Thursday, 31 March 2011

"Germany´s dangerous new foreign policy doctrine"

Foreign Minister Westerwelle does not have many friends in Washington DC

(image by Auswärtiges Amt)

It is difficult to understand, why the normally rational German chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed herself to be led by her less than talented foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle on the question of Libya. There is, of course, the even more worrying possibility that Merkel actually agrees with Herr Westerwelle´s new "foreign policy doctrine" - at least there have been no clear signs that she would disagree.

No wonder that people both inside and outside of the Obama adiminstration are wondering, what on earth is going on in Berlin:

They used to call him "Guido Who?," but now the German foreign minister is finally known by name in Washington -- and that is not necessarily good news for Guido Westerwelle. His stance on Libya has confused and angered US politicians, and Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be able to put up with it for long.

Finally, Guido Westerwelle has name recognition in the United States capital, despite the election failures of his business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) at home and calls for his resignation. For a long time, he was known in Washington as "Guido Who?" At most, the foreign minister's English -- which could do with some improvement -- brought a passing interest, along with his oddly persistent calls for the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from German soil.

Since then, however, he has gained greater recognition. Thanks to the German abstention on the vote for Libyan military action in the United Nations Security Council, for which he was responsible, the backlash against Westerwelle has started in the ivory towers on the Potomac.
"Chancellor Merkel has deeply strained relations with allies in the European Union and the NATO alliance, raising new questions about Germany's ability to play a global role in foreign policy, even as its economic power and influence grow," writes the New York Times. The Huffington Post adds that the German decision was obviously motivated by domestic political considerations. Recent polls now show that most Germans agree with the course taken by the coalition government.
In an interview with NBC on Monday evening, US President Barack Obama talked about potentially supplying the Libyan rebels with weapons, dictator Moammar Gadhafi's remaining options and the importance of the military action. And when he spoke to American citizens about his Libyan policy, he said he counted on "our closest allies": The UK, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey.

No mention of Germany.

Read the entire Der Spiegel article here.

In another related articlek, Der Spiegel´s Ralf Neukirch writes about "Germany´s dangerous new foreign policy doctrine":

That makes it so alarming when Westerwelle proclaims Germany's UN abstention as the birth of a new foreign policy doctrine. In the future, Germany wants to cherry-pick its own partners in the world. That can be France, Britain and America, but it could also on occasion be Brazil or India. The principle of "If in doubt, stick with the West'" no longer applies.
Westerwelle's New Doctrine is Contradictory
This new doctrine ignores Germany's history. It is deeply contradictory. On the one hand Westerwelle is exaggerating Germany's international role -- even a superpower like the US can't keep up such a policy of shifting alliances in the long run. Germany would be hopelessly overreaching itself by doing so. If Bismarck didn't manage it, Westerwelle doesn't have a hope. It would be disastrous for Germany if its Western partners began to doubt its commitment to them.
At the same time, Westerwelle is making Germany more insignificant than it really is. He wants Germany to be a country that doesn't send any soldiers on foreign missions and instead serves as a role model for peace. This Germany wants its role in the Security Council to be about abolishing child soldiers and landmines, not about imposing no-fly zones. It wants to leave the unpleasant matters for others to sort out.
The Libyan controversy highlights this double standard. Westerwelle was at the forefront of Western politicians supporting the popular uprisings in Arab countries. But he left it to others to keep protesters from being massacred. That is simply hypocritical. One can't accuse the other European countries of being too slow in backing a weapons and oil embargo while at the same time withdrawing German ships that could enforce such an embargo.

Read the entire article here.

It is likely that domestic considerations are behind the Chancellor´s strange behaviour. By now, she must have realized that the "Westerwelle" doctrine is a recipe for disaster, which should be abandoned as soon as possible. She would probably like to get rid of Herr Westerwelle as soon as possible, but that is easier said than done. As long as Westerwelle is the leader of the coalition party FDP, his departure also leads to the departure of the entire government. However, Frau Merkel cannot blame anybody else than herself for having allowed all this to happen.

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