Scholz chancellorship 1 year on: German foreign policy stuck in permanent crisis mode

Germany to unveil new security strategy at Munich Security Conference to address new challenges emerging after start of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Scholz chancellorship 1 year on: German foreign policy stuck in permanent crisis mode

The tenure of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, now one-year-old, has been overshadowed by a permanent foreign policy crisis mode due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The Feb. 27 Russian military attack on Ukraine caused “an epochal tectonic shift,” according to Scholz.

He highlighted the monumental security challenge the war poses to German foreign policy in a piece in the US magazine Foreign Affairs.

“The world is facing a Zeitenwende: an epochal tectonic shift. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has put an end to an era,” he wrote.

The chancellor first used the term Zeitenwende in the German parliament (Bundestag), when he unveiled plans for a €100 billion ($105 billion) defense spending package in reaction to Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Russia: Potential friend to major adversary

Scholz said that in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was hope that Russia would "become a partner to the West rather than the adversary that the Soviet Union had been."

The German leader made clear that since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has "made it impossible for diplomacy to succeed" and emphasized that its invasion of Ukraine this February signaled a return to imperialism.

Scholz said Putin's war in Ukraine “shattered a European and international peace architecture that had taken decades to build.”

The chancellor added that one of the main questions that need answering was "which threats we and our allies must confront in Europe."

Russia is the immediate threat, along with being a "potential assaults on allied territory, cyber warfare, and even the remote chance of a nuclear attack, which Putin has not so subtly threatened," according to Scholz.

"The world must not let Putin get his way; Russia’s revanchist imperialism must be stopped," he warned.

Scholz announcing new China policy

But Russia is not Scholz’s only political headache these days, as he is facing an increasingly belligerent China, which has sided with Russia in its war with Ukraine.

On Nov. 2, Scholz announced a change of strategy towards China, only hours before his first-ever visit to Beijing since taking office a year ago.

In an article for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, Scholz said that the recent outcome of the Chinese Communist Party Congress had convinced him that a change of policy toward China was needed.

Scholz’s center-left coalition government has branded China a “systemic rival,” and highlighted the need for Germany to diversify politically and especially economically by focusing on its relations with other Indo-Pacific countries like India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

It also aims to press Beijing to level the playing field for German and European companies doing business in China.

Germany’s Economic Affairs Ministry is working on reducing its dependency on China for raw materials, batteries, and semiconductors.

Furthermore, it is also reassessing the investment and export guarantees it provides to German firms doing business in China.

Chancellor to unveil new security strategy

In response to Russia's war against Ukraine, Scholz wants to make Germany one of the main “guarantors of Europe's security.”

“For its part, Germany is doing everything it can to defend and foster an international order based on the principles of the UN Charter. Its democracy, security, and prosperity depend on binding power to common rules,” Scholz wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine.

“That is why Germans are intent on becoming the guarantor of European security that our allies expect us to be, a bridge builder within the European Union and an advocate for multilateral solutions to global problems. This is the only way for Germany to successfully navigate the geopolitical rifts of our time,” he added.

Scholz underscored the need for what he labeled “a new strategic culture” aimed at addressing European and NATO security concerns.

“The crucial role for Germany at this moment is to step up as one of the main providers of security in Europe by investing in our military, strengthening the European defense industry, beefing up our military presence on NATO’s eastern flank, and training and equipping Ukraine’s armed forces,” he said.

“Germany’s new role will require a new strategic culture, and the national security strategy that my government will adopt a few months from now will reflect this fact,” Scholz added.

The new security strategy is reportedly scheduled to be unveiled during the Munich Security Conference next February.

Germany stresses vital ties with US

Chancellor Scholz has repeatedly gone out of his way to stress the importance of German-American relations, calling the US “Europe’s closest and most important partner.”

To Scholz, the transatlantic partnership "is and remains vital to confronting" security challenges.

"US President Joe Biden and his administration deserve praise for building and investing in strong partnerships and alliances across the globe. But a balanced and resilient transatlantic partnership also requires that Germany and Europe play active roles," he said.

The chancellor has openly expressed support for Biden by saying he hopes that declared Republican contender Donald Trump loses the next presidential election in 2024.

He has praised incumbent President Biden, saying he is "very fit" and a "very smart, very experienced politician who deals with issues of world development" and is also "an important" promoter of transatlantic ties.

Scholz has also backed Biden's idea of a global democracy alliance, Berlin-based political analyst Andreas Rinke stressed in an opinion piece for the political magazine Internationale Politik.

Rinke was referring to the democracy summit which the US government held in December 2021.

Without a doubt, the Ukrainian war has not only fundamentally changed German politics as seen by Scholz's tectonic political shifts, but also German society.

"A year ago, most Germans, including younger people, would have ruled out the possibility that cities in the European Union could ever be bombed in their lifetime," Berlin-based social scientist Gerald Knaus told private broadcaster n-tv.

"Now that's no longer completely unrealistic."

Most Germans seem to also support Scholz's new foreign policy since the beginning of Russia's attack on Ukraine, according to a recent survey published by Tagesspiegel newspaper.

A majority of 57% of Germans believe that their country must avoid dependencies on states that are governed autocratically, which in the case of Russia proved to be dangerous.

AA/Oliver Towfigh Nia

Hüseyin Demir

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