Defend the peaceful European order!
Politicians have to do better at explaining German foreign policy. But the destabilisation of the entire eastern neighbourhood of the European Union is endangering cohesion and solidarity in the EU, as well as its credibility as a global actor. This is also an issue for NATO and the transatlantic relationship. What is at stake is the preservation of the peaceful European order.
Taboos sometimes have to be broken. No, not the much-undermined taboo against the use of military force, but the journalistic rule that says: "Never shalt thou quote a taxi driver." But sometimes you just have to. This taxi driver was an elective Berliner and a born Croat, and he was keen to discuss Germany's image abroad. On the car radio, a newsreader had just announced that Russia was stocking up its troops on the Ukrainian border again.
His monologue, punctuated by sharp braking and evasive maneuvers imposed by the countless road works in Berlin, ran more or less like this: "First the Russians took Crimea, now they are meddling with Eastern Ukraine … but they are just trying to deflect attention from the fact that they can’t handle modernisation … Meanwhile, the Ukrainians want to join Europe, because they see how the Poles have developed … and what’s helped the Poles is that they are in the EU and in NATO, plus the German-Polish friendship you've got today … Even in the Balkans, the Serbs now want to join the EU and NATO too … And when we Croats discuss how to do something, people just say 'let's do it like in Germany, then it'll be all right. Maybe it'll be a stretch for us, but that way we can leapfrog a couple of phases.'"
Constanze Stelzenmueller is a Berlin-based senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.