German Foreign and Defense Policy Handbook

Stephan Wallace

Defense and Security Policy Analyst

Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe. He has worked more than 33 years on this area for the U.S. government, most recently for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The September 2013 Bundestag election resulted in a third term for Chancellor Angela Merkel, and her second Grand Coalition. On the eve of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Washington, AGI is pleased to provide this handbook on Germany’s foreign and defense policy, highlighting the changes to personnel and policy in the new CDU-CSU-SPD government.


Merkel’s Third Government: Return of the Grand Coalition


Leadership and Personnel Changes:

Federal Chancellery

Foreign Office

Ministry of Defense

Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Bundestag Committees

Foreign and Defense Policy Initiatives and Priorities

Contributions to Crisis and Conflict Resolution

Status of Foreign Deployments

Ukraine Crisis Threatens to Derail German Ostpolitik

European Integration and the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy

Transatlantic Relations

Public Support for the Government’s Foreign and Defense Policy


Executive Summary

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new grand coalition government is supported by an overwhelming parliamentary majority in the Bundestag, enabling it to pursue its foreign and defense policies without any serious interference from the opposition.
  • All three coalition partners—Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian affiliate Christian Social Union (CSU), and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD)—have a major role in implementing the government’s foreign and security policy.
  • Most of the ministers and senior government officials dealing with foreign and defense policy are committed to the goal of further European integration, and many support the eventual creation of a European federal state.   They believe Europe must learn to speak with one voice in global affairs if it is to continue to have a role in shaping the world’s future.
  • The Foreign Office and Defense Ministry have stronger and more effective leadership and as a result are likely to regain some of the clout lost to the Chancellery during the previous government.  Early indications point to close and effective coordination rather than divisions and rivalry among the major players.
  • The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will play an increasingly important role in support of efforts to ensure security and stability in Afghanistan and Africa, in keeping with its motto that “there can be no development without security, and no security without development.”
  • The new government has embraced the idea that Germany must accept greater international responsibility and contribute reliably to crisis and conflict resolution in partnership with its allies and partners.   However, it remains reluctant to engage in combat operations and probably is no more willing than before to participate in coercive military actions against rogue states.
  • The government’s plans to put relations with Russia on a more positive track have been undermined by the crisis in Ukraine, which threatens to send relations between Russia and the West back to the Cold War.  German foreign and security policy officials nonetheless remain committed to engagement with Russia and will resist efforts to completely isolate the Kremlin.
  • The reorientation of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) emphasizes Germany’s role as a framework nation capable of integrating contributions from smaller allies and partners, such as the incorporation of the Netherlands’ air mobile brigade into the new German rapid reaction division.   Germany is a leading supporter of NATO Smart Defense and EU Pooling and Sharing initiatives, which seek to maintain military capabilities through greater integration of forces.
  • The government continues to view transatlantic partnership with the United States as a key pillar of its foreign and security policy, despite strain introduced by revelations of NSA surveillance activities in Germany.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.