In an orchestrated series of speeches earlier this year, Germany’s President Joachim Gauck, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called upon their nation to reconsider its reticence to confront geopolitical challenges. Touted as a paradigm shift in Germany’s foreign policy, the coordinated addresses urged Germany to adopt a more assertive voice and assume greater responsibility on global issues. At the same time, the architects of Germany’s “New Foreign Policy” reaffirmed the country’s long-standing culture of multilateralism and military restraint. The intent of the coordinated messages appeared to be two-fold: to assure Germany’s allies that it would take on a greater share of the burden of promoting global stability, and to provoke a domestic debate on Germany’s use of traditionally unpopular foreign policy tools.
On May 23, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings with the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Washington hosted a panel discussion to assess Germany’s new foreign policy and the challenges posed by the crisis in Ukraine. The panelists were Brookings Senior Fellow and CUSE Director Fiona Hill, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Ralf Fücks and Olaf Böhnke, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Brookings Visiting Fellow Jutta Falke-Ischinger moderated the discussion.