German Foreign and Security Policy: Trends and Transatlantic Implications

German Foreign and Security Policy:
Trends and Transatlantic Implications
Updated July 21, 2008
Paul Belkin
Analyst in European Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division

German Foreign and Security Policy: Trends and
Transatlantic Implications
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took office in November 2005 promising a
foreign policy anchored in a revitalized transatlantic partnership. Most observers
agree that since reaching a low-point in the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003, relations
between the United States and Germany have improved. With recent leadership
changes in the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, U.S. officials view Germany
under Chancellor Merkel as a key U.S. ally in Europe. Despite continuing areas of
divergence, President Bush and many Members of Congress have welcomed German
leadership in Europe and have voiced expectations for increased U.S.-German
cooperation on the international stage.
German unification in 1990 and the end of the Cold War represented
monumental shifts in the geopolitical realities that had traditionally defined German
foreign policy. Germany was once again Europe’s largest country, and the Soviet
threat, which had served to unite West Germany with its pro-western neighbors and
the United States, was no longer. Since the early 1990s, German leaders have been
challenged to exercise a foreign policy grounded in a long-standing commitment to
multilateralism and an aversion to military force while simultaneously seeking to
assume the more proactive global role many argue is necessary to confront emerging
security threats. Until 1994, Germany was constitutionally barred from deploying its
armed forces abroad. Today, approximately 6,500 German troops are deployed in
peacekeeping, stabilization, and reconstruction missions worldwide. However, as
Germany’s foreign and security policy continues to evolve, some experts perceive a
widening gap between the global ambitions of Germany’s political class, and an
increasingly skeptical German public.
Since the end of the Cold War, Germany’s relations with the United States have
been shaped by several key factors. These include Germany’s growing support for
a stronger, more capable European Union, and its continued allegiance to NATO as
the primary guarantor of European security; Germany’s ability and willingness to
undertake the defense reforms many argue are necessary for it to meet its
commitments within NATO and a burgeoning European Security and Defense
Policy; and German popular opinion, especially the influence of strong public
opposition to recent U.S. foreign policies on German leaders.
Under Merkel’s leadership, Germany has sought to boost transatlantic
cooperation in areas ranging from economic and trade relations, climate change
policy, and global counterterrorism and non-proliferation policy, to peacekeeping,
reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the
Balkans. Merkel has enjoyed relatively strong domestic support for her
transatlantically-oriented foreign policy agenda. However, as her term progresses,
and domestic political tensions mount, she may be more hard-pressed to justify her
Atlanticist foreign policy to a public which appears increasingly skeptical of U.S.
influence in the world. This report may be updated as needed.

In troduction ......................................................1
Current Domestic Context.......................................2
Foundations of German Foreign Policy.................................3
Multilateralism As National Interest...............................4
Germany in the EU and NATO — The “Middle Path”.............5
Germany in the United Nations...............................6
Evolving Domestic Debate..................................6
Germany in the EU................................................8
EU Enlargement...............................................9
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Relations with Russia.10
European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)......................12
European Leadership and Franco-German Relations..................12
Evolving Security and Defense Policy.................................13
Germany in NATO............................................15
Force Transformation and Bundeswehr Reform.....................17
Transatlantic Implications..........................................19
Appendix 1. Selected Issues in U.S.-German Relations — Current Status.....22
Economic Ties...............................................22
Counterterrorism Cooperation ..................................23
The Middle East..............................................24
Relations with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict..........24
Iraq ....................................................25
Iran ....................................................25
Afghanistan .................................................26
Appendix 2. Key Dates in German Foreign and Security Policy.............28

German Foreign and Security Policy: Trends
and Transatlantic Implications
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took office in November 2005 promising a
foreign policy anchored in a revitalized transatlantic partnership. Since reaching a
low point in the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003, diplomatic relations between the
United States and Germany have improved substantially and the bilateral relationship
remains strong. During Germany’s six-month presidency of the European Union
(EU) in the first half of 2007 and its corresponding G8 presidency, Merkel has
distinguished herself both as an advocate for strong U.S.-European relations and as
an internationally respected leader within Europe. With recent leadership changes
in the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, U.S. officials reportedly view Germany
under Chancellor Merkel as a key U.S. ally in Europe. Indeed, despite continuing
areas of divergence, President Bush and many Members of Congress have welcomed
German leadership in Europe and have voiced expectations for increased German-
U.S. cooperation on the international stage.
Merkel is seeking to establish Germany as a partner on the forefront of
multilateral efforts to address global security threats. She has made a concerted effort
to improve the tone of U.S.-German diplomacy, emphasizing shared values, and the
need for broad U.S.-German, and U.S-European cooperation in the face of common
security challenges. The Merkel government has sought to increase transatlantic
cooperation in areas ranging from economic and trade relations, climate change
policy and global counterterrorism and non-proliferation policy, to peacekeeping,
reconstruction and stabilization in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, and the
Although U.S. and German officials agree that cooperation has increased,
fundamental differences remain. Disagreement tends to stem from what many
Germans perceive as a U.S. indifference to multilateral diplomacy and standards of
international law, and what some in the United States consider a German and broader
European inability or unwillingness to take the necessary steps to counter emerging
threats. Widespread belief that U.S. policy in Iraq has failed and even exacerbated
global security threats appears to be fueling persistently negative German public
opinion of U.S. foreign policy, and corresponding skepticism of the exercise of
military power. In addition to growing public disapproval of U.S. influence in the
world, several other domestic factors could increasingly constrain Merkel as she
seeks to implement her Atlanticist foreign policy agenda. These include pressure to
focus more aggressively on domestic economic reforms and growing tension within
Germany’s “grand coalition” government.

Current Domestic Context
Merkel has led a “grand coalition” government of Germany’s two largest
political factions, Merkel’s Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union
(CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), since November 2005. This is
only the second time in post-war history that the traditionally opposing parties have
ruled together.1 After setting an electoral goal of 40% for September 2005 federal
elections, Merkel and the CDU won 35.2% of the vote — barely one percentage point
more than the SPD, and three percentage points less than in 2002 elections. The
disappointing electoral showing fueled criticism of Merkel within the CDU.
However, public opinion polls suggest that both Merkel and the CDU have since
gained favor at the expense of their coalition partners.2
Observers attribute Merkel’s initial and somewhat unexpected popularity to her
leadership in foreign policy and to the relatively strong performance of the German
economy. Merkel gained high marks from her peers within Europe and beyond
during Germany’s six-month presidency of the EU in the first half of 2007 and its
corresponding year-long presidency of the G8 group of industrialized economies. In
addition, a rise in GDP growth from just under 1% in 2005 to about 2.5% in 2007
helped bring unemployment down from almost 12% in the first quarter of 2005 to
just over 8% at the end of 2007.3 These developments appear to have at least
temporarily deflated pressure from within the CDU for Merkel to pursue bolder
economic reforms at home.
Largely for these reasons, most observers expect Merkel’s governing coalition
to hold until the next scheduled federal elections in 2009. However, events suggest
that if the SPD continues to slide in opinion polls, its leaders may increasingly seek
to block CDU policy initiatives in an effort to distinguish the party from its coalition
partners. Such a political stalemate could revive criticism of Merkel both from the
left and from within the CDU, and shift her attention away from pursuing foreign
policy objectives to focusing on domestic issues and consolidating her hold on party
leadership. As one German commentator laments, “Neither side can impose its will
on the other, resulting in gridlock and crippling Germany’s influence in the world.”4
There is also some indication that the SPD may increasingly challenge aspects
of Merkel’s foreign policy which have heretofore enjoyed broad bipartisan support.
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD, has consistently
pursued foreign policy initiatives in unison with Merkel’s positions. Nonetheless,
differences between the respective parties have emerged on issues such as Turkish

1 Germany’s first grand-coalition government, from 1966-1969, was widely viewed as
ineffectual, and many observers have voiced similar expectations for the current
2 A July 2008 poll conducted by research institute Forsa indicates a 34% approval rating for
the CDU and 27% approval for the SPD. Spiegelonline, die Sonntagsfrage. URL:
[http://www.spiege /politik/deutschland/0,1518,566032,00.html ].
3 “Country Report: Germany,” Economist Intelligence Unit, February 2008.
4 Ralf Beste, ‘A Recipe for Foreign Policy Impotence,” Spiegelonline, May 15, 2008.

membership in the EU, German policy in the Middle East, and more drastically, on
German policy toward Russia and the United States. With respect to Russia, both
coalition parties advocate a “strategic partnership.” However, Merkel appears to
favor a harder line than the SPD, and has openly criticized Moscow for its treatment
of non-governmental organizations and political opponents, and for an increasingly
confrontational energy and foreign policy. The SPD is thought to favor a more
conciliatory approach to Russia marked by enhanced political and economic
Some commentators view disagreement within the “grand coalition” on Russia
policy as an indication of the potential for broader domestic challenges to Merkel’s
Atlanticist foreign policy.5 The Merkel government’s 2006 national security strategy,
or White Paper on German Security Policy, recognizes the transatlantic relationship
as the “foundation of Germany’s and Europe’s common security.”6 However,
German public opinion has become increasingly critical of U.S. influence in the
world, leading some to suggest that Merkel’s efforts to strengthen relations with the
United States could become more of a political liability at home.7 Perhaps in a
reflection of this trend, Merkel has not been reluctant to express her opposition to
especially unpopular aspects of U.S. policy such as the incarceration of prisoners at
Guantanamo Bay, alleged U.S. extra-judicial “renditions” of detainees in the war on
terror, and U.S. climate change policy. At the same time, Merkel, who has a widely
reported deep personal commitment to forging stronger relations with the United
States, emphasizes that disagreements on select policy issues should not threaten the
overall partnership between the two countries.
Foundations of German Foreign Policy
Much of the criticism of U.S. foreign policy voiced in Germany today is
grounded in perceived U.S. disregard for multilateral diplomacy and standards of
international law — both fundamental tenets of German foreign policy. Since the
end of the Second World War, German foreign policy has been driven by a strong
commitment to multilateral institutions and a deep-rooted skepticism of expansionist
policies and the exercise of military power. In the war’s aftermath, the leaders of the
newly established Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) embraced
integration into multilateral structures as a crucial step toward fulfilling two of the

5 See, for example, Wess Mitchell, “Germany’s Awakening,” Washington Times, July 3,


6 White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr.
Available at [].
7 A January 2007 BBC World Service poll indicates that German views of U.S. influence
in the world declined from early 2006 to early 2007, with 74% of Germans reporting
negative attitudes of U.S. influence in January 2007, as opposed to 65% in early 2006. 16%
of respondents said they had a mostly positive view of U.S. influence in the world. See
[]; the German Marshall Fund’s July 2007 Transatlantic
Trends survey found that 33% of Germans view strong U.S. leadership in world affairs as
“somewhat desirable,” as opposed to 39% in 2006. Survey results available at
[ h t t p : / / www.gmf u s .or g] .

country’s primary post-World War II interests: to reconcile with wartime enemies;
and to gain acceptance as a legitimate actor on the international stage. To this end,
foreign policy was identified almost exclusively with the Cold War aims of NATO
and the European integration project, and a related quest for German unification.
German unification in 1990 and the end of the Cold War represented
monumental shifts in the geopolitical realities that had traditionally defined German
foreign policy. Germany was once again Europe’s largest country and the Soviet
threat, which had served to unite West Germany with its pro-western neighbors and
the United States, was no longer. In the face of these radical changes, and conscious
of Germany’s newly found weight within Europe and lingering European and
German anxiety toward a larger and potentially more powerful Germany, German
leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the multilateral process and aversion to
military force. The EU, NATO, and the U.N. remain the central forums for Berlin’s
foreign, security, and defense policy. Despite the deployment of approximately 6,500
German troops in internationally-sanctioned peacekeeping, reconstruction, and
stabilization missions worldwide, German armed forces operate under what many
consider stringent constraints designed to avoid combat situations.
Since the end of the Cold War, German leaders have been increasingly
challenged to reconcile their commitment to continuity in foreign policy with a desire
to pursue the more proactive global role many argue is necessary both to maintain
Germany’s credibility as an ally within a network of redefined multilateral
institutions, and to address the foreign and security policy challenges of the post-Cold
War, and post-September 11, 2001 era. As one scholar notes, “the tensions, even
contradictions, between [Germany’s] traditional ‘grand strategy’ — or foreign policy
role concept as a ‘civilian power’ — and a Germany, a Europe, a world of
international relations so radically different from what they had been before 1990
have become increasingly apparent.”8 These tensions are especially apparent in an
evolving domestic debate over German national interests.
Multilateralism As National Interest
During the Cold War, West German leaders were reluctant to formulate or
pursue national interests that could be perceived as undermining a fundamental
commitment to the multilateral framework as embodied by the Atlantic Alliance,
European Community, and United Nations. West Germany avoided assuming a
leading role within these institutions, preferring a low international profile, and
seeking to establish a reputation as an “honest broker” with limited interests beyond
supporting the multilateral process itself.9 West German governments did pursue
distinct foreign policy goals, chief among them a quest for German unification, but

8 Hanns W. Maull, ed. Germany’s Uncertain Power: Foreign Policy of the Berlin Republic.
New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006, p. 1.
9 See August Pradetto, “The Polity of German Foreign Policy: Changes since Unification,”
in Hanns W. Maull, ed., op. cit.

sought to frame these objectives as part of the broader East-West Cold War struggle,
rather than as unilateral German interests.10
Since unification, German governments have continued to exercise a
multilateralist foreign policy. To this end, they have sought to reform and strengthen
the EU, NATO, and the United Nations in an effort to improve multilateral responses
to emerging security challenges and threats. Through these institutions, Germany
pursues a “networked” foreign and security policy focused on intra- and inter-state
conflict prevention and settlement, crisis intervention and stabilization, the struggle
against international terrorism, and mitigating the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD). These goals are to be pursued in strict accordance with
international law, and with respect for human rights.11 German politicians and the
German public generally express strong opposition to international action that is not
sanctioned by a United Nations mandate, or that appears to violate human rights
standards and/or international law. German law forbids unilateral deployment of
German troops, and requires parliamentary approval for all troop deployments.
Although German leaders have traditionally treated energy considerations as distinct
from foreign and security policy, energy security goals are playing an increasingly
important role in German foreign policy, particularly toward Russia and within the
European Union.
Germany in the EU and NATO — The “Middle Path”. The EU and
NATO are the focal points of German foreign and security policy. Since unification,
Germany has asserted itself as a driving force behind the EU’s enlargement eastward,
deeper European integration, increased European foreign policy coordination, and the
development of a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). As Germany’s role
within the European Union evolves, its foreign policy is marked by a desire to
balance its support for a stronger, more capable Europe, with a traditional allegiance
to NATO as the foundation for European security. Chancellor Merkel argues that a
more cohesive European foreign, security, and defense policy apparatus will in fact
enable Germany and Europe to be more effective transatlantic partners to the United
States. Germany consistently supports policies aimed at advancing EU-NATO
cooperation. Berlin’s dual commitment to the EU and NATO suggests that it is
unlikely to advocate what might be perceived as too strong or independent a role for
either organization in the foreseeable future, instead seeking what could be called a
middle path of cooperation between the two institutions. That said, some,
particularly members of the SPD and supporters of other left-wing political parties,
reflect public opposition to U.S. global influence by criticizing German action within12

NATO which they perceive as too closely aligned with U.S. interests.
10 West German foreign policy, particularly toward the Soviet Union, at times diverged
from the United States and other partners, but never to a degree that it threatened the
country’s broader commitment to U.S. and NATO policies. In instances of divergence,
West German leaders generally sought to quietly influence policy within multilateral
institutions rather than openly confront Western allies.
11 See White Paper 2006, op. cit.; and Coalition Agreement CDU, CSU, SPD, November 11,

2005, [].

12 As discussed below, German participation in the U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign in

Germany in the United Nations. Since joining the United Nations as a full
member in 1973, Germany has supported its development as a cornerstone of a
German foreign policy grounded in a commitment to international legitimacy.
Today, Germany contributes just under nine percent of the regular U.N. budget,
making it the third-largest financial contributor to the U.N. after the United States
and Japan.13 For Germany, the U.N. offers a vital framework to determine and
implement international law, and a necessary mechanism through which to sanction
international peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts, and efforts to reduce world
hunger and poverty, and increase sustainable development.
German governments since the end of the Cold War have supported reform
efforts aimed at improving the U.N.’s ability to provide timely and robust
peacekeeping missions, avert humanitarian disasters, combat terrorist threats, and
protect human rights. Many of these efforts have been resisted by some U.N.
members, and the consequentially slow pace of U.N. reform has provoked much
criticism, including from leaders in the United States.14 However, Germany
continues to view the U.N. as the only organization capable of providing the
international legitimacy it seeks in the conduct of its foreign policy.
An early indication of Germany’s post-Cold War aspirations to assume greater
global responsibilities has been its quest for permanent representation on the United
Nations Security Council. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl first articulated
Germany’s desire for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat in 1992, and received
the backing of the Clinton Administration. Kohl’s successor, Gerhard Schröder,
intensified calls for a permanent German seat, but failed to gain international support.
In what some consider an indication of the Merkel government’s decision to soften
its tone on the international stage, German officials have ceased publicly calling for
a permanent German seat. Nonetheless, German government documents state that
“Germany remains prepared to accept greater responsibility, also by assuming a
permanent seat on the Security Council,” and September 2007 press reports indicate
that Merkel has asked President Bush to support a German bid for permanent
Security Council representation.15
Evolving Domestic Debate. As global security threats have evolved,
particularly since the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11,

2001, German leaders have pursued a more proactive foreign policy. As recently as

12 (...continued)
Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, has been the source of particularly intense
debate. See, “Afghanistan splits German parties,” Financial Times, July 5, 2007; and
interview with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “‘Successes and
Deficits’ in Afghanistan,” Spiegelonline, July 9, 2007.
13 “German Policy in the United Nations,” German Federal Foreign Office, March 2004,
[ h t t p : / / www.a u s wa e r t i ge s -a mt .de / d i p l o / e n] .
14 For more information on U.N. reform efforts, see CRS Report RL33848, United Nations
Reform: U.S. Policy and International Perspectives, by Luisa Blanchfield.
15 White Paper 2006, op. cit. p. 45.; “German chancellor reportedly to lobby Bush for
permanent UNSC seat,” BBC News, September 27, 2007.

the early 1990s, German forces were understood to be constitutionally barred from
operating outside of NATO territory, and the German foreign policy establishment
was cautiously beginning to chart a post-Cold War course for the country. Today,
approximately 6,500 German troops are deployed worldwide, and Germany plays a
leading role in diplomatic initiatives from the Balkans to the Middle East. However,
what some consider too rapid a shift in German security and defense policy has led
to a growing debate over German national interests and the most appropriate means
to realize them.
German politicians have tended to justify increasing troop deployments and a
more assertive foreign and security policy by appealing to a long-standing desire both
to be considered a credible global partner, and maintain alliance solidarity.16 Some
argue, however, that a foreign policy built largely on the need to assume a “fair
share” of the multilateral burden, and on notions of international legitimacy and
credibility, has obscured a lack of domestic consensus on more precisely defined
national interests. This has become more apparent as German troops are deployed
in riskier missions with less clear limits and mandates, such as in Afghanistan or
Lebanon. Increasingly, Germans are questioning whether stated goals of alliance
solidarity and credibility are worth the risks associated with military deployment; or,
indeed, whether such deployments run counter to other German interests such as a
commitment to pacifism. In response, calls for “exit strategies” and a more
comprehensive accounting of the goals of German foreign policy have grown.
Some analysts and politicians — primarily in conservative political circles —
argue that German leaders should be more willing to justify diplomatic and military
engagement as satisfying national interests beyond those defined in the multilateral
sphere. Others are skeptical, emphasizing what they see as a continued post-World
War II obligation to surrender a degree of German sovereignty to such multilateral
institutions, and to avoid any action seen as satisfying unilaterally determined
German interests. Germany’s grand coalition government includes proponents on all
sides of the debate on national interests. The evolving discussion is likely to
increasingly influence German policy within the European Union, the Atlantic
Alliance, and the United Nations.17

16 For example, Schröder, in arguing for German engagement in Afghanistan, and Merkel,
in arguing for German participation in EU and U.N. missions in Congo and Lebanon, both
emphasized Germany’s historic obligation to join efforts sanctioned by NATO, the EU, and
U.N. Text of parliamentary debates on these missions available in German at
[]; see also Kerry Anne Longhurst, Germany and the Use of Force.
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.
17 For a more comprehensive assessment of the evolving debate on national interests see
Marco Overhaus, “Conceptual Evolution and Domestic Confusion: Germany’s Security and
Defense Policy from the Schröder to the Merkel Government.” World Security Institute,
Brussels. Policy Briefing number 1, February 2007; and Hanns Maul, ed., op. cit.

Germany in the EU
Germany’s post-World War II and Cold War commitment to the European
integration project was grounded in a desire to reconcile with former enemies and
spur economic and political development. Since the end of the Cold War, German
leaders have used the EU as the primary forum through which to forge a more
proactive role for Germany on the international stage. German foreign policy in the
early- to mid-1990s was almost singly focused on fostering deeper European
integration and EU enlargement to the east. This focus, strongly supported by former
President George H.W. Bush, was widely understood as based in a desire to quell
fear of a resurgent Germany, and to replicate the benefits of West Germany’s post-18
World War II integration in central and eastern Europe. Europe’s inability and/or
unwillingness to intervene to stem conflicts in the Balkans in the early- to mid-1990s
fueled calls within Germany and other European countries for a collective European
foreign, security, and defense policy.
To some analysts, Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, embodied a growing
German desire to pursue German interests within the EU more assertively. Merkel
has continued this trend, also demonstrating a willingness to forge a more proactive
role for Germany within Europe. This growing assertiveness has at times put
Germany at odds with other EU member states, causing some to question Germany’s
long-standing commitment to European unity.
As is the case in several other EU member states, German EU policy under
Merkel reflects a much tempered enthusiasm for EU enlargement and skepticism of
several aspects of European market integration. On the other hand, Germany
advocates deeper European integration in areas ranging from climate change policy
to police and judicial cooperation, and has assumed an increasingly significant role
in Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security and
Defense Policy (ESDP). Germany was a strong proponent of the proposed EU
constitutional treaty rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, and Merkel used
Germany’s EU presidency in the first half of 2007 to forge agreement on the outlines
of a new reform treaty aimed at enabling a larger EU to operate more effectively.19
In a development that leads some analysts to suggest a weakening of the Franco-
German partnership long considered the engine of European integration, Merkel has
sought to reorient Germany’s EU policy toward its eastern borders to improve

18 At the time of German unification, former French President Francois Mitterrand is said
to have remarked to U.S. President George H. W. Bush, “I like Germany so much, I think
there should be two of them.” Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is also said
to have expressed concerns about German unification. See Bush speech at the German
Embassy, Washington, DC, October 3, 2006, [
politics/speeches/100306_Bush.html]; see also Ulrike Guerot, “Germany and Europe: new
Deal or Deja Vu?” Notre Europe, Studies and Research No. 55, November 2006,
19 For more information on the EU’s proposed “constitutional reforms” see CRS Report
RS21618, The European Union’s “Constitutional” Reforms, by Kristin Archick.

relations with many of the EU’s newer member states, all former members of the
Soviet bloc.20
EU Enlargement
Germany was an early and strong supporter of the EU’s eastern enlargement
after the Cold War.21 This support was based largely on the belief that European
integration offered an unparalleled mechanism to spread democratic governance and
associated values to Germany’s immediate neighbors. While analysts agree that the
EU’s eastward enlargement satisfied pressing German interests by bringing stability
and democracy to its new eastern borders, the benefits of further enlargement are not
so clear to many Germans. An ongoing debate on the EU’s “absorption capacity”
highlights possible German concern both about its potentially decreasing decision-
and policy-making power within the Union, and growing public pressure to better
define Europe’s borders and to reform EU institutions. Calls for curbing further EU
enlargement, particularly to Turkey, are especially strong within Merkel’s CDU/CSU
political group.
Merkel and others in her party have been careful not to explicitly rule out future
EU expansion, particularly to the Western Balkans. However, Merkel has advocated
more stringent requirements for new membership, and has advanced proposals for
alternatives to full EU membership, especially for Turkey, which she argues could
help bring some of the desired political and economic stability to non-EU member
states within the European “neighborhood.”
Germany’s position on Turkey’s EU accession process highlights the broader
domestic debate on enlargement. According to a 2007 survey, 16% of Germans see
Turkish accession to the Union as “a good thing.”22 Despite the Schröder
government’s support of a 2005 EU decision to officially open accession negotiations
with Turkey, and despite strong U.S. support for Turkish membership, Merkel and
other CDU/CSU members are said not to oppose Turkey’s entry to the EU.23 Merkel
does not explicitly voice such opposition; but she is viewed as at best skeptical, and
has advocated imposing relatively vigilant benchmarks and timetables for Turkey’s
accession process. Merkel and others in her party have also proposed offering
Turkey a “privileged partnership” with the EU as an alternative to full membership.

20 German relations with many of some of these states, and particularly Poland, are thought
to have suffered markedly during Schröder’s seven years in office due in large part to their
support of the Iraq war, and his efforts to strengthen German ties with Russia.
21 The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia
joined the EU in May 2004; Bulgaria and Romania in January 2007. For more information
on EU enlargement see CRS Report RS21344, European Union Enlargement, by Kristin
Archick and Julie Kim.
22 “Transatlantic Trends, Key Findings 2007,” The German Marshall Fund, September 2007,
[ h t t p : / / www.t r a n s a t l a nt i c t r e nds .or g] .
23 See “Merkel visit to Turkey complicates life at home,” International Herald Tribune,
October 4, 2006; “Merkel presses Turkey over Cyprus,” BBC News, October 5, 2006.

Despite a persistently skeptical public, the SPD supports Turkey’s efforts to accede
to the EU, and continues to view further EU enlargement favorably.24
Disagreement within the governing coalition on Turkey’s EU membership
suggests that neither party will seek decisive action on the issue before German
federal elections in 2009. Nonetheless, public opinion in Germany and across
Europe indicates that any and all future proposed enlargements would be the subject
of intense scrutiny and debate.
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Relations
with Russia
German leaders have supported and increasingly sought to influence the
development of the Union’s evolving Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
In some areas, for example Middle East policy, Germany’s growing role has been
welcomed both within Europe and by the United States. In others, such as relations
with Russia, Germany’s position has elucidated and even inflamed disagreements
within the Union. Although it continues to emphasize the importance of EU-wide
consensus on foreign policy issues, Berlin has exhibited what some consider a
growing willingness to pursue independently defined foreign policy interests both
within and outside the EU framework, even at the expense of European or
transatlantic unity.
Germany’s pursuit of close bilateral relations with Russia has prompted some
analysts to question Berlin’s commitment to fostering European unity in foreign and
security policy matters. Close German-Russian relations have their modern roots in
the 1960s and 1970s when German leaders increased diplomatic and economic
engagement with the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries in an effort to
improve relations with and conditions in East Germany. Since the end of the Cold
War, Germany has consistently sought to ensure that Russia not feel threatened by
EU and NATO enlargement. Germany continues to prioritize relations with Russia.
Today, Germany is Russia’s largest trading partner, and relies on Russia for close to

40% of its natural gas and 30% of its crude oil needs.25

Some argue that Germany’s dependence on Russian energy resources and its
pursuit of bilateral agreements to secure future energy supplies has threatened
broader European energy security and undermined the EU’s ability to reach
consensus on energy matters. The EU’s newer member states in central and eastern
Europe have been especially critical. Polish, Lithuanian, and other leaders take
particular aim at a German-Russian gas pipeline agreement negotiated by former
Chancellor Schröder, and point to Russia’s subsequent manipulation of gas and oil

24 A May 2007 Eurobarometer survey reports that 34% of Germans favor further EU
enlargement. This is 8% less than in 2005. See Eurobarometer 67, June 2007,
[] .
25 On average, EU member states import about 30% of their natural gas and 25% of their oil
from Russia.

supplies flowing to Europe in early 2006 and 2007 as evidence of Russia’s ability to
use its energy wealth to divide Europe.26
Since taking office, Merkel has made a concerted effort to improve ties with
Germany’s eastern neighbors, seeking, among other things, to reassure them that
Germany’s close bilateral relations with Russia should not be viewed as a threat to
European unity or security. While most have welcomed Merkel’s efforts, German-
Polish have been marked by disagreement on a variety of issues, including
Germany’s close ties to Russia.27 Merkel advocates a “strategic partnership” with
Russia — both for Germany and the EU — based on mutual trust and cooperation.
Negotiating a new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was one of
Germany’s primary goals during its EU presidency in early 2007. However, Merkel
allowed negotiations to collapse in May 2007 when faced with strong Polish
opposition, and apparent Russian intransigence. Some observers and eastern
European leaders took this as an important affirmation of Merkel’s commitment to
European unity in foreign policy.28
As noted earlier, Merkel is seen by some as taking a harder line on Russia than
her predecessor Schröder, a position attributed at least in part to her East German
background. Nonetheless, divisions within Germany’s governing coalition over how
to engage Russia, and the strong historical, economic, and energy ties between the
two countries lead analysts to suggest that Germany is likely to continue to seek what
could become an increasingly tenuous middle path between Russia and some of the
EU’s newer member states.29
German leaders on both sides of the governing coalition continue to affirm their
commitment to a strong CFSP. Germany has played a leading role in forging a
common EU approach to a range of international issues, including the question of
Kosovo’s future status, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear program,
and policy in Africa and central Asia. In advocating common EU positions on these
and other issues, Germany emphasizes the importance of EU-wide consensus, at
times demonstrating a willingness to alter national goals for the sake of European
unity. However, Germany’s pursuit of bilateral energy agreements with Russia
signals what could be considered both growing assertiveness within Europe in certain
areas, and frustration with what many consider a cumbersome EU foreign policy-
making apparatus.

26 Within three months of leaving office in 2005, Schröder accepted a position with Russian
energy concern Gazprom as board chairman of Nord Stream AG, the German-Russian gas
pipeline project he negotiated while in office. For more information see, “Schröder joins
Gazprom pipeline group,” Financial Times, December 9, 2005; and “Schröder’s New Gig
Causes Trouble at Home,” Stratfor, March 30, 2006.
27 For more information on Poland see CRS Report RS22811, Poland’s New Government:
Background and Issues for the United States, by Carl Ek.
28 “Europe and Russia: the Divorce?” Spiegelonline, May 18, 2007; “German rebuke sets
up tense EU-Russia summit,” EU Observer, October 5, 2007; “Estonia urges EU to defend
small countries against Russia,” EU Business, July 11, 2007.
29 Ibid.; Mitchell, op. cit.”Talking with Russia — or Not,” Spiegelonline, May 21, 2007.

European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)
Germany has become a strong supporter of a European Security and Defense
Policy (ESDP) — or European defense arm — as a means for EU member states to
pool defense resources and work collectively to counter emerging security threats.
German and European backing for ESDP arose during the mid-1990s as Europeans
proved unable and/or unwilling to respond militarily to conflicts in the Balkans.
German support has grown since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and is
increasingly driven by an emphasis on boosting civilian crisis management and
police training capacity. Germany contributes military and security personnel to
ESDP missions in Bosnia and Afghanistan, two of six civilian crisis management,
police, and military operations currently overseen by the EU.30 Germany has also
committed troop support for four of the EU’s 13 new rapid-response Battlegroups,
each made up of roughly 1,500 soldiers ready for deployment within 10 days of an
EU decision to launch operations.31
Merkel is particularly careful to cast ESDP as a complement to, not substitute
for, NATO. To this end, Germany has advocated formal agreements between NATO
and the EU aimed at preventing the duplication of NATO structures, such as the so-
called “Berlin Plus” agreement, which allows the EU to use NATO assets and
capabilities for EU-led operations in which, “the alliance as a whole is not
engaged.”32 Nevertheless, some U.S. critics (including some Members of Congress)
remain concerned that ESDP could ultimately usurp NATO’s role and weaken U.S.
influence in Europe.
European Leadership and Franco-German Relations
A historically strong Franco-German partnership has widely been considered the
driving force behind European integration. As two of the EU’s largest and most
prosperous member states, Germany and France continue to work closely to advance
joint interests within the EU. However, the EU’s eastward expansion over recent
years has both diminished collective Franco-German decision-making power within
the Union and compelled Merkel to shift diplomatic focus to managing relations with
Germany’s eastern neighbors. In directing German EU policy eastward, Merkel
reportedly hopes to restore Germany’s credibility as a reliable partner with newer
member states. Many analysts believe that Schröder’s and former French President
Jacques Chirac’s pursuit of stronger relations with Russia, and their criticism of those

30 EU police training and border crossing missions in the Palestinian territories, and a police
training mission in Iraq each consist of fewer than 100 personnel. The police training
mission launched in Afghanistan under German leadership in June 2007 is to consist of up
to 200 police trainers. For more information on ESDP and ESDP missions, see
[ nt/cms 3_fo/showPage .asp?id=268&lang=EN].
31 As of January 2007, the EU has the capacity to conduct two concurrent Battlegroup
operations. For more information see “Factsheet: EU Battlegroups,” EU Council
Secretariat, February 2007, [


32 For more information on ESDP and EU-NATO links see CRS Report RL32342, NATO
and the European Union, by Kristin Archick and Paul Gallis.

EU member states that supported the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, fueled harmful
divisions between what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once
famously dubbed “old” and “new” Europe.33
Neither Merkel nor France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, appears to share
as strong an ideological commitment to the EU as most of their predecessors, and
each espouses what many consider a more pragmatic approach to EU policy. As
German policy within the EU has become focused on its eastern borders, France has
sought to invigorate EU policy in the Mediterranean. While both appear eager to
implement economic reforms aimed at increasing Europe’s global competitiveness,
each has also displayed a willingness to protect national interests and industries,
particularly in the energy sector. Merkel and others in her government have
expressed particular concern about Sarkozy’s reported desire to increase political
governance of EU economic policy, and of his plans to introduce domestic tax cuts,
which would likely prevent France from meeting EU-wide deficit-reduction targets.34
Analysts and European diplomats cite these policy differences as evidence of
the decreasing influence a Franco-German partnership will have within an EU of 27
or more member states. Others note that Merkel and Sarkozy’s more pragmatic
approach to the Union and their emphasis on increasing the EU’s economic
competitiveness, and fostering a more outward-looking EU could present an
opportunity for improved relations with the United Kingdom (U.K.), and its new
leader Gordon Brown. Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy are often touted as a new
generation of European leaders with the potential to reinvigorate the EU politically
and economically. However, while they appear to share an enthusiasm for a more
dynamic Union, differences on specific policy issues, including enlargement,
economic liberalization, and constitutional reform could ensure that long-standing
divisions between Germany and France and the more Euroskeptic U.K. persist.
Evolving Security and Defense Policy
Perhaps the most profound change in German foreign and security policy since
the end of the Cold War is Germany’s deployment of troops outside NATO territory
for the first time since World War II. Since a 1994 Constitutional Court ruling
enabled German leaders to deploy troops abroad, Germany has participated in a
number of U.N.- and NATO-sanctioned combat, peacekeeping, reconstruction and
stabilization missions, and today, approximately 6,500 German soldiers are deployed
in missions ranging from NATO’s stabilization force in Afghanistan (ISAF) to the
U.N. Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However, Germans are increasingly questioning
the grounds for what many believe has been too rapid a shift in German defense
policy. One German security policy expert categorizes the evolving defense policy
debate as evidence of “a widening gap between Germany’s institutional commitments
and official defense posture, and the country’s readiness to deal with the practical

33 Guerot, op. cit.
34 “Sarkozy ist von Merkel genervt,” Spiegelonline, September 11, 2007; “Sarkozy faces
clash with EU partners over economic policy,” EU Business, July 7, 2007.

military consequences of these developments.”35 Some observers point out that while
German politicians have consistently voiced support for more robust collective
European and NATO defense
capabilities, budget allocations in the
foreign and defense policy sectors haveCurrent German Troop Deployments*
decreased by about 40% in real termsAfghanistan/ Uzbekistan3,500 soldiers
since their peak in the late 1980s.36(NATO - ISAF)
In the early 1990s, public oppositionKosovo2,260 soldiers
and constitutional constraints prevented(NATO - KFOR)
Germany from offering more thanLebanon470 soldiers
financial support to multilateral combat(U.N. - UNIFIL)
and peacekeeping efforts in the Persian
Gulf and in the Balkans. Germany’sBosnia Herzegovina125 soldiers
inability to deploy troops to missions(EU - EUFOR)
supported by many of its leaders led toDjibouti/Horn of Africa40 soldiers
the landmark 1994 Constitutional Court(Operation Enduring
ruling, which determined that GermanFreedom)
troops could be deployed abroad, but
only under a U.N. mandate and with theSudan39 soldiers
prior approval of the German parliament.(U.N. - UNMIS)
This paved the way for Germany’sMediterranean25 soldiers
participation in its first combat mission(NATO - Active
since the Second World War — NATO’sEndeavor)
1999 air campaign to prevent ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo.37 ConsiderableGeorgia12 soldiers
domestic opposition to German(U.N. - UNOMIG)
participation in the Kosovo mission wasEthiopia1 soldier
based largely on the contention that(U.N. - UNMEE)
Germany’s history obligated it to refrain
from all military intervention. InTOTAL6,472
response, then German Foreign Minister* As of July 2008
Joschka Fischer, a member of theSource: German Defense Ministry

traditionally pacifist Green Party,
successfully argued that German history, in fact, obligated Germany to intervene —
militarily, when necessary — to stop atrocities similar to those perpetrated by
Germany during the Second World War. Fischer’s argument set the precedent for
Germany’s growing participation in so-called humanitarian interventions, mostly in
the form of U.N. and NATO peacekeeping and reconstruction and stabilization
missions, worldwide.
35 Overhaus, op. cit.
36 See Hanns Maull, in Hanns Maull ed. op. cit., p. 4; and Michael Zuern, “Edel, hilfreich
— nicht gut,” Die Zeit, January 4, 2007.
37 That NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Serbia lacked a U.N. mandate caused
considerable dispute as to the legal basis for Germany’s involvement. The U.N.’s
subsequent endorsement of NATO’s peacekeeping mission, KFOR, resolved remaining

Today, Germany’s global threat assessments mirror those of many of its EU and
NATO partners, including the United States. The government identifies terrorism,
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), regional conflicts and failed
states, transnational crime, energy security, migration, and epidemics and pandemics
as the primary security threats facing Germany and its EU and NATO allies.
However, Germany’s approach to countering these threats is often perceived to be
at odds with U.S. policy. Germany highlights the importance of a multilateral
approach within the confines of a strengthened system of international law.
Germany’s 2006 White Paper on security policy emphasizes the importance of non-
military means to combat threats to security, arguing for a strong civilian role in all
aspects of defense policy. While Germany views terrorism as a primary threat, it
does not refer to a war on terrorism, and underscores the need to address root causes
of terrorism through development and other policies. The government does not
completely rule out military engagement to combat terrorism, but does downplay this
Germany in NATO
The Merkel government’s 2006 White Paper on security policy asserts that “the
transatlantic alliance remains the bedrock of common security for Germany and
Europe. It is the backbone of the North Atlantic Alliance, which in turn is the
cornerstone of German security and defense policy.”38 Along with the United States,
Germany was one of the first proponents of NATO expansion as an initial step in the
Alliance’s post-Cold War transformation. Since then, Germany has backed efforts
to transform the Alliance to respond to post-Cold War and post-September 11, 2001
global security threats and engage in “out-of-area” missions. German policy within
NATO and its relations with its NATO allies are influenced by several factors which
have caused, and may continue to cause, tension within the Alliance. One factor
concerns U.S. leadership within NATO, and the degree to which the United States,
Germany, and other European allies continue to share a strategic and operational
vision for the Alliance. A second factor concerns Germany’s ability to undertake the
security and defense policy reforms many, particularly in the United States, believe
are necessary for Germany to meet its commitments to an evolving Alliance that is
expected to increasingly engage in “out-of-area” missions.
Over 3,000 German troops contribute to NATO’s International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and about 2,300 soldiers serve in NATO
missions in Kosovo and the Mediterranean Sea. German participation in ISAF —
NATO’s largest and most significant mission — has sparked considerable domestic
debate over national defense policy, and has fueled tension between Germany and
some of its NATO allies. Approximately 2,900 German soldiers are stationed in
Afghanistan’s relatively safe northern region, where they lead two Provincial
Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), one in Kunduz and one in Feyzabad.39 In a February

38 White Paper 2006, op. cit.
39 ISAF’s 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams are joint military-civilian operations designed
to strengthen the Afghan government’s authority in the provinces, and support stabilization
and reconstruction efforts throughout the country. For more information on PRTs see CRS

2007 decision reportedly opposed by 77% of the German public, the German
parliament (Bundestag) approved the deployment of six Tornado reconnaissance jets,
and 200 support soldiers to less stable southern Afghanistan.40 The jets are not to be
used to directly support combat troops or attack ground positions, but solely to
provide reconnaissance. The Bundestag has also sanctioned up to 100 special forces
to work against remaining Al Qaeda elements alongside U.S. forces throughout
Afghanistan in the U.S.-led counter-terror Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The
Foreign Ministry reports, however, that German soldiers have not participated in
OEF in Afghanistan for at least the past three years.41
Despite having the third largest troop contingent in Afghanistan, Germany has
faced pointed criticism, particularly from the United States, for “national caveats”
which prevent its soldiers from being deployed to Afghanistan’s more dangerous
southern region.42 The German response is generally twofold. First, German
officials claim that strong public opposition to military engagement and to U.S.
policies in Afghanistan leave legislators no other choice but to impose such caveats.
In November 2006, Merkel is said to have urged President Bush to resist making
public calls for Germany to ease restrictions on its forces for fear that perceived links
between U.S. interests and German decisions would limit her ability to act in a
manner perceived as favorable to the United States.43 Second, German officials
increasingly claim that NATO is overly focused on military action and must devote
more resources to civilian reconstruction.44 To this end, German leaders have
expressed a willingness to increase financial assistance for development projects in
southern Afghanistan (for more information on German engagement in Afghanistan,
see Appendix 1.).
Some in Germany argue that U.S. policy in Afghanistan indicates a broader U.S.
reluctance to view NATO as a credible collective security mechanism. In particular,
critics cite the U.S. decision to lead an initial “coalition of the willing” in
Afghanistan in 2001 — despite the invocation of NATO’s Article 5 collective
defense clause — as evidence that the United States prefers to use NATO as a tool
box through which to realize independently defined U.S. interests, rather than as a
legitimate multilateral forum to define interests collectively.45 In a reflection of this

39 (...continued)
Report RL33627, NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance, by Paul Gallis.
40 “Berlin Agrees to Send Tornado Jets to Afghanistan,” Spiegelonline, February 7, 2007.
41 Interview of German government officials, Washington, DC, June 2007; Judy Dempsey,
“Keeping peace abroad a tough sell in Germany,” International Herald Tribune, August 9,


42 For more information on “national caveats,” and NATO in Afghanistan, see CRS Report
RL33627, op. cit.
43 Interviews of Bundestag officials, December 2006.
44 “Berlin Mulls Limits to Afghanistan Mandate,” Spiegelonline, July 2, 2007; “Tornados
in Afghanistan, Political Twisters in Germany,” Spiegelonline, July 4, 2007.
45 On September 12, 2001, Germany joined its NATO allies in moving to invoke NATO’s

sentiment, some German politicians, including SPD Chairman Kurt Beck, have
called for an independent European army with a single European command.46 Some
analysts and U.S. officials counter that the United States has essentially been forced
to rely on “coalitions of the willing” because many of its NATO allies, including
Germany, lack the military capacity to justify NATO- rather than U.S.-led missions.
Germany has backed NATO efforts to reassess the Alliance’s collective defense
strategy and to develop the capacity to more effectively respond to emerging threats.
In signing on to the Alliance’s 1999 Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) and 2002
Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC), Germany committed to focus national
defense procurement practices on specifically defined areas, including strategic air
and sea lift. Most agree that meeting these commitments will require Germany and
other allies to increase overall defense spending, modernize procurement priorities
and procedures, and reduce personnel costs. However, German defense spending has
declined steadily since 1991, and by most accounts, Germany has been slow to
realign its spending priorities to reflect its NATO commitments. NATO’s agreed-
upon defense spending target for Alliance members is 2% of GDP. While the NATO
average is about 2.2%, German defense spending in 2006 represented about 1.4%
of GDP.47
Force Transformation and Bundeswehr Reform
The changing security environment of the post-Cold War and post-September
11, 2001 era has fueled calls for military modernization and structural defense
reform. As a condition of the 1990 “Two plus Four Treaty” between the post-World
War II occupying powers (France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United
States) and West and East Germany, which restored Germany’s full sovereignty over
security matters, Germany agreed to reduce its total troop numbers from 500,000 to
under 370,000. Since then, Germany has sought to transform its defense forces in
order to meet NATO and ESDP targets — specifically, to be able to contribute to the

45 (...continued)
Article 5 collective defense clause; in November, 2001 German Chancellor Schröder
received parliamentary approval to make up to 3,900 German troops available to the U.S.-
led Operation Enduring Freedom. Opposition to the U.S. decision to lead a “coalition of
the willing” outside the NATO framework compelled Schröder to tie the parliamentary vote
to a vote of confidence in his government. See Longhurst, op. cit. pp. 82-90; interviews of
NATO and German officials, December 2006, and May 2007.
46 Judy Dempsey, “German proposes European army,” International Herald Tribune,
November 6, 2006.
47 Overhaus, Op. Cit; Stephen Szabo, “The German Defense White Paper,” American
Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), December 2006; “Redefining
German Security: Prospects for Bundeswehr Reform,” American Institute for Contemporary
German Studies (AICGS), September 2001; Proceedings of the AICGS conference,
“German Security Policy: Assessing the 2006 White Paper on German Security Policy and
the Future of the Bundeswehr.” Washington, DC, July 10, 2007. Available at
[ h t t p : / / www.a i c gs .or g] .

NATO Response Force (NRF) and EU Battlegroups.48 To meet these goals,
Germany aims to reform its force structure to include 35,000 troops for high
intensity, short duration crisis intervention operations; 70,000 for longer duration
crisis stabilization operations; and support forces of 147,500. According to the 2006
White Paper on security policy, such a restructuring could enable Germany to expand
its current deployment capabilities to simultaneously deploy 14,000 troops in two
larger scale or five smaller scale operations. As mentioned above, about 6,500 troops
are currently deployed worldwide.
Observers generally commend Germany’s stated intention to transform its
military to meet EU, NATO and U.N. commitments, but point to substantial gaps
between stated goals and actions taken. Other than to say “there is no room for
further reductions in spending,” Germany’s 2006 White Paper does not address
funding mechanisms. German government officials have long appeared skeptical
about the prospects for meaningful increases in defense spending. Some express
confidence, however, that a realignment of spending priorities and increased EU-
wide cooperation could bring the country closer to realizing its defense priorities.49
In addition to stagnant defense spending, many security policy experts, including
members of a 2000 high-level commission on Bundeswehr reform, argue that
Germany’s continued adherence to mandatory military service, or conscription,
represents a significant impediment to meaningful reform. These critics call for a
voluntary, fully professional force, arguing that the constraints placed on conscripts
— they can only be deployed abroad on a volunteer basis — lead to significant
operational deficiencies in the armed services. While conscription is suited for
defense of national territory, they argue, it impedes Germany’s ability to meet its
peacekeeping and stabilization obligations abroad by wasting scarce financial
resources to fulfill outdated security goals. In 2000, the government reduced the
number of conscripts from 130,000 to about 70,000. However, support for
conscription remains strong among members of the CDU and some in the SPD.
Strong CDU support, based largely in a historically-rooted anxiety about the
dangerous potential of a professional army like Hitler’s Wehrmacht, indicates that
reforms are unlikely during the remainder of Merkel’s term. However, the SPD has
joined Germany’s opposition parties in calling for at least a partial end to

48 The NRF is a rapid response force of up to 25,000 NATO troops able to deploy to Article

5 (collective defense) or non-Article 5 crisis response operations within five days’ notice.

It was created as the result of a 2002 proposal by former U.S. Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld. For more information, see [].
49 Interviews of German government officials, November 2006 - May 2007.
50 Hugh Williamson, “Berlin moves to scrap conscription,” Financial Times, August 20,


Transatlantic Implications
For some, the end of the Cold War, Germany’s growing assertiveness within the
European Union and corresponding enthusiasm for European integration, and more
recently, German opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led war with Iraq, all symbolize
increasing divergence in U.S.-German relations. However, the countries continue to
cooperate in pursuit of common foreign and security policy goals, and share robust
bilateral investment and trade relations. Under Merkel’s leadership, Germany seeks
to bolster U.S.-German and U.S.-EU trade and investment ties, and works closely
with the United States on counterterrorism policy, and on a range of foreign policy
issues. U.S. Administration officials and many Members of Congress have
welcomed the Merkel government’s commitment to a foreign and security policy
anchored in NATO and the transatlantic relationship, and have expressed confidence
in Merkel’s ability to improve U.S.-German and U.S.-European cooperation on the
world stage. U.S.-German bilateral relations remain strong, anchored not only by
deep economic ties, but by a shared commitment to democratic values. Germany, the
European Union, and the United States share similar global security threat
assessments, and cooperate closely to mitigate these threats, whether in the struggle
against international terrorism, through NATO efforts to combat the Taliban and
strengthen the Afghan government, or in pursuit of a two-state solution to the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict.
Looking forward, several overarching features of Germany’s evolving foreign
and security policy stand to shape U.S.-German relations. These include Germany’s
commitment to international institutions, international law, and the multilateral
framework; its deep-rooted aversion to the exercise of military force; strong public
opposition to U.S. influence in the world; and a potentially widening gap between the
foreign policy ambitions of some in Germany’s political class and the German public.
In addition, ongoing domestic debate over approaches to German national interests
and what many consider too rapid a shift in defense policy could increasingly
influence German foreign and security policy decisions.
German politicians question, and at times openly oppose, aspects of U.S. foreign
and security policy they view as lacking multilateral legitimacy, and/or as being
overly dependent on the exercise of military force. On Middle East policy, for
example, Merkel has urged the United States to diplomatically engage the leaders of
Syria and Iran in order to initiate a region-wide effort to address the Israeli-
Palestinian dispute and the future status of Iraq. Germany’s strong commitment to
a unified international front in dealing with Iran suggests it is more willing to accept
compromises in exchange for Security Council unanimity than to take unilateral
measures in the face of Chinese or Russian opposition. As U.S., German, and
European leaders consider increased cooperation to stem global security threats and
to promote stability, democracy, and human rights in regions from Africa to central
Asia, Germany will likely continue to uphold its commitment to the multilateral
process. Germany has criticized what many perceive as U.S. indifference to
international institutions, and has consistently urged U.S. Administrations to join the
International Criminal Court and U.N.-sanctioned climate change treaties such as the
Kyoto Protocol.

Recent developments suggest that German leaders will remain both reluctant
and hard-pressed to justify increased German military engagement abroad to a
persistently skeptical public, even within a NATO or EU framework.51 Germany’s
2006 White Paper on national security indicates that Germany could increasingly
emphasize the importance of civilian components to multilateral peacekeeping,
stabilization and reconstruction missions, and that it will work within NATO and the
EU to bolster such capacities. At the same time, trends in German defense spending,
and the relatively slow pace of German defense reform highlight what many consider
a notable discrepancy between articulated foreign policy goals and action taken to
realize these goals.
Germany’s ongoing debate on military participation in Afghanistan has exposed
a lack of domestic consensus on the goals and limits of German foreign and security
policy. Specifically, Germans appear wary of linking reconstruction and
development efforts with combat operations. Until now, Merkel and the Bundestag
have argued that German participation in Afghanistan be focused on reconstruction
and stabilization efforts. However, as the distinction between development work and
combat operations becomes increasingly unclear, especially under unstable security
conditions, Germans have begun to re-examine the nature and effect of German
military engagement both in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Ensuing calls for a
reassessment of the grounds for and rules of military engagement stand to further
shape Germany’s ability to partner with its allies in multilateral missions worldwide.
Germany appears poised to continue to seek a “middle path” between NATO
and the EU, promoting the development of an independent European foreign and
defense policy as a complement, rather than counterweight to NATO. Successive
U.S. Administrations have supported ESDP as a means to enhance European defense
capability and interoperability, but Washington has also insisted that EU defense
policy be tied to NATO. To this end, U.S. leaders have opposed calls from some in
Europe for an independent EU defense identity that could potentially function as a
counterweight to the Alliance, and have welcomed Merkel’s renewed emphasis on
NATO-EU links. While Germany remains committed to NATO as the pillar for
European security, some Germans openly question U.S. leadership in NATO, and a
perceived U.S. preference to pursue independently defined national interests within
the Alliance rather than to define and pursue the collective interests of the Alliance.
Domestic political considerations and German public opinion could continue
to play a key role in shaping U.S.-German relations, particularly for the remainder of
the Bush presidency and until Germany’s scheduled federal elections in 2009. Low
public opinion of United States foreign policy indicates that Merkel could be more
hard pressed to justify her Atlanticist orientation as her term progresses. The degree
to which current German dissatisfaction with U.S. influence in the world is linked
directly to President Bush and his Administration is unclear. However, some

51 The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ 2006 Transatlantic Trends survey
reports that 22% of Germans would support sending military forces to help democracy by
removing an authoritarian regime in which “there is no political or religious freedom;” in
2007, 21% either agreed strongly or agreed somewhat with the statement that “under some
conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice.” Transatlantic Trends Topline Report,
September 2006, and September 2007, [].

German politicians and other government officials expect German opinion of U.S.
policy to improve after Bush leaves office.52 That said, Berlin is likely to continue
to react skeptically to foreign policy actions it perceives as unilateral and lacking
international legitimacy regardless of who succeeds Bush in the White House.

52 Interviews of German Bundestag members and government officials, November, 2006 -
May 2007.

Appendix 1. Selected Issues in U.S.-German
Relations — Current Status
Economic Ties
Germany’s export-based economy is the world’s third largest and Europe’s
largest.53 The United States is Germany’s second largest trading partner with two-
way trade in goods totaling $184 billion in 2007. U.S. exports to Germany in 2007
were worth about $71 billion, consisting primarily of aircraft, and electrical and
telecommunications equipment. German exports to the United States — primarily
motor vehicles, machinery, chemicals, and heavy electrical equipment — totaled
about $113 billion in 2007. The United States is the number-one destination for
German foreign direct investment (FDI); 11.5% of all U.S. FDI is in Germany. U.S.
firms operating in Germany employ approximately 510,000 Germans, and close to

746,000 Americans work for German firms in the United States.

In what some considered an effort to shift attention from the more controversial
aspects of U.S.-European relations, Chancellor Merkel used Germany’s EU
presidency during the first half of 2007 to advance initiatives to deepen transatlantic
economic ties. Her efforts led to the April 2007 adoption of a Framework for
Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration and the formation of the Transatlantic
Economic Council (TEC). The TEC, headed by a Cabinet-level official in the
president’s office (currently Assistant to the President for International Economic
Affairs, Dan Price), and a member of the European Commission (currently
Commission Vice President for Enterprise and Industry Guenter Verheugen), is
charged with identifying opportunities to increase transatlantic economic and trade
and integration, with a particular focus on increasing regulatory harmonization and
reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. At an April 2007 summit, Merkel and President
Bush identified the following areas as initial focal points for regulatory
harmonization: industry standards; intellectual property; energy and environment;
and financial markets.54 Despite Merkel’s effort to bring higher political
commitment to deepening U.S.-European economic and trade integration, some
analysts contend that formidable obstacles remain, including U.S.-European55
regulatory differences in areas such as health safety and environmental protection.
On the other hand, German-U.S., and U.S.-European trade and economic ties remain
robust, characterized more by growing convergence than by disagreement.

53 Information in this section from U.S. Department of State, “Background Note: Germany,”
January 2008.
54 See “Framework for Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration Between the United
States of America and the European Union,” White House Press Release, available at
[ ht t p: / / www.whi t e news/ r el eases/ 2007/ 04/ ml ] .
55 See CRS Report RS22645, U.S.-European Relations and the 2007 Summit, by Raymond
Ahearn, Kristin Archick, and Paul Belkin.

Counterterrorism Cooperation
Most observers consider U.S.-German cooperation in the fight against terrorism
to be close and effective. Since discovering that three of the hijackers involved in the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States lived and plotted in Germany, the
German government has worked closely with U.S. and EU authorities to share
intelligence. Germany has identified radical Islamic terrorism as a primary threat to
its national security, and has passed a number of laws aimed at limiting the ability
of terrorists to live and raise money in Germany.56 In June 2007, Germany’s Interior
Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) proposed a series of domestic counterterrorism
initiatives including for increased computer surveillance, and domestic military
deployment in the event of a terrorist attack. Schäuble’s proposals have sparked
considerable debate in Germany, where personal privacy and individual civil liberties
are strictly guarded, and where domestic military deployment is barred by the
Domestic support for Schäuble’s proposals appears to have increased following
the September 2007 arrest of two German citizens and a Turkish resident in Germany
accused of plotting what German investigators say could have been one of the
deadliest attacks in European postwar history. According to German and U.S.
intelligence officials, the suspected terrorists planned to target U.S. citizens. German
authorities are reported to have collaborated closely with U.S. intelligence agencies
in foiling the plot, with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff saying that
intelligence cooperation between the two countries is “the closest it’s ever been.”57
Discovery of the September 2007 terrorist plot has elevated concern in Germany
about the possibility of future attacks, with some predicting greater support for
antiterrorism measures as proposed by Merkel and Schäuble. At the same time,
others see the planned attack as designed to raise pressure for a pullout of German
troops from Afghanistan, and expect calls for an end to German engagement in that
country to increase.58
Though it cooperates with the United States in the Bush Administration’s
“Global War on Terror,” Germany does not consider the effort a war, referring rather
to a “struggle against international terrorism.” German officials stress the importance
of multilateral cooperation and adherence to international law in combating
terrorism. Like the United States, Germany advocates a comprehensive U.N. anti-
terrorism convention. Germany has urged President Bush to close the U.S. prison for
terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which it views as violating rights
guaranteed to “prisoners of war” under the Geneva Conventions, and has been critical
of alleged abuses of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. forces.

56 See CRS Report RL33573, European Approaches to Homeland Security and
Counterterrorism, coordinated by Kristin Archick.
57 See Simone Kaiser, Marcel Rosenbach, and Holger Stark, “How the CIA Helped Germany
Foil Terror Plot,” Spiegelonline, September 10, 2007.
58 Judy Dempsey, “Plot seen as pressure to pull out of Afghanistan,” International Herald
Tribune, September 7, 2007.

German and European parliamentary investigations into alleged CIA
“renditions” of German nationals suspected of membership in terrorist organizations
have sparked calls in Germany for a re-examination of U.S.-German counterterrorism
cooperation. In January 2007, the District Attorney’s office in Munich issued arrest
warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives alleged to have abducted German citizen
Khaled al-Masri in Macedonia in 2003, and to have subsequently imprisoned and
tortured him in Afghanistan.59 German officials claim to have been unaware of the
Al-Masri abduction. However, related investigations suggest that high-level German
officials were aware of the alleged post-September 11, 2001 CIA abduction and
subsequent imprisonment of German citizen Mohammed Haydar Zammar and
German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz.60
The Middle East61
Germany, along with other European countries, believes the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict lies at the root of many of the challenges in the Middle East. Merkel has
promoted continuity in a German Middle East policy based on a commitment to
protect Israel’s right to exist; support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict; a commitment to a single EU-wide framework for peace; and a belief that
U.S. engagement in the region is essential. Germany has been active in international
negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and, despite continuing to rule
out a German troop deployment to Iraq, Berlin has provided funded some Iraqi
reconstruction efforts and participated in efforts to train Iraqi security forces.
Relations with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Germany,
along with the United States is widely considered one of Israel’s closest allies.
Germany is Israel’s second largest trading partner and long-standing defense and
scientific cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and cultural ties between the
countries continue to grow. While distinguishing itself as a strong supporter of Israel
within the EU, Germany has also maintained the trust of Palestinians and other
groups in the region traditionally opposed to Israeli objectives. Germany has been
one of the largest country donors to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and in June 2008,
hosted an international conference to raise funds to bolster PA President Mahmoud
Abbas’ emergency government in the West Bank. At the request of the Israeli
government, German intelligence officers used their contacts with Lebanese-based
militia Hezbollah to negotiate a prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Israel in
July 2008.62

59 The German government has since decided not to pursue the arrest warrants, announcing
in September 2007 that it will not seek extradition of the American suspects.
60 “In Another CIA Abduction, Germany Has an Uneasy Role,” Washington Post, February

5, 2007; “Kurnaz Case Continues to Trouble German Foreign Minister,” Spiegel Online,

January 31, 2007.
61 For more information see CRS Report RL33808, Germany’s Relations with Israel:
Background and Implications for German Middle East Policy, by Paul Belkin.
62 David Byers, “Hezbollah Confirms Prisoner-Swap with Israel,” TimesOnline, July 2,


Like other EU member states, Germany views a sustainable, two-state solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as key to ensuring Israel’s long-term security, and
to fostering durable stability in the Middle East. German officials have consistently
urged the Bush Administration to play a leading role in negotiations for a peace
agreement. Germany remains firm in its support for EU and U.S. efforts to isolate
Hamas since its victory in 2006 parliamentary elections and subsequent 2007
takeover of the Gaza strip. However, some experts argue that U.S.-EU efforts to
isolate Hamas have not worked, and some in Germany and Europe view engagement
as a better way to try to moderate the group and generate progress in the peace
process. While U.S. officials appear to welcome increased German engagement in
the region, the United States has expressed disapproval of German and French efforts
to engage Syria in the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Iraq. Although Germany continues to rule out a troop deployment to Iraq, it has
trained Iraqi police and armed forces in Germany and the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), contributed funding for civilian reconstruction and political reconciliation,
and, at the behest of the United States, agreed to write off 80% of Iraq’s foreign debt
along with other members of the Paris Club.63
Germany’s coalition government has endorsed a “comprehensive diplomatic
initiative” to the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and has expressed support for an
international conference on Iraq that would include discussion of other disputes in64
the region. In a December 2006 meeting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
reportedly reacted skeptically to Steinmeier’s proposal for German assistance for65
such an initiative. German officials consistently assert that stability in Iraq is in
Germany’s interest, and some voice concern about the ramifications for Germany and66
Europe of a potentially swift withdrawal of U.S. forces. Although some politicians
have accordingly expressed a willingness to increase German funding for
reconstruction and police and military training efforts, most appear disconcerted by
what they perceive as an Administration decision to forgo most of the Iraq Study
Group recommendations. Germans, like many in Europe, are skeptical of the Bush
Administration’s current “surge” in Iraq, and favor engaging Iran and Syria in forging
a regional approach focused on achieving political reconciliation in Iraq.
Iran. As a member of the so-called EU-3 (France, Germany and the United
Kingdom), Germany has been at the forefront of EU and U.N. efforts to prevent Iran
from developing nuclear weapons and continues to seek international consensus on
more stringent economic sanctions against Iran. Of the EU-3, Germany has
reportedly been the most reluctant to endorse autonomous EU sanctions against Iran

63 The Paris Club is an informal group of 19 creditor nations that seeks to alleviate payment
difficulties facing debtor nations.
64 “Germany’s Merkel Advocates ‘Comprehensive Diplomatic Initiative Over Iraq,”
Associated Press Newswires, December 9, 2006.
65 Interview with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier: “Splitting Iraq Would Lead to
Terrible Bloodshed,” Spiegelonline, December 12, 2006.
66 Conversations with German officials and Bundestag members, December 2006 -
September 2007.

without an accompanying U.N. Security Council resolution, and has consequently
emphasized the importance of winning Chinese and Russian support for stricter
sanctions. The Merkel government remains strongly opposed to a military response
to the situation.
In a sign that Berlin’s stance toward Iran may be hardening, in June 2008,
Germany backed an EU decision to freeze the assets of Iran’s biggest bank, Bank
Melli, among others, and to impose visa bans on a number of individuals suspected
of involvement in the Iranian nuclear program. Despite the recent sanctions, the EU
has not withdrawn an offer of incentives to Iran in exchange for discontinuing its
uranium enrichment program. These include providing technology to develop a
nuclear program solely for energy generation and a range of economic incentives.
German and European officials have consistently called on the United States to
participate in their ongoing negotiations with Iran and were reportedly encouraged
by the Administration’s decision to send Undersecretary of State William Burns to
participate in EU-led talks with Iran in July 2008.
Berlin has faced pressure from the United States and others to limit civilian
commercial ties with Iran and to curb the substantial export credit guarantees it offers
companies doing business in the country. Along with Italy and China, Germany
remains one of Iran’s most important trading partners. However, German-Iranian
commercial ties have cooled significantly since 2005. German exports to Iran
reportedly dropped 25% between 2005 and 2007, from $6.4 billion (4.3 billion euros)
to $4.8 billion (3.2 billion euros), and Germany’s two largest banks, Deutsche Bank
and Commerzbank AG, say they have withdrawn from the Iranian market. In
addition, new export credit guarantees to companies doing business in Iran fell by
more than half from 2006 to 2007, dropping from $1.74 billion (1.16 billion euros)
to $731.84 million (503.4 million euros).67 While some interpret weakening
German-Iranian economic ties as a sign that Berlin is intent on increasing economic
pressure on Tehran, others argue that German-Iranian trade remains robust and that
politicians in Berlin are unlikely to seek further cuts in commercial ties. They view
German officials’ emphasis on unanimity with, for example, Russia and China, as
evidence that Berlin is unwilling to take bolder action against Iran.68
Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier consistently express their support for
ongoing German military engagement in Afghanistan. In fall 2007, the Bundestag
voted to extend German participation in ISAF and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring
Freedom for another year. However, Germany is poised to advocate a shift in its and
NATO’s Afghanistan strategy toward civilian reconstruction and development
projects, army and police training activities, and enhanced political engagement with

67 See “German Economy Ministry Reports Lower Exports to Iran,” Associated Press,
February 13, 2008; and “Berlin Hardens Stance with Iran,” Financial Times, February 11,


68 See, for example, “Berlin’s Ambiguous Relationship with Israel,” Jerusalem Post,
February 11, 2008.

Afghanistan’s neighbors.69 The U.S. Administration has praised Germany for its
continued engagement in Afghanistan, but has also urged German leaders to consider
both increasing the number of troops serving and easing operational “caveats,” which
rpevent most German forces from engaging in combat. The Merkel government has
resisted calls to lift “caveats” and to send combat troops to Afghanistan’s southern
German public opposition to the mission in Afghanistan is high, with some polls
indicating that 84% of Germans oppose increased German engagement in the
country.70 Some observers fault Merkel and other leading politicians for failing to
lay out the importance of the Afghan mission to the German people. Nonetheless,
in June 2008, Berlin announced that it would seek approval to increase troop levels
in Afghanistan by up to 1,000 when the Bundestag votes on extending the
Afghanistan mandate in October 2008. The additional troops are expected to boost
Germany’s efforts in northern Afghanistan, with a stated aim of tripling the amount
of training Germany gives to Afghan troops.71 In addition, Germany has agreed to
send troops to other parts of the country to assist allied forces in emergency
situations, and in February 2008, agreed to send 200 troops to replace a departing
“quick-reaction” Norwegian combat force in the north.
Approximately 60 German police officials — mostly retirees — contribute to
a nascent EU police-training mission that is expected to include up to 200 trainers.
The mission, initially approved in May 2007, has been frequently delayed and has
reportedly suffered from personnel problems and a lack of EU-NATO coordination.
Prior to the EU mission, Germany shared responsibility for police training with the
United States. Some criticized German training efforts, carried out by about 50
police trainers in Kabul, for having too narrow an impact and for being overly
bureaucratic, while U.S. efforts are said to have not been thorough enough.72 NATO
officials and security experts generally argue that German “caveats,” which prevent
German police and army trainers from accompanying their Afghan trainees to many
of their subsequent fields of operation, limit the success of Germany’s training

69 “Kabinett beschliesst Staerkung des zivilen Aufbaus,” Spiegelonline, September 5, 2007.
70 John Vincour, “Can Germany Muster the Courage to Commit to Fighting in Southern
Afghanistan,” International Herald Tribune, February 11, 2008.
71 “Germany Plans to Raise Troop Level in Afghanistan,” Spiegelonline, June 24, 2008.
72 Judy Dempsey, “Deal reached on Afghani police training,” International Herald Tribune,
August 26, 2007.
73 Spiegel interview with NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, Der Spiegel,
September 10, 2007.

Appendix 2. Key Dates in German Foreign and Security Policy
Congressional Research Service