February 18, 2019

German Foreign Policy is Stuck in Neutral

By Julianne Smith

Last summer I moved to Berlin. I was excited to escape Washington’s divisive and small-minded politics and focus on someone other than President Donald Trump, who seemed to be permeating every aspect of my life. A year in Berlin, my thinking went, would serve as a much-needed breath of fresh air. No more talking about Trump’s latest tweet at children’s birthday parties. No more circular and heated debates about state of American democracy. In Berlin, I would spend my time on bigger questions of grand strategy. I’d interview Germans and other Europeans grappling with the future of Europe and the future of the rules-based order. I’d attend thought-provoking conferences and debates. I’d be inspired.

Fast forward seven months. I’m not inspired. I’m worried.

Don’t get me wrong. Living in Berlin has been wonderful on many counts. But Berlin’s political stasis in the face of so many profound and, in the view of some, existential questions about Europe’s future is unnerving. So is its inability to craft policy responses to challenges posed by China, Russia, and yes, even the U.S. government. That’s not to say that there is a dearth of fresh thinking across Berlin’s national security community. As in any other national capital, German think tanks, academics, journalists, and industry groups regularly churn out papers full of policy proposals. But moving those ideas from theory to practice often feels insurmountable.

Read the full article in War on the Rocks.

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