Trans-Atlantic Relations in Germany's Foreign Policy

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-59-11-38-46

A. Kokeev, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (

Abstract. Relations between Germany, the US and NATO today are the core of transatlantic links. After the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, NATO has lost its former importance to Germany which was not a "frontline state" anymore. The EU acquired a greater importance for German politicians applying both for certain political independence and for establishing of a broad partnership with Russia and China. The task of the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) development has been regarded by Berlin as a necessary component of the NATO's transformation into a “balanced Euro-American alliance”, and the realization of this project as the most important prerequisite for a more independent foreign policy. Germany’s refusal to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the first serious crisis in US Germany relations. At the same time, there was no radical break of the deeply rooted Atlanticism tradition in German policy. It was Angela Merkel as a new head of the German government (2005) who managed to smooth largely disagreements in relations with the United States. Atlanticism remains one of the fundamental foreign policy elements for any German government, mostly because Berlin’s hope for deepening of the European integration and transition to the EU CFSP seems unrealistic in the foreseeable future. However, there is still a fundamental basis of disagreements emerged in the transatlantic relationship (reduction of a military threat weakening Berlin’s dependence from Washington, and the growing influence of Germany in the European Union). According to the federal government's opinion, Germany's contribution to the NATO military component should not be in increasing, but in optimizing of military expenses. However, taking into account the incipient signs of the crisis overcoming in the EU, and still a tough situation around Ukraine, it seems that in the medium-term perspective one should expect further enhancing of Germany’s participation in NATO military activities and, therefore, a growth in its military expenses. In Berlin, there is a wide support for the idea of the European army. However, most experts agree that it can be implemented only when the EU develops the Common Foreign and Defense Policy to a certain extent. The US Germany espionage scandals following one after another since 2013 have seriously undermined the traditional German trust to the United States as a reliable partner. However, under the impact of the Ukrainian conflict, the value of military-political dimension of Germany’s transatlantic relations and its dependence on the US and NATO security guarantees increased. At the same time, Washington expects from Berlin as a recognized European leader a more active policy toward Russia and in respect of some other international issues. In the current international political situation, the desire to expand political influence in the world and achieve a greater autonomy claimed by German leaders seems to Berlin only possible in the context of transatlantic relations strengthening and solidarity within the NATO the only military-political organization of the West which is able to ensure the collective defense for its members against the external threats. However, it is important to take into consideration that not only the value of the United States and NATO for Germany, but also the role of Germany in the North Atlantic Alliance as a “representative of European interests” has increased. The role of Germany as a mediator in establishing the West–Russia relations remains equally important.

Keywords: Germany, US, EU, NATO, transatlantic relations, security policy, Russia, Ukraine

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For citation:
Kokeev A. Trans-Atlantic Relations in Germany's Foreign Policy . World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, vol. 59, no. 11, pp. 38-46.

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