Looking Outward; German Policy Is Based on Multilateralism

Article excerpt


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. …