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Chapter 8. Foreign Relations

GERMANY'S FOREIGN POLICY faces formidable challenges and difficult decisions. For forty years, Germany was divided between East and West, its border the focus of a nuclear standoff. On October 3, 1990, the two German states, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany), were united under one democratic government. As Germany begins to search for a new voice abroad, some circles fear that the country might once again come to dominate the continent.

After unification, the country was beset by difficult domestic problems. Integration of Germany's five new eastern states (Lšnder; sing., Land ) proved more costly and time consuming than experts had originally estimated. In addition, there was persistent friction between the former West Germans (Wessis in colloquial German) and the former East Germans (Ossis ). This friction often centered on the costs and burdens of unification. A spate of right-wing radicalism and violence also erupted throughout Germany, primarily directed against foreign workers and refugees. Between 1990 and mid-1995, Germany had taken in more asylum-seekers than all other European Union (EU--see Glossary) members combined, a fact that angered some Germans because of the expense this humanitarian action entailed. Finally, there was a debate on the competitiveness of the German economy. West German workers had come to enjoy some of the highest wages and most extensive benefits among workers anywhere in the industrialized world. As a result of high labor costs, however, companies had begun to downsize, and many were relocating production facilities abroad. Unemployment was increasing throughout Germany.

In this context of domestic preoccupation, Germany began to confront disorienting external circumstances as well. The European Community (EC--see Glossary) had embarked on a process of profound change as it considered its course toward political and economic union. In December 1991, the EC's twelve members signed the Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty--see Glossary), creating the EU, a blueprint for unifying the continent. The United States, previously West Germany's most important ally, began to rethink its own European role as it adapted to the new post-Cold War environment and its own domestic challenges. Russia and the other states of the former Soviet bloc entered into an uncertain relationship of dependence on Germany, the country that led the international aid effort for the emerging democracies of the new Europe.

Meanwhile, Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, the humanitarian mission of the United Nations (UN) in Somalia, and war in the former Yugoslavia created significant challenges for German foreign policy. Germany's policy makers were confronted with the question of whether or not their country's participation in multilateral actions sanctioned by the UN would be restricted to nonmilitary or peacekeeping roles. Would Germany be able to overcome internal legal obstacles and psychological inhibitions stemming from its turbulent twentieth-century history of militarism to participate in peace-enforcing combat missions?

Despite initial reluctance and arduous debate, Germany's foreign policy planners began to accept a new role with regard to Germany's military, and incremental steps were taken to normalize the use of the country's armed forces. The German navy patrolled the eastern Mediterranean off the coasts of Egypt and Syria during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. From May 1991 to October 1993, German military personnel served with UN forces in Cambodia. In March 1994, German troops joined the UN's operation in Somalia. German Alpha Jets were deployed in eastern Turkey to help enforce the UN's Kurdish safe zone in northern Iraq. And German pilots flew North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO--see Glossary) missions over Bosnia as part of the UN's "Deny Flight" operation. By the mid-1990s, the chief legal obstacles to the deployment of German armed forces abroad had been overcome, but the "normalization" of German foreign policy, it had become clear, would still take some time.

Once unified, Germany struggled to think clearly about its national priorities. For Germans, unification meant new borders, new resources, and a return to the center of the continent, or Mittellage . It also meant new responsibilities and new expectations. Historically, Germany had often been either too strong or too weak to be accepted by its neighbors.

Germany's return to the center of Europe entailed for the country's foreign policy establishment the beginnings of a subtle recalculation of the country's national interests and a gradual reexamination of its relationship to a number of international bodies. Those bodies included NATO, the EU, the Western European Union (WEU--see Glossary); the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE--see Glossary)--which was renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE--see Glossary) in January 1995--and the UN. In the early post-Cold War years, Germany had assumed a leading role in advocating the expansion of NATO and the EU to include emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe.

Although German foreign policy remains deeply influenced by patterns of behavior developed during the Cold War, unified Germany's major foreign policies and goals are evolving. During the unification process, Germany had reaffirmed its pledge not to acquire weapons of mass destruction. But postunification Germany also made clear its interest in obtaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Foreign observers and Germans alike had begun the search for answers to emerging questions. What will it mean for Germany to be a "sovereign nation" again? Will German attempts of the past four decades to develop a postnational, European identity begin to fade, or will they be reinforced in this postunification era? What role will Germany play in Europe as well as globally? Will Germany dominate Europe again, and, if so, in what way? How will the new Germany, still carrying burdens from the past, define its national interest in the future?

Data as of August 1995

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