans. She will expect a return for this gesture, namely that we help shoulder the load of American international commitments. Pelosi not only speaks for the chamber of Congress that is held more accountable for direct outcomes by the American people, but she also represents the pro-trade union wing of the Democratic party. There is a broad skepticism among US citizens regarding their government's international commitment. The tendency towards domestic naval-gazing is particularly pronounced among Democratic voters. The President's union constituency is not interested in wars on the other end of the world, rather they want their government to direct money towards social purposes and job creation.

Domestic considerations will also make it difficult for the US President to take the lead on international climate protection as the Chancellor and other Europeans have demanded.  The preoccupation with economic pressures and the political attention on competing government projects like healthcare reform make it difficult for the US President to push through the necessary environmental legislation. Thus, the US will reject the all too ambitious CO2 goals at the preliminary meetings for the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen.

Political priorities for Obama also rest in the domestic sphere. He was not elected because people regarded him as the best foreign policymaker or commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. The American people would have thought John McCain more suitable to that task. In the USA, 45 million people live without healthcare and another 30 million are under insured. With rising unemployment, social and economic insecurity also increases. These issues are relevant to a considerable portion of Obama's electorate - for whom he must achieve concrete results in order to avoid a political slap in the face in next year's mid-term elections.

Furthermore, the management of the finance, economic, and infrastructure problems in the United States will cost a lot of money that is not available because of the desolate budget situation left over by George W. Bush. Budget experts, as well as fiscally conservative Democrats, are already warning that the deficit is out of control. Therefore, Americans expect Germany to increase its stimulus programs in order to rejuvenate the world economy. Moreover, a stronger German commitment could reduce the financial and military burden of the United States: by pledging more money for the stabilization of Pakistan or the reconstruction of Iraq, or deploying more soldiers and police with less restriction to secure the situation in the Afghanistan theater. Finally, Washington expects Berlin to support sharper sanctions on Iran to prevent their gaining nuclear weapons.

Thus far American demands for increased deployment have been held back out of regard for our electoral season. Yet, now the grace period is over - and we will have to deliver. Driven by the expectations of the American people, elected officials in Congress and President Obama will demand the frequently sought "effective multilateralism" from Berlin.

Merkel thanked the USA not least for its help in German reunification and providing security during the Cold War. In return, the US now expects a more committed role from Germany, as suggested by Obama in his Berlin speech calling for a transfer of the "burden of global responsibility."

In addition, we will experience a fierce debate concerning the future of NATO. For the US, the alliance is a means of saddling the beneficiaries with the costs of deployment and to prevent free-riders. With his Berlin speech, Obama already made it clear that he does not see the North Atlantic Alliance as being prepared for the requirements of the new century. Should Europe not participate, we will forfeit any position to object if the US turns to Asian states to strengthen its position. In matters concerning NATO, Europeans continue to think within the structures of the Cold War, while the position of the US has evolved.

In the future Germany's ideas and concepts for international order will have even less sway in America should Chancellor Merkel not fulfill US expectations. Berlin is only in demand if the German government is prepared to share the lead. If not, we must be content with a position on the sidelines - at which point we will be unable to complain about American "unilateralism."

 
Dr. Josef Braml has been the Editor-in-Chief of the "Jahrbuch Internationale Politik" at the German Council on Foreign Relations (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V), Berlin since October 2006. He is also a Resident Fellow in the Research Program USA/Transatlantic Relations.

 
Translated by Stefan Ducich, Atlantic Community Editorial Staff

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Unregistered User

November 8, 2009

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A bit of honey diplomacy, Angela Merkel is invited to speak to the US House,
and Germany is prepared and eager, as it seems, to become the 51st State of the Union of America and I forgot, a member of Nafta.
This would mean for the Atlantic Think Tank, Mission accomplished, as the
rest of Europe would hopefully follow, since England is already there.
The author is quite right, that it would not come without a price,
It is not only, that the Opel deal, before the election in Germany, was
definitely beneficiary for Ms. Merkel's reelection, which was also very much
of interest to the US, it is also that Germany will continue to arm Israel, which after delivery of 5-6 new submarines, will now be entitled to two new state-
of-the art frgates from Germany
Comtemplating slightly "outside the box", with all the nuclear weapons
stored in Germany and Israel, besides the USA, one should not overlook, that the "mea culpa" triangle has actually closed.
USA ( Balfour Declaration )----- Israel ( Amsterdam Sanctions )--- Germany
( Holocaust ). ------ Gaza-------

As just said, it is thinking " outside the box".-----

HRF



 
Adam K. Svensson

November 8, 2009

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Mr. Braml is completely correct in claiming that as long as Germany (and any other country, for that matter) does not contribute to fulfil the aims of the international community, it will have no say either. But that principle applies to every such case, and is not specifically relevant in the Germany-USA case only. The most intuitive example is how democracy works; if you don't vote, don't complain either. And it is not made more relevant due to the fact that Merkel got to speak in the Congress.

Moreover, I believe the article insinuates that the USA are in charge of creating the agenda for the future concerning what the international community ought to do. Germany, along with a number of other countries, also has a resposibility to do so. To my mind, it seems that responsibility should lie on any international actor, be it a country or an organization of some kind, that reasonably has the ability to do so. An example could of course be the EU. At this stage, the EU does not have any formal institution to deal with such issues, as far as I know. Maybe it's time for that?
 
Brian  McCarthy

November 9, 2009

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It is dismaying to have people such as the author of this article make comparisons between America "defending" Germany during the Cold War and Germany "defending" American actions during its current invasion of Afghanistan.
In the Cold War era, America's sole concern was to stop the soviet Union becoming as big a global power as themselves and thus, in all the continents, the US sought to make countries into allies of theirs to avoid them becoming allies of the Soviets. The motivation was based on the belief that "our system is better than their system" and the individual countries chosen to defend were geographic issues.
This is not the case in Afghanistan, where the US unilaterally invaded the country to chase down the man who master-minded the World Trade Center attack. As in too many other instances, the US have chosen to ignore the views of so-called allies and carried out acts of war or supported, both militarily and politically, others committing acts of war.
It might be preferable to be, in US terms, on the margins, than be a willing 'junior player' in prosecuting human rights travesties on innocent civilians in far off lands with the only prize that you get a seat at second or third ranked table.
Until the US actually recognises the true value and importance of like-minded Western civilisation countries as equal to their own and sit with them to determine strategies to deal with the changing face of the world, we will remain in this action - reaction mode for some time to come. It is unhelpful to hear the charges that Germany is not pulling its weight without putting it into proper context of shared global strategies in trying to address the massive social imbalances and unstable and volatile situations
 
Marek  Swierczynski

November 9, 2009

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Today it's a very special day for Germany. Europe's leaders, accompanied by high-level delegations from around the world celebrate the moment that - regardless of the Eastern European rivalry - became the symbol of the collapse of the communist system. Praising the leadership, stamina and wisdom of Helmut Kohl, Michail Gorbatschev and George H.W. Bush we're proud of the achievements in Germany, inside what is now the European Union and across the continent. Quite rightly so, as it's worth remembering, recalling and preserving for the future generations. But on such moments it's always worth to look forward than just in the past. In the last 20 years Germany - while putting enormous effort into unification - have enjoyed a period of spectacular growth in terms of economical and political position on the international stage. It has undoubtedly risen to Europe's No.1 power and is probably unchallenged in this position in the forseeable future. The world has to acknowledge that fact - and draw conclusions. One of them should be re-shaping of the UN Security Council, if we agreed that it should remain the world's top international body. Including Germany in it is inevitable. Clearly, for the US Germany is the crucial partner within the EU and as long as the EU itself emerges with a clear leadership, Berlin will remain the EU's "phone number". It is obvious that with the power and importance comes responsibility. But responsibility and leadership need tools, ways and people to be shown or implemented. Unfortunately, when it comes to select the EU Council president, we're once again offered 3rd class (with all respect) candidates instead of true leaders. With the European Commission President - do not even mention a German! This hypocrisy only exacts a backseat steering and marrs the picture in terms of responsibility. A German at the helm of Europe? Think the unthinkable!!!
 
Jakob  Schirmer

November 9, 2009

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Its not about that Merkel or the German Government close themselves to “the burden of global responsibility” - its the German voter and the German domestic politics. I think the attitude of the German public is very opposite to any deepening of Germany's foreign commitments. What we need in Germany is a debate on why and when oneself should be enagaged in far countries. Interventionism is used to be seen very sceptically by the German public. Therefore, prior to any broadening of Germany's international engagement the German public has to be informed on the importance of global responibility.
 
Florian  Kuhne

November 10, 2009

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Dear Contributors, I need to make a point here which could sound obsolete and maybe short-minded or something. Having criticised the US in a lot of ways for a lot of faults they made, I think Germany needs to ponder whose partner it likes to be. Assuming that partnership and coalitions are absolutely necessary in the 21st century for adressing almost all problems of the international community, Germany seems to have chosen a pendular strategy. But in the end, it is the USA which is the partner best suited for Germany (outside EU), because Germany has the most in common with the US. Neither Russia nor China nor any other country outside the EU can be seen as a strategic partner like the USA. In terms of power, but also in terms of politics. Of course the US violates human rights in Guantanamo, but China and Russia for example violate human rights a lot more. I cannot agree with a diplomatic offensive towards a country which behaves like China in Africa, just for occupying the growing market China, as one example. It is difficult to agree with US politics too and for me in particular. But like I said: Germany needs partners and choosing the lesser of three or four evils is realistic politics. (In my opinion the best strategic partner would be a unified Latin America)

Mr Schirmer, you are certainly right about the public opinion in Germany, but as one of the leading countries of the world, Germany has commitments needing to be adressed. And, what is more important, it has the power to act internationally trying to solve problems or at least urge others to steer in another direction (as it should be the case with climate change for example). Germany, meaning the German government, must realise that some efforts of international politics also depend on German policy. It will be very interesting to see, whether Merkel and Westerwelle are able to see and behave in adequate ways.
 
Unregistered User

November 11, 2009

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...look at our armed forces. They have no oportunities to increase their engegement. Wether in AFG than in an other conflict. Not enough personal, material and money. The government knows that but does not talk about it in front of other countries states-men. Even if they want to, they cannot fullfil the wiches of the US.
Sad but true...
 
Unregistered User

November 11, 2009

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Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

Please let me say that my ideas and research paint the otherwise.
I m closely acquainted with the Transatlantic Relations. and what I see, hear, discover at the empirical level is that the United States has a great tie with Germany and Europe in the most enduring form.
Not only the American government but also very greatly the American people have a deep-rooted attachment to the Germany, France, England-- and the Europe entirely.

Acknowledge it or not, the United States, intellectually, is allured; emotionally is in amore with Germany and Europe --very openly.
And that the United States sees Germany (Europe) with the US as one country as one spirit: The Sovereignty of Sublime.
I live in United States and have been in many parts of it, met as many people as you might imagine. While I find myself very much interested by the US, I see Americans fascinated by Europe. I clearly discern their particular admirations for Germany-- at all the time.

Yet although this is the fact about American people yet simultaneously the US government has abundant respects for Germany and its role on the global stage.
The US never sees itself apart from Germany or Europe.
Our historical, political spheres are so much attached to each; so much derived from one another that the world, lucidly, sees us as one; one Civilization and one World.

Hence we should not allow the artificial matters or insignificant items colour our judgment and lead us to the false conclusion that only our enemies profit from.
We should not allow that any elements diverge us. Because our Security and future destiny are closely tied-- as we are one force at all fronts.

The Politicians understand the importance of this fact. So the Academics must as well take a deeper look at their critical thinking and words. For they could mislead the generation of Europe, by these sorts of analyse, and thrust them to the unknown, in which our Civilization and World could be lost.


Catherine Stella Schmidt
Author of
A Philosophical Enquriy into the Concept of Liberty
Discourse on Empire
Sublime and Beautiful Europe and the United States of America

 
Colette Grace Mazzucelli

November 14, 2009

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Dear Josef,

Thank you for your commentary! It was lovely to see you at Stanford and to exchange ideas about transatlantic priorities.

In the coming years, I believe that Germany will have quite an instrumental role to play as the European Union implements the Lisbon Treaty. When the Treaty comes into effect on December 1, there will be a period of introspection before the Union can play a stronger role in foreign policy. This is a reality, which the United States must understand in terms of transatlantic and global interests. The institutional changes as a result of Lisbon's ratification necessitate focused attention, particularly the creation of the External Action Service (EAS). The composition of the EAS, as you know, is to come from the Commission, the Council Secretariat, and the officials of the Union's Member States. The changes to contemplate in New York, where the Union must retain its voice at the United Nations, gives one a sense of just how complicated this evolution is likely to be. The Commission's Delegation in New York and the Office of the Council Secretariat are to merge. The head of the new office may well be a former national prime minister or president given the profile of the position. If we look at the excellent work accomplished by H.E. Mr. John Bruton leading the European Commission's office in Washington, DC, this speaks to naming a seasoned political leader to the position in New York. This is even more of a priority in the US capital.

For this reason, Germany can be quite influential behind the scenes to work toward constructive negotiations on these sensitive postings, which can make a significant impact on the ways in which the European Union is represented in different international organizations and in world capitals. More importantly, the composition of the EAS, which is to report to the new European Foreign Minister, must reflect the need to reconcile national interests with the evolving European common interest. Here Germany must be attentive to staffing, particularly from its own officials. There is a difference between those officials coming from the European Commission or the Council Secretariat, who defend the turf of their respective institutions in distinct policy areas as they attempt to carve out a greater role to play in JHA or ESDP, and those officials from the Member States who will spend four years on a post within the EAS and then return to their national ministries. It is the latter officials who are likely to work nationally and transnationally at the heart of the EU foreign policy system, each relying on an understanding of a particular national interest derived from work to date and applying that knowledge as the EAS develops as the voice of the Union in foreign policy. European citizens should demand no less of their officials than to apply a keen understanding of national interests at the service of the European system as a whole.

Officials in the European Commission or Council Secretariat who see largely the interests of their particular institution at what they may perceive increasingly as the center of the European system can lose sight of the challenges and the demands to work transnationally. German officials come from a domestic system in which EU coordination is intense among diverse ministries. The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty will put a considerable pressure on German diplomats in the initial years to work with their counterparts across the EU 26 to create a European voice that resonates in the world. One of the first challenges is to avoid a protracted internal struggle with the Spanish Presidency, which is set to take the helm on January 1, 2010. The Lisbon Treaty ends to role of the Presidency in foreign policy. Germany has an critical mediatory role to play in that Spain's tough negotiators may well insist on a role for the Presidency that works at cross purposes with the aims of the Treaty, which has been ratified by the EU 27 to improve the representation of European citizens in a 21st century world.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts given how much energy is likely to be devoted to these matters in the next year.

All the best and greetings from New York, Colette

 
Andrey  Chubyk

November 17, 2009

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Starting with implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, it seems, that most of EU countries are slightly afraid of being responsible for the first period on highest positions in the EU bodies. But after that it is to be expected much more competitions due to possibility of those positions ranking by strongest countries of the EU, including Germany and France. Despite of world globalisation no one has set aside a rule - if you will not command, you will be commanded.

The world is overcoming global recession, the mentioned ceremony remembered not only about crash of communists' regime, but also about Second World War and some samples of crimes, accomplished by national-socialists. This seems to restrain entirely natural ambitions of German politicians on going step by step up in the career ladder.
Tags: | Lisbon Treaty | Germany |
 

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