Interview with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier 'History Judges the Success of Foreign Policy'
Part 2: 'The Chancellor Has Nothing Against Germany Being More Visible'
SPIEGEL: That sounds as if you're mostly talking about diplomacy. When it comes to military intervention, you yourself have said that a culture of restraint cannot become a culture of disengagement. Has that too frequently been the case in the past?
Steinmeier: It's not just about diplomacy or military intervention. It's about foreign policy. And it's pretty absurd that the quality of a foreign policy is measured by the number of foreign interventions and deployed soldiers it involves. Military intervention must remain a last resort. That will not change.
SPIEGEL: Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen says Germany can't look away when murder and rape have become commonplace. Do you share her opinion?
Steinmeier: At the end of the nineties, I was part of our decision to take part in the NATO airstrikes against Serbia. We said no to the war in Iraq and yes to the deployment in Afghanistan. You have to look at those decisions together. Those were very difficult choices that were made with a lot of responsibility. That will continue to be the case in the future.
SPIEGEL: Then why do we need this new foreign policy?
Steinmeier: The world has changed and we need to do a few things differently. People have noticed that foreign policy's reputation has begun to improve again. But that's not enough. In the Foreign Ministry, I have introduced a policy of self-review in order to kick off a public debate about the terms and perspectives of German foreign policy. We want to ask whether German foreign policy has emphasized the right things in recent years.
SPIEGEL: Do you think the chancellor also believes it is time to take a critical look back at the past four years?
Steinmeier: To my knowledge, the chancellor has nothing against Germany being more visible in the world and concentrating on its core foreign policy challenges.
SPIEGEL: Angela Merkel has been extremely restrained when it came to military deployments. The Merkel Doctrine favors arms deliveries to conflict areas so that regional players can determine their own outcome.
Steinmeier: Germany's arms export policy will remain restrictive. That is a core conviction of the Social Democrats. But we want to go further, namely, we want to make arms exports more transparent. That will change the nature of such deals in the mid-term. In the future, tank deliveries to Saudi Arabia won't be so simple.
SPIEGEL: We've spoken about difficult partners, and on Thursday you'll be visiting one. What will you tell US Secretary of State John Kerry about the mood in German parliament?
Steinmeier: The United States look at the balance between freedom and security differently than the Europeans, especially the Germans. It has a lot to do with history. The divide is a deep one and we cannot underestimate the work that lies ahead of us. I doubt, by the way, that a "no-spy agreement" will get us very far.
SPIEGEL: The Americans continue to spy on us unapologetically and your reaction is: Let's talk about it?
Steinmeier: I don't believe the Americans will continue to act as they have. Washington has hopefully understood that the way it treats its partners can have a political price. In other areas, the European and American concept of privacy is still very different. I'd like to talk about this with Secretary of State Kerry.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Steinmeier, thank you for this interview.
Editors' Note: Some questions and answers from the original print version have been cut from this version because events over the weekend in Ukraine made them irrelevant.
- Part 1: 'History Judges the Success of Foreign Policy'
- Part 2: 'The Chancellor Has Nothing Against Germany Being More Visible'