Germany's Praktisch Foreign Policy

Germany's Praktisch Foreign Policy

The Trump administration’s transactional, shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy has put many of America’s allies on edge and forced them to reconsider long-held assumptions about who they call friend and foe. In Europe, it’s encouraging Germany to diversify its foreign policy relationships and act more boldly on the global stage.


Consider the latest developments:

  • Last weekend, Vladimir Putin arrived in Berlin for his first visit to Germany since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Putin and Chancellor Merkel discussed Syria, Ukraine, and the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who not long ago accused the German government of “Nazi practices” – has been invited for an official state visit in the fall. Merkel has expressed an eagerness to help Turkey, which is highly reliant on Germany economically, as it contends with mounting domestic economic trouble.
  • Berlin has also been actively making overtures to Beijing in an effort to shore up the support of its largest trading partner.

But this pragmatic approach to foreign policy has its limits. Berlin’s new single-issue “friends” – Russia on energy, Turkey as a hub for Syrian migrants, China with its massive domestic market – are hardly a substitute for a wayward United States. Germany wants to become less reliant on Russian gas, not more. And while Merkel favors continued trade with China, her government has also enacted restrictions on foreign investment aimed at addressing concerns about China’s growing influence over German businesses. Who knows how long Erdogan will play nice.

For countries in a deeply interconnected world, it’s always good to have a wide assortment of friends. But relationships sustained by interests as opposed to values can fall apart quickly. Interests can change overnight; values tend to be more durable. So while Germany and others eagerly seek out new partners, they will struggle to permanently fill the void left by the US.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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