Berlin's Beacon Policy

BERLIN (Own report) - Germany and the three remaining major West European EU member countries should formulate a joint foreign policy and implement it even without an EU-wide consensus, demands Norbert Röttgen, former Chair of the Committee of Foreign Affairs in the German Bundestag. Such an approach would be inevitable, because a foreign policy consensus in the EU is impossible "within the foreseeable future," although rapid and resolute activity is needed to reach an "equal footing with the USA and Russia." Experts are proposing, as an alternative, the introduction of foreign policy decisions being taken at majority votes. This would mean that EU countries - against the will of their respective governments - could, for example, be forced into serious conflicts with third countries. Reflecting major shifts in the global political fabric, these proposals have become elements of an intense debate within Berlin's political establishment. The German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is warning against the escalation of conflicts, for example, with China, and the military does not rule out the possibility of Berlin's loss of power, through the potential disintegration of the EU.

Russia's Resurgence

In his lecture at the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS), BND President Bruno Kahl described major shifts in the global political fabric which have led to the recent demands regarding EU foreign policy. In terms of Russia's resurgence, Kahl explained that "over the years, Russia was able to maintain and even expand its military technical capabilities." It "thus has the necessary practical capabilities to project its power at least punctually over longer stretches."[1] On that basis, Russia "made it very clear" that, particularly in Eastern Europe, it will no longer submit to Western claims to power, but will lay claim to "its own sphere of influence." Russia has also perceptibly expanded its "scope of action" - not only "through its intervention in the Syrian conflict" but also with "projections to Libya" and its gaining "influence in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey." Moscow will most likely remain a "recalcitrant power," according to Kahl, "the West must see this very realistically."[2]

China's Power

On the other hand, particularly China's rapid rise is causing profound changes in global policies, Kahl noted. In 1990, the People's Republic of China only accounted for a "1.6 percent share of the global gross domestic product," and by 2016 had already reached 14.8 percent "becoming the world's second largest economic power."[3] And China continues to grow. "The growth of the Chinese GDP between 2011 and 2016 alone" has exceeded Germany's total 2016 GDP. In the meantime, Beijing has been also using its enormous economic strength politically. China's "new Silk Road" initiative, for example, a mega-cooperation project, stretching from East Asia to Europe and Africa, is "currently the world's most important project of its kind."[4] Like Russia, China is also no longer willing to subordinate itself to Western dominance. "Against all objections" it has pushed ahead since late 2013 with "the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea" - particularly under attack from Washington and Berlin. In July, the People's Republic of China has not only inaugurated its "first harbor" overseas "that can also be used for military purposes" - in Djibouti at the Horn of Africa - but also carried out, "the first time, a joint military maneuver" with Russia in the Baltic Sea. China's power is growing.

"The End of the European Illusion"

Whereas, Russia and China are expanding their global influence - Moscow is currently the stabilizing power, for example, in Syria,[5] and Beijing is for the first time seeking to do the same in the Rohingya conflict [6] - the German political establishment is seeing its global ambitions threatened by the sustained crisis in the EU, its base of power. This is confirmed in brief excerpts from a paper published recently by the Bundeswehr. The paper, entitled "Strategic Perspectives 2040," and approved at the command level of the German Ministry of Defense at the beginning of the year, proposes a total of six scenarios for the development of global politics, particularly within the EU. Three of these are considered critical for Germany. One of them - Scenario Four - expects an exacerbation of global competition ("multipolar competition") and an increase of conflicts in the Pacific region. For Berlin, the global political situation would be "confusing and at times, risky," according to the document. This is also due to the growing tensions, on the one hand, with the USA, and with the EU, on the other. An "end to the European illusion" cannot be ruled out.[7] The paper was formulated around two years ago. Scenario Four bears unmistakable similarities to today's global situation and the situation in the EU.

"EU Disintegration"

Further escalation of the situation must be considered highly possible. The Bundeswehr paper takes this possibility into account in two other scenarios, in the document, numbered Scenario Five and Six. Scenario Five describes a new confrontation of the two blocks - referring to the USA and EU as the western block and Russia and China, the eastern block - which are "becoming politically, ideologically and culturally increasingly alienated" one from the other. The EU loses control over its Eastern member countries, with some refusing any further integration, and others "having even joined the eastern block." Scenario Six supposes a global "cycle of retreat" resulting in "multiple confrontations" that "escalate global crises." "Decades of instability" can be expected. "The EU is disintegrating and Germany is in a reactive mode." "The EU enlargement has been quasi abandoned; several other countries have withdrawn from the union. Europe has lost its global competitiveness in many sectors."[8]

Foreign Policy without Consensus

Given the prospect of not being able to permanently maintain one's own position of power in global politics, the German political establishment is demanding, with growing urgency, a more resolute EU foreign and military policy. At the military level, the systematic expansion of cooperation between the armed forces, which recently was adopted under the name of PESCO, ( reported [9]) should begin in a few days. For foreign policy, a corresponding instrument is not yet available. This is grave, says the former Chair of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Bundestag, Norbert Röttgen (CDU), at a conference November 20, of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin. Europe's nations are "too small" to have global impact by themselves. However, Röttgen says, "I am sure" that the EU countries - even after the British exit - "will not reach a consensus on foreign policy action in the foreseeable future."[10] An alternative must be developed, and soon.

Break the Resistance

Occasionally, with an eye on breaking the resistance, it is being suggested in Berlin that the EU's foreign policy also be submitted to majority rule. "The principle of unanimity should be replaced by a majority rule decision-making process," according to a new study presented by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).[11] This would mean that countries in the minority could be compelled, against their governments' will, to participate in foreign policy activities - even if this means, for example, becoming involved in serious conflicts with third countries. This approach involving domestic politics - concerning the reception of refugees - has recently led to strong resistance to Brussels by several East European countries, further deepening the already existing cracks in the union.

On an Equal Footing

Röttgen now proposes that the individual EU countries - as in the case of PESCO - should join forces and "forge ahead together." "That is the only possible means today to generate movement." Röttgen specifically names Germany, France; Italy and Spain. These four West European countries should agree on a common foreign policy line and then function as a "beacon."[12] The interests of smaller and eastern EU member countries should be taken into consideration. Once a uniform foreign policy has been developed in a smaller circle, other EU members can be admitted into the inner circle. One is, of course, "open for the others joining." The "creation of an internationally functional Europe," that according to a quote attributed to Röttgen, can "perform on an equal footing with the USA and Russia," is only possible when a few countries forge ahead.


[1] Rede von Präsident Dr. Bruno Kahl anlässlich der Veranstaltungsreihe "Zur Zukunft der internationalen Ordnung" der Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung am 13. November 2017.

[2] See also Vom Krisenstaat zum Gestalter.

[3] Rede von Präsident Dr. Bruno Kahl anlässlich der Veranstaltungsreihe "Zur Zukunft der internationalen Ordnung" der Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung am 13. November 2017.

[4] See also China's Project of the Century.

[5] See also Keine Ordnungsmacht and Rebuilding Syria.

[6] See also Einflusskampf um Myanmar.

[7], [8] Denken auf Vorrat. Der Spiegel 04.11.2017.

[9] See also Grassroots Issue.

[10] Saskia Gamradt: Nato bleibt transatlantisch, aber stärkt ihre europäischen Pfeiler. 23.11.2017.

[11] Annegret Bendiek: Gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik der EU: Von der Transformation zur Resilienz. SWP-Studie S 19. Berlin, September 2017.

[12] Saskia Gamradt: Nato bleibt transatlantisch, aber stärkt ihre europäischen Pfeiler. 23.11.2017.