Germany as Leading Power

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants the EU to play a “geopolitical role.” SPD chairman sees Germany as “leading power.”

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) – The EU should play a “geopolitical role” and therefore “close ranks” and step up its militarization, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz demands in an op-ed published in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. He promises “concrete proposals” in the next few months and is already demanding the abolition of the right to veto on foreign policy issues, which enables smaller states to protect their vital interests against the pressure of the powerful member states. A similar view was recently expressed by SPD Chair Lars Klingbeil. “After nearly 80 years” of alleged “restraint,” Germany should claim “the role of a leading power,” the SPD-Chair demanded. This would “require tough decisions by Berlin.” Klingbeil also called for massive rearmament of the Bundeswehr. Scholz and Klingbeil are worried because the developing and emerging countries are refusing, to a growing extent, to follow the old West and are pursuing their own independent policy. The call to engage in “geopolitical” activities in the future comes at a time of rapidly growing poverty in the EU.

The Language of Power

By demanding that the EU “play a geopolitical role,”[1] Chancellor Olaf Scholz is reiterating similar statements leading German politicians have made in previous years. In 2017, Foreign Minister at the time, Sigmar Gabriel, complained that the EU is not yet “a real factor in the world” and that it lacks “power projection.” It is, therefore, all the more “urgent” that Europe “defines its own interests and projects its power.”[2] If a “politico-strategic way of thinking” were to take hold in Berlin and Brussels in the future, the “jousting for power” will begin, “which will not be pleasant,” according to Gabriel. In February 2018, the Minister reiterated that the EU needs to project its power in the world – on military level, as well. “In a world full of carnivores, vegetarians have a very tough time of it.”[3] In November 2019, designated EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen chimed in. On the one hand, “this means building our own muscles in security policy.” On the other, the Union must become “more strategic, in light of Europe’s external interests.” “Europe must learn the language of power,” declared von der Leyen.[4]

Close Ranks

To finally have the EU play a “geopolitical role” Chancellor Scholz calls for political “cohesiveness.” “Permanent disunity, permanent dissent among the member countries weaken us.” Therefore, there must be “an end to the egotistical blockages by individual countries of European decisions.” In terms of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the EU has reacted with “unprecedented determination and cohesiveness,” which should now be continued. Now, it is a question of finally “closing our ranks” on long-standing controversial issues, such as “the creation of a European defense” or “technological sovereignty.” Scholz announced that “Germany will present concrete proposals in the next few months.” As a first step, the Chancellor reiterates a demand that has been repeatedly raised by German foreign policy makers for years, abolish the right to veto on foreign policy issues that EU members still have today – permitting smaller member countries to protect their vital interests, when necessary, against the pressure of powerful member countries. “We can simply no longer afford national vetoes,” writes Scholz, “if we want to continue to be heard in a world of competing great powers.”[5]

Germany “at the Epicenter”

The call for abolishing the right to veto was recently reiterated by SPD Chair Lars Klingbeil in a speech on June 21, where he said that because the EU “must be capable” of “acting rapidly,” it must “abolish the principle of unanimity, for example in foreign, financial and fiscal policies.”[6] From Berlin’s perspective, it is central: “Germany can only be powerful, if the Europe is powerful.” Therefore, Germany must, “as the leading power, ... massively promote a sovereign Europe.” Germany now has – “after nearly 80 years of restraint – a role in the international system of coordinates.” Germany, today, “is, to a growing extent, at the epicenter.” “We should fulfill these expectations.” “Germany must aspire to become a leading power,” the SPD chair insisted. This “new role as a leading power,” however will “require tough decisions from Germany – financial as well as political.” “We must transform structures, and renegotiate budgets.” Particularly the military needs to be strengthened, for example, with the Scholz government’s €100 bn “special fund.” This means “also seeing military force as a legitimate political means,” alleges Klingbeil, who is declaring the accelerated militarization a “peace policy.”

The West’s Double Standards

Klingbeil and Scholz are very worried by the fact that the developing and emerging countries beyond the old West are, to a growing extent, refusing to follow the West’s lead. Currently this is mainly the case in the power struggle between the West and Moscow, wherein the countries of Africa, Latin America as well as almost all of Asia are refusing to join the sanctions policy against Russia, in spite of extreme western pressure.[7] Scholz urges that the strongest possible bonds be established between the West and the “Global South,” which means that “our commitments to these countries must be met” and “double standards avoided.” Of course, the demand of imposing punitive measures on Russia is already based on double standards. After all, when the West committed wars of aggression (Yugoslavia in 1999, Iraq 203, Libya 2011), no one spoke of imposing sanctions on the respective aggressors in Western Europe and North America. To forge these stronger bonds with the global south, Scholz concretely proposes “a new global cooperation of democracies” – one “extending beyond the classical West.” Scholz’ plan sounds very much like US President Joe Biden’s “Summit for Democracy,” held last December. No Tangible results emerged from that “Democracy Summit.”

With Perseverance

The demand to have the EU with the “leading power,” Germany, play a leading “geopolitical role” comes at a time when the West’s sanctions policy in its power struggle against Russia is inflating energy and food prices drastically and threatening to cause massive poverty. Germany’s Economics Minister Robert Habeck recently warned that the escalating crisis will “subject Germany to a stress test” and stretch “social solidarity to its limits” – “and probably beyond.”[8] The only way out would be to switch from a perpetual escalation of the power struggle against Russia to de-escalation and a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine. The German government is not prepared to do that. Chancellor Scholz declared, “We will need perseverance.”[9]


[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Olaf Scholz: Nach der Zeitenwende. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.07.2022.

[2] See also Gabriels Kampfansage.

[3] See also Die Machtprojektion der EU.

[4] See also November Drumming.

[5] See also Die „Koalition der Entschlossenen” (II).

[6] „Der Westen hat sich zu lange sicher gefühlt”. 22.06.2022.

[7] See also „Russland isolieren” (IV), The African Union’s Travel Mandate and The West against the Rest.

[8] See also Facing the Stress Test.

[9] Olaf Scholz: Nach der Zeitenwende. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.07.2022.