2014 could be the year Germany replaces America as the world’s unilateral superpower.
Germany’s relationship with the international community in recent years has been one of unrequited affection. America and other world powers have been begging Germany to get more involved in world affairs and to exert more global leadership. But Berlin has responded slowly and coyly, with a reluctance many find curious and vexing.
That changed in January 2014.
“The new German government, inaugurated just a month ago, IS CHARTING A NEW COURSE IN GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY,” Der Spiegel reported last week. “[New Foreign Minister Frank Walter] Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen believe that an economic powerhouse like Germany can’t continue to stand on the sidelines. THEY WANT TO SHOW GERMANY’S ALLIES THAT THE COUNTRY CAN BE RELIED UPON” (emphasis added throughout).
Germany’s pivot is discernible even as far away as America. “German leaders are pushing a VIGOROUS NEW CASE that it is time for their nation to find a MORE MUSCULAR VOICE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS,” reported the New York Times last Saturday. The Times noted how, in response to multiplying global crises and a retreating U.S. superpower, “senior [German] officials are urging a rethinking of the country’s assumptions about its diplomatic and military role.”
The rise of Germany as a more assertive military and political force in the world is enormously significant, both historically and prophetically. It deserves serious contemplation.
This theme was established by Joachim Gauck, Germany’s president, in a welcome address that, by his own admission, centered on “Germany’s role in the world.” You can read Gauck’s full speech here. (If you’re like me, you probably rarely click on these links. But this one is well worth your time.) Gauck’s speech is masterful. Contrite and altruistic in language and tone, the speech makes a compelling case for a stronger, more assertive Germany. The essence of his message is, the world needs us; we’d be selfish not to help. More than anything, Gauck’s message was a sincere plea to 80 million Germans to shed their pacifism and get behind the German government as it unselfishly serves mankind.
“We Germans are advancing towards a form of responsibility that has not yet become routine for us,” he stated. We live in a “world in which economic and political power is shifting and entire regions are arming themselves. In the Middle East, there is a danger that individual crises will converge and engulf the whole region. At this very moment, the world’s only superpower is reconsidering the scale and form of its global engagement .…” Germany must respond: “I don’t believe that Germany can simply carry on as before in the face of these developments.”
According to Gauck, Germany’s ascension is inevitable. “Germany has already been traveling along the road towards becoming a guarantor of the international order and security for 24 years now,” he said.
Gauck also questioned Berlin’s presence in key global theaters—the implication being that Germany simply isn’t doing enough.
Are we doing what we can to stabilize our neighborhood, both in the East and in Africa? Are we doing what we have to in order to counter the threat of terrorism? And, in cases where we have found convincing reasons to join our allies in taken even military action, are we willing to bear our fair share of the risks? … What role do we want to play in the crises afflicting distant parts of the globe?
Gauck’s answer? “In my opinion, GERMANY SHOULD MAKE A MORE SUBSTANTIAL CONTRIBUTION, and it should make it earlier and more decisively if it is to be good partner.”
Gauck also boldly addressed what is widely seen as the root cause of Germany’s reluctance for greater military and political assertion, which is the shame and guilt many Germans still have for World War II. “I have to admit that while there are genuine pacifists in Germany, there are also people who use Germany’s guilt for its past as a shield for laziness or a desire to disengage from the world.” In others words, GERMANY MUST SHED THE GUILT AND STOP HIDING BEHIND WORLD WAR II!
Many considered Gauck’s speech a landmark. Gunther Nonnenmacher, co-publisher of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that Gauck “MAY WELL HAVE SPOKEN THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD IN THE DEBATE OVER GERMAN FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY.”
But Gauck was not the only German leader endorsing a foreign policy transformation. Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, took the stage after president Gauck and basically continued where he left off. She stressed the need for greater integration among European nations in security and military. She also recalled some of the many global crises, in Syria, Libya and Africa, before stating: “To sit and wait is not an option. If we have means, if we have capabilities—we have the obligation and we have the responsibility to engage.”
Frank Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, also spoke, and he too stressed the urgent need for a more assertive German foreign policy. “Germany is really too big to just comment from the sidelines,” he stated. Steinmeier outlined seven practical propositions for Germany. One stated, “Germany must be ready for earlier, more decisive and more substantive engagement in the foreign and security policy sphere.” Another included the promise that Germany must provide “concrete” assistance to global issues, and not just “rhetorical outrage.” In another, he stated that Germany was “keen” to give input and leadership in negotiations for a common “European foreign, security and defense policy.” In another, Steinmeier criticized Germany’s “culture of restraint” and suggested Berlin needed to show itself more prepared and willing to act militarily when called upon.
The transformation that began in Germany last month ought to make us uneasy. In the very least, it should arouse some serious questions and intense discussions. HISTORY ALONE DEMANDS SUCH A RESPONSE. Instead, the world’s reaction was one of relief and applause. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke at Munich, delivering alackluster message that was vague and filled with generalizations and meaningless platitudes. But he did comment on Germany and its new foreign policy. He stated: “Leading, I say respectfully, does not mean meeting in Munich for discussions, IT MEANS COMMITTING RESOURCES.”
America is thrilled by the thought of a more militarily and politically assertive Germany!
Full article: Germany’s Dramatic and Alarming Foreign Policy Pivot (The Trumpet)