The first German chancellor hosted on the ranch of a US president in 42 years, Angela Merkel has revised Berlin’s foreign policy in pursuit of more cordial transatlantic relations. Casting Germany as the white knight of global environmentalism, she also unravelled the EU constitutional crisis – earning the World Statesman Award and a Charlemagne Prize nomination.
Yet her foreign accomplishments cost dearly at home: Merkel’s foreign policy endangers Germany. To stake out expanding markets, exploit globalization, and deflect its risks from Germany, this policy proceeds from a dubious premise. It presumes that Germany is better served by a Kissinger approach than by the statesmanship of Adenauer and Bismarck. The flipside of Merkel’s cherished transatlantic harmony has been growing antagonism toward Russia and China.
Not Germany, but America occupies the limelight in Merkel’s new world order. Even before the lawless US occupation of Iraq, she sided with Bush against her own government, most of its citizens, and many skeptics in her CDU/CSU opposition ranks. Yet regime overthrow and occupation wrecked the international basis for a war on terrorism, aligned Russia, China, and Iran, and nurtured suspicion of the Near East peace quartet as a cover for Washington’s geopolitical ambitions. The US model of battling the Taliban has delegitimized the international community’s ability to criticize human rights violations in areas such as Chechnya, Russia, and Xinjiang, China.
By underscoring US domination of the Middle East, the armed interventions can be reconciled neither with Russia’s economic dependency on its oil nor with China’s legitimate interest in Iranian resources – and certainly not with Teheran’s rejection of foreign dictates. This sets up the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan as the first victim of Merkel’s foreign policy. It is dangerously naïve to believe that civil programs can succeed on the Hindukush where great and regional powers duel. Only political transformation, not Americanization, can bring stability. But that is anathema in Washington, where both parties have endorsed the Carter Doctrine’s strategic logic since 1979.
Flattered by her Beltway insider celebrity, Merkel increasingly views other conflicts — Palestine and Lebanon — through American eyes. Her party’s Asian strategy paper affronts Beijing, assumes US military dominance in the Pacific, and dismisses Iran’s non-proliferation treaty rights. While promoting a free-trade zone with America, her diplomats prepare to challenge Russia over Kosovo’s independence.
Her pragmatic foreign minister is a second victim of Merkel’s America-first policy of block-building, with provocations like her Dalai Lama tête à tête, verbal jabs at Putin and selective trade exclusions aimed at flourishing China and energy-rich Russia, Germany’s essential supplier. Yet China bashing won’t rescue the US dollar economy from an oncoming recession that would impact Europe. Nor will US missiles in Poland shield German households and factories from a Russian oil cutoff.
Even her beloved superpower, where the latest NIE stifled the president’s talk of World War III, may now have grasped the dollar-dumping downside of any Iranian escalation. Why won’t the quixotic chancellor see the dangers she creates for Germany?
Dr. Dimitrios Argirakos is chairman of the Düsseldorf Institute for Foreign and Security Policy (DIAS), member of the Council of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS) and a Young Leader of Atlantic Brücke.
Note: Translated and trimmed by the author from German in abridged form. Original text can be read at the Düsseldorf Institute for Foreign and Security Policy
Related Materials From the Atlantic Community:
- Markus Kaim on Afghanistan: Expanding ISAF, Ending OEF
- GM Roper on Germany Belongs in Afghanistan
- The Boston Consulting Group on The Multinationals New Competition