GMF-CAPS Roundtable on German Foreign Policy and French-German Security Cooperation
On March 4th, 2014, the Paris Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, in association with the Centre d’Analyse, de Prévision et de Stratégie (CAPS) of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized a private roundtable with Dr. Daniela Schwarzer, director of the Europe Program at GMF, Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at GMF, and Dr. Markus Kaim, head of the International Security research division at the Stiftung Wissenchaft und Politik (SWP), on German foreign and security policy, German strategic cooperation with transatlantic partners, and most notably on French-German cooperation. The speakers were given the opportunity to present the GMF-SWP report on “New Power, New Responsibility: Elements of a German Foreign and Security Policy for a Changing World”, and the discussion aimed at addressing the strategic implications of Germany’s increasing economic and political power in Europe, as well as the main challenges and opportunities for a more ambitious German foreign and security policy. The roundtable was introduced and moderated by Justin Vaïsse, head of the CAPS, and took place at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr. Stelzenmüller and Dr. Kaim first presented the methodology and conclusions of the report, focusing on the need to work beyond the traditional executive administration framework by bringing together all the expressions of a ‘German strategy community’ – therefore including experts from universities and think tanks, as well as journalists – and defining a strategic guidance for German foreign policy. The report did not aim to draft a German National Security Strategy paper but rather to reflect the consensuses and debates that exist regarding these key issues in Germany, and provide recommendations to respond to the greater international expectations toward German leadership in Europe.
The discussion more generally focused on the strategic role of Germany in the transatlantic community and in the international order. In recent years, Berlin appeared as aiming to emerge as a mediator between the transatlantic partners and other international powers such as China and Russia. This position has been most noticeable during the Libyan crisis in 2011, and currently in Ukraine, where the German diplomacy strongly advocated for political solutions. Although these efforts to bring all the stakeholders to deescalate should be supported, these mediations cannot be pursued to the detriment of long-term partnerships, and Germany needs to work with like-minded powers to design operational solutions in order to prepare alternative scenarios. The speakers therefore insisted on the importance of a German reinforcement of its security cooperation with its traditional transatlantic partners, especially in the current context of the crisis in Ukraine which is likely to lead to a rearrangement of the European strategic landscape. The consequences of the crisis on Russia’s regional influence and its implications in terms migrations toward Europe will directly affect every European country, and European partners will have to develop new terms of engagement toward their neighborhood. German and French leaders will have a crucial role to play in order to define a European Grand Strategy framework that will advocate against a zero-sum-game perspective of these issues.
The debate also addressed the issue of the use of force in German security strategy, and the influence of German public opinion on German foreign policy. The idea of a remilitarization of Germany remains sensitive in the population and often entails emotional responses; rethinking German strategy and role in the world demands to work actively on public diplomacy to create a rational debate on the most efficient ways to stop a crisis. The speakers analyzed the ‘Cold War mindset’ that continues to frame many of the discussions on crisis-management in Germany: the idea that any military confrontation would eventually degenerate into continental war often prevents constructive reflections from emerging and blocks the reform of German strategy. However, these mindsets are evolving, as the new generation uses new historical points of reference that incite the German public opinion to reconsider certain positions on military issues.
Finally, the speakers also discussed the question of the shifting balance between domestic security and foreign security, the need to address the renationalization of domestic security issues while cyber security and migration-related issues demand more European and transatlantic cooperation than ever. They also debated the reinforcement of executive powers and its implications for European democracy, as well as the potential for a deepening of the ‘Weimar Triangle’ as a model for future European security cooperation.
The roundtable brought together about twenty officials from French ministries and administrations, representatives from European institutions, as well as scholars and academics.