Five Questions, Four Agendas Germany's Top Parties Debate Foreign Policy Agenda

Part 6: Priorities for German Foreign Policy


Priorities for German Foreign Policy

The four parties agree Germany needs to stay in Afghanistan until the job is done. But where do they set their other priorities?

Erler: At present, the focus is to overcome the financial and economic crisis. Internationally we need to agree on and implement a set of long-term, sustainable solutions. At the same time, the danger of a worldwide relapse into protectionism must be averted. Beyond the present crisis, Germany has a preeminent interest in improved global cooperation-for example in the areas of climate protection or disarmament. President Obama's election has created more opportunities for progress, which need to be utilized. The best means of protecting our interests in today's globalized world is through a strong European Union. This calls for the speedy ratification of the Lisbon treaty.

von Klaeden: Besides the aforementioned priorities -- European integration, transatlantic relations, and the security challenges posed by Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East -- German foreign policy should focus on the following priorities: the ongoing development of security policy -- including a comprehensive approach, better domestic coordination of security policy, NATO's new Strategic Concept and non-proliferation -- an active European neighborhood policy, stable relations with Russia, protection of the climate, and security of energy supply.

NATO remains the central instrument of our transatlantic security and defense policy. Besides the continuing key commitment to collective defense, its tasks now range from robust stabilization operations both in Europe and its periphery and far beyond the bounds of Alliance territory, to humanitarian missions in disaster areas. At NATO's diamond-anniversary summit in Kehl and Strasbourg, the Alliance resolved to revise its ten-year-old Strategic Concept. This provides an opportunity to modernize NATO. The future strategic blueprint must reflect recent changes in the security situation that have occurred, as well as focus on the unfinished transformation of NATO. It must begin with a comprehensive analysis of the new threats and security challenges, many of which can no longer be confined to specific areas like missile defense, cyberdefense, and energy security.

A strategic blueprint must also consider non-military aspects, such as environmental, economic, social, and cultural factors. Its overarching aim is to reach a new consensus on risks, threats, and determine the tasks and operating range of the Alliance. To this end, the guarantee enshrined in Article 5 must apply to all members. Furthermore, NATO must also remain open to new members. Their accession must be governed by the Alliance's eligibility criteria and represent a net security gain for the Alliance. It is equally important to develop relations with partner countries and organizations, particularly in Asia, that send their own troops to take part in missions such as ISAF in Afghanistan.

There is also an urgent need for improved relations between NATO and the European Union. In view of the increasing number of tasks facing NATO and the common European Security and Defense Policy, the available civil and military capabilities must be developed and used more efficiently. Germany's security policy must be better coordinated, which could be achieved, for example, by further developing the Federal Security Council.

The new initiatives on arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that President Obama announced in his Prague speech are most welcome. They create a new opportunity to drastically reduce the number of nuclear weapons and limit conventional forces.

We hope for the rapid completion of the current US-Russian negotiations on a legally binding successor agreement to START I, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire in December 2009. This is partly because it will strengthen the non-proliferation regime and prevent a further increase in the number of nuclear powers. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the basis of international non-proliferation policy and is thus the key to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. In view of the growing risk of proliferation, as illustrated by Iran and North Korea, reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime is essential.

If the proliferation of fissile material, nuclear technology, and nuclear know-how is to be avoided, countries intending to use nuclear power for energy production must be shown a way to do so that minimizes the risk of proliferation.

Export controls, designed to check the transfer of items used in the production of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology and the export of dual-use products, are also an indispensable means of curbing proliferation. It is, therefore, very heartening to note that South Korea has recently acceded to the Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to prevent proliferation and combat nuclear terrorism. This is all the more important in view of the fact that the greatest danger of proliferation currently emanates from North Korea, which recently conducted another nuclear test and several missile tests.

On a separate matter, Russia is part of Europe and is the European Union's most important neighbor. Sadly, hopes for the steady development of democracy in Russia have not been fulfilled. The fact that the rule of law is not paramount is one of the reasons why Russia lacks the economic and social dynamism of other European countries. Russian foreign policy has unmistakably neo-imperialist traits.

Germany has traditionally enjoyed good relations with Russia. These, however, must not operate to the detriment of third parties, as has occasionally happened in the past. At the same time, we want the closest possible relations with Russia. The depth and breadth of these relations depend primarily on whether and to what extent Russia is prepared to meet its international commitments. Mutual dependence, especially in the realms of energy and raw materials on the one hand, and technological know-how on the other, present many opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation. The CDU and CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag supports the joint negotiations that are underway and the cooperation agreement between the European Union and Russia because such an agreement will place this cooperation on solid ground.

We must not forget, however, that at the beginning of this year the Russian government allowed the gas dispute with Ukraine to escalate to such a level that even EU countries had to endure supply interruptions. These experiences, along with Russia's conduct in the war with Georgia, have made clear that a strategic partnership between Europe and Russia is still far from reality.

With its open economy closely intertwined with the world market, Germany's prosperity depends, in part, on the stability of the international financial system and open global markets, as the current global economic and financial crisis is clearly demonstrating. The past few months have shown that we must adapt the global financial architecture to meet the needs of a globalized economy and act vigorously to nip any incipient protectionist trends in the bud. As a country with a strongly export-driven economy, we also have a keen interest in safe maritime trade routes. It is therefore only right that the German navy take part in the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Germany's security is also highly dependent on the free-est possible access to energy and other raw materials. The federal chancellor has made security of energy and raw-material supply one of the priorities of her term. The gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the start of this year was a significant reminder of the risks associated with a high degree of dependence on energy imports.

Another issue that is closely linked with energy security is climate change. The European Union has decided to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020. In this respect, we welcome President Obama's pursuit of a new energy policy and commitment to the fight against climate change. We must work together on this issue, especially with a view of persuading newly industrialized countries with high emissions, such as China and India, to make appropriate reductions. The aim of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century must be made binding by international law.

Germany is a cosmopolitan society and should remain so. Just as Germany and Europe play an indispensable role in global economic, political, and environmental affairs, our cultural ties with the rest of the world also need to be developed. This is why the CDU and CSU advocate Germany's foreign cultural and education policy.

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