Spotlight on China and Russia as Greens take charge of German foreign policy
For months, the German Green Party lobbied for a Major Rethink of their country’s foreign policy. Now they have the opportunity to spell out exactly what changes they have in mind.
For the first time in 16 years, the Green Party will take over the German Foreign Ministry under a coalition deal It was hammered out this week with social democrats and liberals that could have major repercussions for partners and opponents alike. Relations with China and Russia in particular could go down a bumpy road.
Most observers expect the Secretary of State’s job to go Annala Barbuk, co-leader of Green, who has vigorously advocated a foreign policy “guided by human rights and values.”
This can be read as a veiled attack on Angela Merkel, who will retire from politics next month after 16 years as a consultant. The Green Party has long argued that Merkel put Germany’s business interests before defending Western values such as the rule of law and democracy.
The Greens had long viewed the chancellor as too lenient with China, and he failed to speak forcefully enough about abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. She continued to impose sanctions on Russia over Crimea but also supported Nord Stream 2 . pipeline Transferring Russian gas directly to Germany – a project critics have said would harm Ukraine and expand the Kremlin’s grip on European Union energy markets.
“We have to stop [equating] “German interests align with German economic interests,” Franziska Brantner, a spokeswoman for the Greens in Europe, said at a foreign policy conference this week. “We Germans should really change course. If we continue, we will pay a very heavy price.”
The coalition agreement indicates that the foreign policy position may change.
“The language on China is by far the strongest in the German alliance agreement,” said Noah Barkin of the Rhodium Group, a consulting firm. “The willingness to touch the red lines of China, including Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong shows how much the German debate has developed in recent years.”
The agreement states that China is a potential partner, but it is also a competitor and a systemic adversary. Germany expects China to play a “responsible role in achieving peace and stability in its neighborhood”, and any change in Taiwan’s status should take place “peacefully and with mutual consent.” Territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved “on the basis of international maritime law”.
Crucial, the agreement says, is that Germany will closely coordinate China’s policy with the United States and “work together with like-minded countries to reduce strategic dependencies.”
“There is a lot of tension among Chinese diplomats about Merkel’s departure and the Greens entering government,” Barkin said. . . They know that if the new government takes a more hardline approach, Europe will follow.”
The rhetoric about Russia is harsh, too. “They no longer dream of the Russia we wish we had, the Russia that lies beyond the horizon,” said Jana Puglierin, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “They have a much more realistic and clear vision.”
Partners are calling on Russia to “immediately stop” trying to destabilize Ukraine and criticizing the Kremlin’s crackdown on civil rights at home. Berlin is ready for a “constructive dialogue” with Moscow, but it will be guided by the interests of its eastern European neighbors and take into account the “perceived threats” they face from Russia.
And while they took Eastern European nations’ concerns about Moscow seriously, coalition partners indicated that they would pursue Hungary and Poland more aggressively over rule of law violations—another green priority. In the coalition deal, they called on the European Commission to “use and enforce existing rule of law mechanisms more rigorously and expeditiously.”
Merkel has always been proud of the bridges she has built between Germany and former Warsaw Pact countries such as Hungary. “But if we have a bridge to anywhere, how does that help anyone?” Brantner said. “We have to be tougher on the rule of law, while at the same time accepting the Eastern Europeans.” . . legitimate concerns in the face of Putin.”
There is a lot of skepticism in Germany and abroad about a new green foreign policy. Conservatives questioned whether Barbuk, who has no experience in government, would stick to the likes of Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Observers also questioned how powerful the State Department would be under Barbock’s leadership, in a system in which the Chancellery tends to have the final say in foreign policy. This is in sharp contrast to the days of Joschka Fischer, who was the only other green person to hold the position and who was best known for his support of the German military role in the Kosovo War in the late 1990s.
“Ms Merkel has handled all the big foreign policy portfolios herself,” Puglierin said. Burbock will try to return the terms of reference to the State Department, “but it won’t be easy.” “Putin, Biden and Chase will want to speak to the chancellor directly, not with her,” she added.