New German Foreign Policy - Emancipation form the history or Decision-making in an interdependent world

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2002

22 Pages, Grade: 1,2 (A+)


Table of Content


1. Introduction

2. German Foreign Policy since 1989
2.1 Re-Unification, Consolidation and European integration
2.2 Emancipation and the Balkan Turmoil
2.3 Growing Self-Confidence and Responsibility

3. Conclusion and Outlook



Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

It is remarkable how efficient the German post-World War II education works when even the Parliament’s President Wolfgang Thierse publicly articulates not being able to feel proud of his country’s achievements. Though this testimony occurred only in 2001, it once more makes the fact apparent, that Germany’s historic perception is often reduced to the 12 worst years of Europe’s recent history. Nonetheless, this type of peculiar German discussion reveals the society’s political division, but is “also reaffirming the German effort pursued over five decades through education, public policy and citizen activism, to draw le ssons from the evils of the Third Reich”1.

Admittedly, it happened in the modern Germany that a malicious regime usurped the most dangerous weapon human mankind ever had created - the modern nation state - and that German population and elites let it happen. To put it in the words of Hagen Schulze: During Hitler’s Third Reich it became evident what the concept of total nation- state is able to do, if it is thought to the absolute end’2. But since these shadowy days many things changed. Germans probably became matured. Under the Cold War pres- sure the world gained a new shape. Germany was integrated into the Western hemi- sphere and particularly in the successful West European group of states, while it became one of the influential forces in this process - not only to achieve some of its sovereignty and to proof its future reliability. Moreover, Germany’s role in Europe and in the world

- especially after its reunification - changed significantly.

Yet, the rhetoric proclaiming “Never again Auschwitz3 and the underneath attitude continuingly determines decision-making in spheres of German foreign and security policy. This became particularly apparent when the German Parliament had to decide whether or not to engage actively in the NATO’s Kosovo campaign. Nonetheless, Ger- man foreign policy witnessed in the recent years and due to recent developments in in- ternational affairs a visible emancipation from its former historically determinate re- striction. External pressure and growing internal confidence in own abilities and un- known potentials led to an engagement in European as well as in extra-European diplo- matic or even military activities. However, it may be assumed that these commitments are based only on a weak or unsecured foundation in terms of public support, since these obligations did so far not have cope with serious cha llenges.

Accordingly, goal of this paper shall be the elaboration of the development of Ger- many’s foreign policy after 1989 regarding the country’s engagement in the process of European integration but also its commitment elsewhere. Without claiming to be too predictive some conclusion regarding the future development of Germany’s foreign and security policy may be drawn out of the surveillance of the contemporary way of con- duct.

2. German Foreign Policy since 1989

German foreign policy deems to be less dominated by the considerations of domestic policy than it is obviously the case in the United States. Accordingly, the notion of “Burgfriede” appears subsequently in the debate on sensible issues, such as the deplo y- ment of German troops in some remote corners of the world. From that perspective, German foreign policy equals thus sometimes in a probably scaring manner the rhetoric of the perishing Imperial Germany4.

Though in the historian’s perception the German reunification occurred only yesterday, it is worth to distinguish and identify certain periods regarding the evolution of German foreign policy during the last decade.

After the unification 1989/1990 German struggled to overcome the Cold War division of the country as well as the continent. Though pre-occupied by its internal problems, Germany sought refugee from its own history and the newly awarded responsibility on the scene of international politics in increased ambitions regarding the European inte- gration. In public opinion dominated the belief that the unification was granted to Ger- many only in exchange for a deeper integration into the experiment of the united Europe. This phase suddenly found its end, when Europeans recognized the necessity to cope with the serious security problems in their immediate periphery. Accordingly, the engagement in the Balkans, beginning with IFOR, later SFOR, than in the “Operation Allied Force” and finally with KFOR manifested a kind of intermediate period charac- terized through the recognition of the country’s capabilities and potentials and by a par- tially growing-up under the supervision of other European players, such as France. This enhancement of Germany’s political self-consciousness inaugurated the transition to a third period, which may be chronologically determined with the confession of the lim- ited scope of the own abilities, while the actions deemed necessary to be taken are per- formed and implemented in a relative independence and responsibility. The gradual transition into a forth and future phase of Germany’s New Foreign and Security Policy probably was inaugurated with the large-scale engagement in Afghanistan and the in- creasingly conscious determinativeness concerning the conflicts and tensions in the Near and Middle East. The eventually result out of this development shall be part of the last chapter of this paper. Moreover, to anticipate one finding of this elaboration, it is worth to bear the following quotation in mind: “German official have not articulated a coherent and comprehensive policy, [but] their public statements and actions over time provide the elements of a conceptual framework for reconciliation as a centrepiece of German foreign policy”5.

2.1 Re-Unification, Consolidation and European integration

The historic process of the breakdown of the bi-polar Cold War world and its global implications had a particular impact on the Germany’s internal development. During the months of re-unification, the immediate post-World War II period found its end, while a new epoch in Europe’s, but much more in Germany’s history was inaugurated. Foreign policy of these days focused on the moderate accomplishment of the re-unification, the controlled dissolution of East Germany and the establishment of normal relations to the four former allied powers. In the contrary case, the re-unification would have not be conceivable if the former Allies would have decided not to allow for this historic step. As it had been characteristically for the preceding decades, the inter-German develop- ment was subject to the international sensibilities and decision-making in Moscow, Paris, London and Washington. Accordingly, the eleme ntary condition for re- unification was the political, economic and to a certain extent also cultural integration of the unified Germany into the Western hemisphere. The conceivable threat of a revived German nationalism and the struggle for a hegemonic position on the continent - and thus the re-appearance of the German question - was to counter not only by the respec- tive behavior of German foreign policy. Objections against the re-unifications were openly articulated among European statesmen during these mouths. For example the President of France, while visiting the first and last democratically elected East German government in December 1989, insisted on his affection with the Germans while illus- trating his favor that there are even two Germanys6. German foreign policy thus had to cope and adapt with the long and still persisting past of the country, while any efforts and actions had to take in consideration for westward orientation and integration. With- out misinterpreting the term of appeasement, foreign policy of the re-unified Germany did nothing else than to adapt the will of the former (western) Allies. The exceptional role of Germany in the West European state system became apparent regarding its relations to the Soviet Union and its successor Russia. It is inevitably a favorable situation for both countries that the current Russian President Putin did not only spent some of his former intelligence career in Germany, but also speaks fluently the German language. This results in a special relationship, which is emphasized during regularly meetings of the heads of both governments7. Though Russia perceives today its own position in comparison to the (economic) role of Germany from a subordinated perspective, this relation had been the contrary case in 1989/1990. Indeed, the re- unification - though Germany was striving to hook up with the West - depended much more on the consent of the Soviet Union. Foreign policy thus was limited to settle age- old lurking quarrels - such as the recognition of the eastern border and the abandonment of claims for former territories - in exchange for the unification. This development cul- minated in signing the “2+4 Agreement8. It was only this settlement, which established an indigenousness peace treaty between Germany and the four allied powers that could not be accomplished in the atmosphere of the emerging tensions shortly after the Sec- ond World War. Furthermore, after this treaty entered into force on March 15, 1991, Germany regained its full sovereignty in its internal and external affairs9. The same agreement initiated the resolution of a rather bizarre problem. Practically overnight Germany hosted the troops of both Cold War rivals on its territory. A bilateral agree- ment between the re-united Germany and Russia established the final date for the return of not less than 337.800 soldiers, 208.400 civil personnel, 12.064 tanks and armored vehicles, 623 planes, 615 helicopters, 677.000 tons of ammunition and other assets10. The re-unification of Germany, however, was bought not only for the assurance of a proper behavior in a civilized manner in the international sphere, but also for the deeper commitment in the process of European integration. Apart from the fact that Germany ever sought refugee and absolution in doing so. The actual “Unification Agreement” reveals the desire that the German unification will contribute to unite Europe, while establishing a sustaining peace order where borders won’t divide any longer, and Euro- pean peoples are living peacefully and confidentially together11. However, the interna- tional community strove for a normalization regarding the relations with the new Ger- many. It was soon expected that the country takes its responsibility while enjoying its full sovereign rights. In the perception of the international public opinion, Germany had finally evolved in normal state. Yet, the domestic situation and attitude was in the early years after the re-unification far from recognizing and availing this role. The internal quarrel and ridge walk between normalization and conceived peculiarity determines not only the domestic, but also the early foreign policy, especially towards Israel, Poland and some other states12.

2.2 Emancipation and the Balkan Turmoil

To touch first a side issue: The German re-unification could have created an unprecedented opportunity to reform an already 1989 fragile social state from the bottom. Instead the West German system had been put on East German structures. Additionally it soon became apparent that the 40-year long division of the two societies would not be repealing the existing ideological and eventually sociologic separation. The discussion of the origins of the diverting identities13, however, would be worth further elaboration, but shall not be part of these considerations.

This, however, did not necessarily affect the code of conduct in terms of the German foreign policy yet. Germany’s society could rather witness a cautious approach of the “saturated nation-state”14 towards an increasingly normalized and internally stabilized pattern in its foreign policy. Yet, this way of emphasizing of normalization of relations reveals the prevailing abnormality of German (foreign) policy while struggling to over- come its own past. Nonetheless, the course of events predominately in the near periph- ery of Germany - so the social, political and military unrest on the Balkans, but also the further development in the European integration process provoked a partial emancipa- tion of German foreign policy from its historically determined restraints. On the other site, as Pond put it, the EU benefits from its own weakness of being bound to the re- spective lowest-common-denominator and thus “has repeatedly expanded this practice, treating crisis as opportunity, uncertainty as fluidity, and anxiety about the future in general and German demons in particular as a useful source of energy”15. During the Cold War division both Germanys had been frontline states of the respective ideological blocks. While the Federal Republic became the junior partner of the Atlantic Alliance, the German Democratic Republic evolved to a reliable servant of Moscow. With the geopolitical changes of the early 1990s Germany moved back in the center of the continent, while partially regaining its position of Europe ’ s Central Power 16. The re-unification could simultaneously only be accomplished due to the fact that the new Germany could plausibly convince the former hegemonic powers of its incontrovertible principle for its foreign policy as well as its firm political culture. This may been under- stood as a late achievement of the progressive westward integration inaugurated by Konrad Adenauer, while securing the sheer existence of Germany after World War II. On the other side, this attempts for an increased association with the Western hemi- sphere prevented Germany’s foreign policy up to date to return to the old mode of con- ducting a pendulum policy between the west and the east, while insisting on Germany’s Sonderrolle. A vital role in this new way of doing business plays the special and tide relation to the United States as well as to France. Peculiarly, it happened to be Ger- many, which acted as an arbiter during NATO’s crisis concerning the disparities of the United States and France17.

On the other side, one can argue that its allies urged towards Germany’s non-financial commitment in the efforts of the international community to settle the unrest in the Ba l- kans. Coincidently, all these factors correlated with Germany’s “desire to reassure its partners by being a good European and to encase its existence, so to speak, in a European framework”18. To put it on other words: Germany’s partners expected what Ric h- ard von Weizsäcker declared in 1985, something what the German public hardly could imagine: ‘No human being expects from them [second or third generation] to carry the hair shirt simply because they are Germans’19.

This very fact became publicly realized merely with the take off of the New Germany’s foreign policy in the wake of the Balkan wars. Though being accused to have trans- formed the local conflict in an open war through the early recognition and support of succession of Slovenia and Croatia in order to do at least something - anything -20, the German foreign policy had other objectives. It may be assumed rather the contrary po- sition. Despite its hesitation towards any protégés it became more of a team player than other actors on the scene. Instead, for German policymakers, the single most important consideration was to maintain the European unity and Atlantic partnership. Foreign policy thus tended to be more cautions - admittedly sometimes too cautious - than bold. However, illusions die hard and German government quickly learned that the probably safest and somehow convenient policy was to follow in the wake of the French and British21.

Article 24 of the German Grundgesetz22, if it is narrowly red and interpreted - which apparently occurred in Germany during the debate on the Balkan wars - proscribed the country from deploying military forces outside the NATO territory. While Germany thus disqualified itself from the Alliance’s perspective for any vigorous actions deemed necessary and urgent to be taken in Balkans, no popular domestic pressure supported any specific actions. However, eventually motivated by considerations regarding the upcoming elections, the then social-democrat opposition challenged some delicate at- tempts of foreign policy’s emancipation by appealing to the Constitutional Court in April 1993. Eventually obeying the Court’s requirement of 2/3 parliamentary approval permitted the NATO request. The prevailing domestic notion in these days is probably best to explain by quoting Lea Rosh’s article in Die Woche: ‘I must, unfortunately, plead for an intervention in Bosnia. Pacifism per se can no longer exist. We Germans have already once before had to go through this sorrowful experience … I would re- verse the objection that we cannot be involved because of German history: [Yet] pre- cisely because of our war guilt, because we stirred up so much evil, this would be a wonderful change of roles if we could do something to help the cause of peace23. Accordingly, from this point the ice was broken in regard of political but much more his- torical considerations.

Gradually assuming a new role in Europe and the world German government and opposition’s hesitation from now on concerned rather technical quarrels. In August 1995 Minister of Defense Volker Rühe responded to a newspaper, that there ‘as “no question of sending German peacekeeping troops to Bosnia because it would be too dangerous’. Furthermore, he tried to make public aware of ‘risk the Bundeswehr in a peacekeeping force with troops stationed in Bosnia, because our soldiers would be exposed to incalculable risks and become targets for terrorism’24. Apart form this type of rhetoric the Bundestag voted on December 6, 1995, for its first and extensive military engagement after the Second World War in Bosnia by a 5/6 approval25. Thus Ramet/Coffin correctly assert: “The vote marked a historic turning point, signaling the completion of postwar Germany’s rehabilitation into the community of nations”26.

Peculiarly, the majority of the first contingent of the ground force GECONIFOR (L)27 under the command of Colonel Freier was based in the New Länder in Erfurt. Destiny or not - it happened to be that I was conscripted to Freier’s Battalion in 1996. His adju- tant Captain Holzhauer was later on my commander under SFOR in Bosnia in 1997/98. However, the emancipation from imagined historical constraints can hardly better ex- pressed than by quoting the then Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel: “[T]he end of our spe- cial role is a relief, and not only for our soldiers. Germany is now fully living up to its obligations to NATO and the United Nations. This is good news for all those who be- lieve in a common European purpose and stronger international cooperation”28. George

W. Bush recently announced that “[s]ixty years ago, few would have predicted the tri- umph of these values [rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, equal justice, religious tolerance] in Germany and Japan”29. Now Germany itself had emerged to one of the promoter of these principles in the new world order - while Japan remains to solve its diplomatic problems with its checkbook. Moreover, it was not before 1994 that leading politicians first time used the term of ‘ national interest ’, a notion, which was like so many misused and thus historically banned in contemporary rhetoric. Nonetheless, the ‘new’ German national interest ap- peared exclusively in orientation towards the reinforced integration process in Europe30.


1 Gardner Feldman (1999), p. 333.

2 Schulze (2002), p. 59.

3 So Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Minister of Defence Rudolf Scharping re-invoked this notion during the Kosovo debate in the Bundestag in March 1999; Fischer (1999a); Fischer (1999b); Scharping (1999).

4 Helfferisch (1915); Minister of Finance in the (War)Cabinet Bethmann-Hollweg. xxx

5 Gardner Feldman (1999), p. 333.

6 Sontheimer/Bleek (2000), p. 98-99.

7 So Putin (2002).

8 In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (2000), p. 207-212.

9 Auswärtiges Amt (1994), p. 420.

10 Kowalczuk/Wolle (2001), p. 221.

11 Preamble of the „Unification Agreement“ („ Vertrag zwischen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republiküber die Herstellung der Einheit Deutschlands [Einigungsver- trag] “), in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (2000), p. 179.

12 Sontheimer/Bleek (2000), p. 102.

13 Pritchard (1996).

14 Sontheimer/Bleek (2000), p. 108.

15 Pond (2000).

16 Schwarz (1994). xxx

17 Sontheimer/Bleek (2000), p. 381.

18 Hoffmann (2000), p. 193.

19 Weizsäcker (1985): „ Kein fühlender Mensch erwartet von ihnen, ein B üß erhemd zu tragen, nur weil sie Deutsche sind “.

20 Kind (1994), p. 147-148.

21 Ramet/Coffin (2001), p. 48-49.

22 In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (2000).

23 Rosh (1993), p. 2 ; emphasis not in the original. xxx

24 Qouted in Ramet/Coffin (2001), p. 54. xxx Bild/AFP v. 24.9.95

25 DPA 6. Dezember 1995 xxx

26 Ramet/Coffin (2001), p. 55.

27 GECONIFOR (L) = German Contingent IFOR (Land).

28 Kinkel (1996), p. A1. xxx

29 Bush (2002).

30 So Schäuble/Lamers (1994); Schäuble/Lamers (1999).

Excerpt out of 22 pages


New German Foreign Policy - Emancipation form the history or Decision-making in an interdependent world
Jagiellonian University in Krakow  (Centre for European Studies)
Germany s Place in Europe - From 1870 to the present
1,2 (A+)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
534 KB
NATO Deutschland SFOR Afghanistan Bush Clinton Bundeswehr, germany, army
Quote paper
Heiko Bubholz (Author), 2002, New German Foreign Policy - Emancipation form the history or Decision-making in an interdependent world, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: New German Foreign Policy -  Emancipation form the history or Decision-making in an interdependent world

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free