Episode 28: From Frugality to Stimulus: Responses to the Pandemic

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Jörg Kukies

Federal Ministry of Finance

Dr. Jörg Kukies has been Deputy Finance Minister (State Secretary) for Financial Market Policy and European Policy at the Federal Ministry of Finance since April 2018.

From 2014 to 2018 he was Co-Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs AG and Managing Director of the Frankfurt branch of Goldman Sachs International. He was head of equity derivatives for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Goldman Sachs International, London from 2011 to 2014. Beginning in 2004, he was associate and then (from 2007 to 2011) head of the equities division for Germany and Austria, Goldman Sachs International, Frankfurt. From 2001 to 2004 he was associate in the product development team at Goldman Sachs International, London.

He holds a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, a Master in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and studied Sciences Economiques at Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Paris.

Peter S. Rashish

Vice President; Director, Geoeconomics Program

Peter S. Rashish, who counts over 25 years of experience counseling corporations, think tanks, foundations, and international organizations on transatlantic trade and economic strategy, is Vice President and Director of the Geoeconomics Program at AICGS. He also writes The Wider Atlantic blog.

Mr. Rashish has served as Vice President for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he spearheaded the Chamber’s advocacy ahead of the launch of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Previously, Mr. Rashish was a Senior Advisor for Europe at McLarty Associates, and has held positions as Executive Vice President of the European Institute, on the Paris-based staff of the International Energy Agency, and as a consultant to the World Bank, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Atlantic Council, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Mr. Rashish has testified on the euro zone and U.S.-European economic relations before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and has advised three U.S. presidential campaigns. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jean Monnet Institute in Paris and a Senior Advisor to the European Policy Centre in Brussels. His commentaries have been published in The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and The National Interest, and he has appeared on PBS, CNBC, CNN, and NPR.

He earned a BA from Harvard College and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford University. He speaks French, German, Italian, and Spanish.



The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging all aspects of modern society.  Public health systems are grappling with a disease that has spread faster than anything in a century.  Workplaces have lain still, when jobs could not be shifted to remote work.  Political leaders have had to devise plans under short deadlines and communicate them clearly to the public.  And the economic response from governments has been enormous.

In the case of Germany, this has been a remarkable turnaround.  In the span of just a few months, the government’s response has gone from a national one, with caution about how to assist its European neighbors, to the late-May announcement by Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron that they will support sweeping, EU-wide action.  The European Union has now announced plans for a €750 billion economic recovery plan.  That would result in an increase by 40 percent of German payments into the EU budget.

But the primary responses are still national.  Germany’s cabinet has just passed a comprehensive stimulus plan: €130 billion, which is about 4 percent of GDP.  Some see this as a departure for German economic policy, which has been focused on balanced budgets and even run a significant surplus in recent years.  Others would argue that this is precisely what the frugality in good times was for.

The amount of support flowing into the economy through a combination of financial and fiscal programs is mind boggling. Are these efforts up to the task?  And where will it leave us when, eventually, the pandemic ebbs and we survey how our economies have been transformed?

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, Jörg Kukies, State Secretary in Germany’s Finance Ministry, talks with Jeff Rathke and Peter Rashish as AGI seeks to deepen our understanding of the German and European responses to the crisis.


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Dr. Jörg Kukies, Deputy Finance Minister (State Secretary) for Financial Market Policy and European Policy at the Federal Ministry of Finance
Peter Rashish, Senior Fellow and Director, Geoeconomics Program

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.