Germany’s Same Old Foreign Policy

MUNICH – More than ten weeks after its general election, Germany continues to be without a new government. But, though the post-election coalition negotiations have been unusually prolonged, there is little disagreement between the parties over foreign and security policy.

Indeed, when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) finally presented their coalition agreement on November 27, the working group on foreign and security policy had been finished with its job for two weeks. Except for a few tweaks that generally resonate more at home than with Germany’s European and international partners (such as requiring the government to be more transparent concerning arms exports to autocratic regimes), continuity and caution will remain the watchwords of German foreign and security policy.

Observers may disagree about whether German leaders’ stance provides a welcome sign of reliability or reflects a lamentable lack of diplomatic ambition. Those who hope for more active German leadership may well be disappointed by the new government.

Big ideas, or even big questions, are notably absent from the coalition agreement. This is very much a reflection of many Germans’ views about themselves and their future: they are comfortable with the status quo, see no need for further reform proposals, are not interested in grand strategy, and would largely prefer to be left alone.