BY YUNUS MAZI
DEC 29, 2022
With regard to current events and related developments, especially internationally, one can clearly say: The current German government has no strategy and no idea
One year ago, the so-called traffic light coalition consisting of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Liberals (FDP) was formed. With the election of Olaf Scholz (SPD) as the new Federal Chancellor, the 16-year era of Angela Merkel (CDU) ended simultaneously. Even before it began, Merkel’s legacy was a significant disadvantage for the traffic light coalition: It was clear to everyone that the void left by Merkel and her party would be challenging to fill.
A year later, the bitter realization: The new government has failed to fill the gap. Worse even, the gap got bigger and more prominent in the current year. A big hole has been created that can hardly be closed soon. The development Germany is going through right now is regressive. Be it political or economic, national or international. The traffic light coalition has failed on all levels. That is why it is no exaggeration to call Olaf Scholz’s government the worst German government in history.
From Adenauer over Brandt to Merkel
Of course, the wording seems very dramatic at first glance. And a statement must always be justified with conclusive arguments. Especially when such a bold statement is made. The first thing to do is to look at the predecessors of this government. This point does not even need to be explained in detail to immediately recognize the present government’s lack of success.
What did the former chancellors stand for? Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the FRG, or West Germany at the time, between 1949-1963, stood for Germany’s Western integration and European unification. Adenauer, also Foreign Minister, vehemently advocated German membership of NATO with his strict anti-communist course.
Another influential German chancellor was Willy Brandt (SPD). During the Cold War, Brandt held the office of head of government (1969-1974) and is best known for his so-called “new Ostpolitik” at the time. In contrast to Adenauer, Brandt pursued a course of détente toward the Eastern bloc countries. This policy gained great symbolic power with Brandt’s infamous kneeling in Warsaw in 1970.
Helmut Kohl (CDU) was chancellor between 1982-1996, which is still the most extended chancellorship. He was prominently responsible for German reunification in 1989/1990 and decisively promoted European integration, leading to the European Union. Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005), the only living former chancellor apart from Angela Merkel, has been known for his Europe-centric policies. His distance from the United States was best demonstrated when Germany, France and Russia opposed the Iraq war in 2003. His relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin are still close today, which is why Schröder has been pushed out of German politics, even by his party, since the beginning of the Ukraine war.
And then there is Angela Merkel, who, between 2005-2021, was able to keep Germany and the whole of Europe relatively stable through her excellent crisis management. Whether it was the euro crisis, the migration crisis, Brexit, the rise of far-right parties, or the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014: Merkel managed to keep the European continent relatively calm, unlike today.
No strategy, no idea
After the brief presentation, we now come to the current traffic light coalition. How should the current government be compared to its predecessors? To answer this question, we need to examine what the German government stands for. One can clearly say about current events and related developments, especially internationally: This government has no strategy and no idea.
The Ukraine war serves here as a parameter for evaluating the German government. After the Russian invasion began, Germany immediately decided to take a hard line instead of planning a considered strategy. Germany participated in the waves of sanctions against Russia without thinking about how this would affect its strongest indicator, the economy.
The consequences were predictable: inflation rose and economic development stagnated. And not only in Germany but throughout Europe. The Nord Stream 2 project was canceled. Notably due to pressure from the Americans. Germany thus lost its autonomy in foreign policy. While previous governments shaped Germany into an influential player, the current government around Olaf Scholz has wholly discarded this potential. Instead of diplomacy, Germany has gone on a course of confrontation. The German population’s trust in the government has also fallen drastically within a year. The damage has been done to itself.
But how can one trust a government where the Foreign Minister Analena Baerbock makes it clear that she is not acting in its interest? At the “Forum 2000” in Prague in September, Baerbock said for the Ukrainian people: “We will stand by your side as long as you need us (…) no matter what my German voters think.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Scholz is trying to compensate for his mistakes. With his new China policy, in which he wants to build close relations with the ASEAN countries, he plans to get Germany back on track. An agreement has been reached with Qatar to normalize energy prices. With Saudi Arabia, too, Germany wants to deepen their cooperation.
But what about the upheld human rights? Why was Russia sanctioned again? Both latter countries are not exactly exemplary in Germany’s understanding of democracy. Saudi Arabia has been waging a war of aggression in Yemen for much longer than Russia. Therefore, the simple question: Why did the German government break off its relations with Russia and, in return, deepen its cooperation with Saudi Arabia? But Saudi Arabia, in particular, has now chosen the best partner. Mrs. Baerbock probably doesn’t care about the people in Yemen, either.
The decisions were not made on a rational basis. For regional and historical reasons, Russia is a much more important country for Germany than the countries with which Germany now wants to deepen its relations further. Diplomatic relations with Moscow must be conducted with great sensitivity. The sanctions against Russia were a shot in the leg. Increased instability on the European continent was the only result. The government has destroyed what its predecessors worked for decades to achieve, namely to make Germany once again an influential player in global politics.
*Master’s degree student in Europe and International Affairs at the Turkish-German University
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Master’s degree student in Europe and International Affairs at the Turkish-German University