Germany's Choice

Courtesy Reuters


The great foreign policy debate in Germany has only just begun. In fact, the very nature of the foreign policy actor, Germany, is still disputed. Is this a new Germany or just an enlarged Federal Republic? After the first unification of Germany in 1871 it was clear to all that Europe had to deal with a new power. For all the underlying continuity of Prussian policy, the new German empire, or second Reich, was not just Prussia writ large.

Following the second unification of Germany, the change has been much less immediately visible. Externally, this unification was achieved by telephone and checkbook rather than blood and iron. Internally, the constitutional form of unification was the straight accession of the former German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic. The larger Federal Republic continues to be integrated in the European Union (EU), NATO and other leading institutions of Western internationalism. Nor has much changed on the surface of everyday life in western (formerly West) Germany. Last but not least, there has been the emphatic continuity of government policy so massively embodied by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in all senses one of the largest figures in European politics today.

This year Germany has no fewer than 19 elections, culminating in the national election on October 16. The present conservative-liberal coalition, composed of the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party, is not certain to return to office. Yet Kohl’s Social Democrat rival for the chancellorship, Rudolf Scharping, is going to extraordinary lengths to reassure German voters and the outside world that there will be almost no change in German foreign policy if his party comes into power.

In time, however, the deep underlying changes in the country’s internal and external position must affect Germany’s foreign policy. Even if foreign policy is not itself a major election issue, the elections will catalyze the process.


Within Germany, analysis and prescription are inextricably intertwined. Claims

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