- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003

BERLIN — With the Iraq war ended, Germany is doing some deep diplomatic soul-searching.

Its foreign relations establishment is pondering the short- and long-term consequences of the trans-Atlantic trauma brought on by European resistance to the war. Although there is hope the fallout will be short, the majority opinion holds that German-American relations have undergone a tectonic shift.

“The problem is not the lack of appreciation but a difference of history,” said Karsten Voigt, coordinator for German-American Relations at the German Foreign Office.

“Since 1945, my country has given up any idea of again becoming a military powerhouse,” Mr. Voigt continued. “Our security is based on multilateralism, on our integration in the European Union, NATO and the U.N. Our vote in the U.N. was not against the U.S. but for internationalism.”

This viewpoint was strongly endorsed by Hans-Ulrich Klose, vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. “For the first time in over a hundred years, Germany is at peace on both its eastern and western borders.”

“This peace was achieved,” Mr. Klose explained, “because Germany convinced its neighbors that it was a peaceful partner within the EU, NATO and the U.N. Integration inside international organizations has been the soul of German foreign policy since the fall of Hitler, and because of these 50 years of coalition building, the country supported multilateralism in the U.N.”

The German constitution prevented Germany from giving support to U.S. unilateralism in Iraq.

Until 1995, Germany’s constitution forbade deployment of the armed forces beyond the national territory. That year the government of Helmut Kohl wanted to send German troops in the NATO to Bosnia.

But to participate in this multilateral action, it needed the approval of the Constitutional Court. In a decision that changed the course of German foreign policy, the court gave the government authority to send German forces beyond national borders, but only with the approval of the United Nations or NATO.

“Since 1945, Germany has surrendered degrees of its sovereignty,” Mr. Klose said in an interview at his office. “Giving portions of our sovereignty to international organizations is the substance of our security.”

“Germany and France are enormously different in this regard,” Mr. Klose added. “Gaullism remains a tradition inside France. Paris does seek to act as a counterweight to the U.S. This is alien to the strategic concept of contemporary Germany.”

“There is no Franco-German-Russian entente,” Mr. Klose went on.

“Our vote in the Security Council was not a vote in favor of a new containment policy, the containment of ‘American hegemony,’ but a vote for the principle that international law is primary.”

This partial renunciation of sovereignty does not mean Berlin is pacifist. Defense Ministry officials issued vehement disclaimers of German pacifism. The officials, who asked not to be quoted, listed the many missions around the world that German soldiers, now approximately 9,000 strong, are fulfilling. Next to the United States, the Federal Republic is the largest contributor to peacekeeping missions.

There are roughly 2,360 German soldiers in Afghanistan, and a combined German-Dutch command will soon take charge of the U.N. operation from the United States. In Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, Germany has contributed about 5,000 troops to U.N. missions.

Moreover, in the Persian Gulf, a special German unit trained in detecting biological and chemical weapons is stationed in Kuwait. In addition there are small army contingents active in Georgia, Cambodia and Somalia.

Even though it did not participate in the Iraq war, Germany helped the U.S. war effort. It placed no restrictions on U.S. overflights of Germany and had about 4,000 soldiers assume the protection of U.S. installations there to free American forces for deployment to Iraq.

Regardless of Germany’s military activities abroad, a division of labor exists between the United States and the European Union in terms of military capability. “While the Europeans have invested in their welfare state, the Americans proceeded with weapons development,” said Peter Schmidt of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “And now America is the [sole] military superpower.”

“The division of labor will not be changed,” Mr. Schmidt continued. “No one in Germany or in Europe wants to compete with the U.S. in military spending or military power, nor will the current troubled economic situation allow it. The military hegemony of the U.S. is a permanent feature of international relations for the foreseeable future.”

“Germany accepts American military dominance,” said Mr. Voigt, of the Foreign Office. “But the hegemony cannot blot out its partners, must develop a system in which its allies can make inputs.

“The idea that Germany is upholding is the principle of the equality of states, a theory first put forward by Woodrow Wilson,” he added. “The Cold War is over, and the bipolar world is only a memory,” he said.

“Europe and America are developing new strategic concepts. America has a global perspective, while Europe is continentally focused, and this divergence of viewpoints is putting pressure on NATO unity,” Mr. Voigt concluded.

Bernhard May, head of the U.S. Department at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said: “It is clear that German-French relations form the core of the EU, but this is different from a German-Franco-Russian entente.”

“The German role is to be the mediator between the United States and France or Europe. Even though the Paris-Berlin relationship is the center of gravity of the EU, this only means that Germany is in a better position to negotiate the differences between Washington and Paris.”

In the view of Theo Sommer, editor at large of the influential German weekly Die Zeit, published in Hamburg: “Germans prefer the language of Joseph Nye at Harvard when he writes about ‘soft power.’ Given the historical experiences of Germany, we prefer to think in terms of international law, values, and the negotiation of conflicts.

“Robert Kagan’s book ‘Of Paradise and Power’ threatens to break the cultural unity of the trans-Atlantic world,” Mr. Sommers said. “Until Iraq, there was a common culture of the West, but if America is Mars [and Europe is Venus], then this unified transoceanic culture will dissolve, and this is the danger of the overmilitarization of U.S. foreign policy.”

According to the German view, the recent rift between the United States and Germany is not about lack of gratitude but the learning process. The consensus is that the 20th century was not kind to Germany. The defeat of Hitlerism transformed the mentality of the post-World War II generation, and Germany has benefited from and wishes to uphold the sanctity of international organizations upon which its security is based.

Geopolitics and history also influence the German strategic concept. With their western and eastern borders secure, the European Union, Germany and Europe are Eurocentric. With Russia no longer a threat, Europe does not feel in immediate danger, and the reason behind the creation of NATO has evaporated.

On the other hand, the United States thinks in global terms because it faces threats from al Qaeda, North Korea and the growing power of China. Moreover, American military predominance renders the United States the only country capable of responding to military threats planetwide.

Thus, in the opinion of many here, a contradiction exists between German and U.S. strategic concepts.

In Germany, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is the most popular American statesman, and during his May 16 visit to Berlin he undoubtedly tried to bridge these two strategic concepts.

Likewise, Mr. May at the German Council on Foreign Relations has voiced the hope that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will play the mediator between President Bush and his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, at next week’s G8 summit in Evian, France.


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