The most popular question and answer game since German unification has been: what should be Germany's role in the post-Cold War world? This is not to say that the Bonn Republic did not play any role on the world stage or did not dare to define its national interests. It is rather a recognition that Germany's foreign and security policy was guided by the notion that the world expected nothing more from it than to keep a low profile and to remain peaceful. Unified Germany by virtue of its size and central location, its growing influence in key international institutions, its economic strength and demographic size, could be expected to exert considerable influence over developments in the new Europe.
German foreign and security policy since unification presents a puzzle. No other country was as profoundly affected by the end of the Cold War as Germany. The country in the middle of Europe regained its national unity and full national sovereignty. The post-war partition of Germany and the special rights of the four victorious states in regard to Germany as a whole and Berlin are a thing of the past. With the sea-change in international relations since the early 1990s the central feature of European politics for almost 50 years was quickly unravelling. Germany is no longer in the shadow of a massive presence of Soviet conventional forces capable of launching a blitzkrieg attack in Central Europe. Germany's national integrity is for the foreseeable future no longer existentially threatened. Once a divided country at the fault-lines of the East-West military confrontation, unified Germany is now encircled by allies and friends. In short, in the post-Cold War era unified Germany enjoys both a much easier external environment, considerably greater freedom of action, and heightened stature in the international system.
While the end of the Cold War and reunification marked a decisive shift in the structural constraints facing the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the context of Germany's foreign and security policy did not alter. Contrary to the predictions of the neo-realist school of international relations that
Franz-Josef Meiers, University of Bonn