New German government promises tough approach on China, Russia


Germany’s new government promises a tougher stance on Russia and China, a change in musical mood that will affect the rest of Europe, where Berlin has traditionally been the moderating voice and defined the central pitch.

So far, these are just promises, soothing words to members of the coalition’s three unusually divergent political parties. But the government’s commitments to Europe, NATO and transatlantic relations are strong and part of post-war Germany’s DNA. And based on the tradition and the importance for Europe of the Berlin-Paris relationship, Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit France almost immediately after taking the oath.

In a modest but important change of tone, the coalition promises a more solid and practical military stance, supporting the idea that the European Union must become better able to defend its interests as the United States focuses more on China. and the Indo-Pacific. Mr. Scholz regularly speaks of “European sovereignty”, a milder version of “strategic autonomy” favored by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Departing from a traditional demand for a “European army”, the governance agreement calls instead for “increased cooperation between the national armies of EU members wishing to integrate, particularly in training, capabilities, operations and equipment ”- a position that will appeal to Mr. Macron. , whose country takes the rotating presidency of Europe on January 1 and is running for re-election in April.

The agreement also promises to improve the deplorable situation of the German armed forces, although it is silent on the country’s commitment in 2014 to increase military spending to 2% of the economic output promised to NATO. here 2024. Instead, there is a fuzzy promise to spend, “in the long run”, 3% on diplomacy, international development and defense.

Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations said the defense and foreign policy elements of the plan were “carefully balanced” and “stronger than expected”. In particular, she underscored a commitment to continue “nuclear sharing” with NATO, whereby German planes would drop U.S.-owned nuclear bombs in the event of all-out war and replace aging planes.

Regarding China, said Janka Oertel, Asia director of the same research institute, speaking of the country as “a strategic partner is definitely gone”, with much more emphasis on Beijing as “a systemic rival” and an economic competitor. There are explicit mentions of Taiwan, abuse in Hong Kong and rights violations in Xinjiang, which Beijing will not like, she said.

There is a promise, however vague, to at least coordinate Germany’s China policy with European policy. And the coalition is withdrawing from Angela Merkel’s support for an EU-China investment treaty. But given the strength of German industry and its reliance on an export model, it remains to be seen how confrontational the new government will be with China.

The language on Russia is also “very restrained,” Puglierin said, and takes into account the concerns of the Central European and Baltic countries. “Germany is no longer looking for good relations with Russia,” she said, “but for stable relations and constructive dialogue”.

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