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Tuesday January 11, 2005 - 15:47:20 GMT

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Germany: Strategizing for a New World Order





Unconstrained by EU foreign policy and ready to break out of the Franco-German alliance, Germany appears to be charting its own foreign policy course in a bid to capture some geopolitical clout. Berlin's contributions to the tsunami relief efforts, as well as its overtures toward Russia, are all part of a master plan which, if successful, will result in a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council -- and a shot at becoming one of the major players should a multi-polar international system arise.




Germany is steadily drifting toward developing its own foreign policy, separate from that of the European Union and especially from France. Making the drift especially easy are the EU's failure to institute an official foreign policy mechanism and the discord between EU member states.


For years Germany has operated as part of a "Franco-German alliance" that teamed up to dominate the European Union politically and economically. The alliance, however, largely has fallen apart, leaving Berlin free to pursue its own interests -- and chief among them is a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Germany also is hoping to shore up its position in hopes of becoming a heavyweight in the event the U.S.-dominated international system becomes multi-polar.


Germany -- and France -- no doubt are frustrated with the state of the Union, which they helped engineer with the vision of a unified, federalist Europe (dominated by Berlin and Paris, naturally). Instead, the Union is divided, with France and Germany on one side and all other member states on the other. On the issue of foreign policy, that division is especially pronounced.


The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 exposed the cracks in the EU. France and Germany staunchly opposed any involvement, but other EU members -- most notably Britain, Italy and Poland -- contributed troops and other aid to the effort. Several EU states since have publicly said they believe their national security rests in the hands of NATO -- and by proxy, Washington. That division partially explains why the EU has yet to adopt a common foreign policy. Even the EU Constitution, not to be ratified until 2006 (if at all), explicitly calls on complete unanimity from member states in order to make decisions on foreign policy.


Unhampered by the need to get unanimous approval on its policy decisions, Germany has moved quickly to develop its own strategy. Berlin has supported Russia's break-up of oil major Yukos (and the state's consolidation of the energy sector), and German banks are opening substantial lines of credit to Russian banks. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also has assured Russian President Vladimir Putin that Germany will act to contain European criticism of Putin's recentralization of Russian political and economic systems and work to improve relations between Brussels and Moscow. Germany has done all this despite the fact that several EU members -- former Soviet Union countries and satellites -- would like to contain Russian influence rather than encourage it.


Big German contributions to tsunami relief efforts also are part of a plan to attain status as an international player. Schroeder pledged more than 500 million euros ($688 million) to aid tsunami-stricken countries, and on Jan. 10 offered to develop a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean, where some 60 Germans are confirmed dead and 720 still are missing. Proving its value on the international scene could go a long way toward securing Germany the permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council for which it has been campaigning.


For some time, France has been trumpeting the need for a multi-polar international system, and it appears Germany is ramping up its profile -- and strategizing -- in hopes of such a shift. For more than a decade, the United States has been the lord of a uni-polar world, and several other countries -- including Iran and China -- would like to change that.


Germany's pursuit of its own foreign policy scheme will have two effects. First, the Franco-German alliance will be completely severed, and Paris and Berlin could even find themselves competing for influence in Europe and beyond. In the short run, France is unlikely to view Germany as a serious threat, but if their interests begin colliding, it is not unimaginable that Paris could take an antagonistic position toward its neighbour. Second, if other countries begin to strike out on their own, it will further unravel the tenuous bonds holding them together and hasten the EU's demise as a political union.






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