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From Germany’s occupation in 1945 until its reunification, German foreign politics have manifested as an amalgam of its occupants’ collaborative desires. The Federal Republic’s focus since the Second World War has been mostly concentrated on its European neighbors, and its own national interests. Germany’s history has also caused its politicians to seek multilateral policies including NATO, the European Community and the European Union. However, after the fall of the Wall, Germany began to play by its own rules and ideas in attempts to regain its status as a world power politically, while maintaining its multilateral platform. Russia, Britain, France, and the United States, the Allied forces that overthrew Germany in 1945, laid the framework for modern Germany’s Constitution and its political foundation. As key ingredients in world collaboration, Germany’s special relationships with its former occupants are essential to understanding its modern foreign policy.

In a strange combination, Germany’s relationships with Western Europe can be described as highly competitive, yet remarkably close. Germany’s liaison with France is particularly important to its foreign agenda. According to lecture on November 14, Germany’s relationship with France is a pillar of Germany’s foreign policy. These days, a war between the French and the Germans is entirely absurd, in sharp contrast to generations past. As any historian would understand, France and Germany have quite an extensive history of quarrels and wars. Post-war Germany has attempted to correct its historical mistakes by involving its neighbors in its policies, which makes its relations with France supremely important. After unification, Germany becomes more likely to side with the French rather than the Americans when push comes to shove.

Germany’s relationship with Britain is also crucial for the success of the European Union. Throughout the 20th century, Britain’s politics have shaped European politics and attitudes. Surely no European Union could ever succeed without their cooperation. Germany and Britain are not on equivalent terms to those between Germany and France, but the nature of their relationship is similar. Both Germany and Britain are major world market competitors, and both represent key nations in American politics. Arguably, the attitudes of European politics have recently added Germany to its list of creators.

Modern Germany, Eastern Europe, and Russia were the targets of massive upheavals in the early 1990s. These upheavals did not spread a sense of kinship amongst the eastern countries. In an effort to regain lost trust, Germany has located most of its political efforts towards integrating its neighbors. The Federal Republic is still largely mistrusted by most of the victims of the Nazi regime. The mistrust is echoed by the public information figures given concerning German unification in chapter eight of The German Predicament. For example, Poland, a country that was torn asunder by the politics of the Nazi Empire, was against the idea of unification 2:1. The Czech Republic, also one of the hardest hit, had the lowest percentage of people who favored German unification of any country. In contrast, Hungarians, who hold no distaste for Germany or its people, answered in majority status in favor of German unification.

Since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, Germany’s foreign policy has been attempting to make amends with many of the countries that distrust it. The Federal Republic’s efforts to be involved in NATO and the European Community (EC) are largely intended to “demonstrate that the days of German power politics and aggressive ambitions are over.” (Donfried, 52) During the 1970s, while under Ostpolitik, Germany signed peace accords with Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic. All became rather successful, albeit largely uneventful.

Germany’s multilateral policies have also caused some problems for the Eastern Europeans. In 1991, Chancellor Kohl decided that Germany should attempt to exert a larger global presence. In the same year, Germany was the first country to recognize Slovenia and Croatia, two rebelling states from the former Yugoslavia. When Germany recognized the two states prematurely, the war and breakup of Yugoslavia escalated. As a method of resolving the fickle situation, Germany, hoping that another round of multilateralism would dispel the finger pointing, sought support for its recognition from the European Community.

Despite the inherent lack of trust in their relationships, Europe and Russia recognize the Federal Republic’s role as a post-Cold War economic giant. Neo-corporatism, the Marshal Plan, and a lack of defense expenditures allowed the German market to bloom after the 1940s. Although Germany recognizes its potential power, its leaders are anxious about seizing power with too much haste. The result paints Germany as a fiscal giant, yet a political midget. However, in Germany’s relations with its European partners, it is attempting to gain the political stature that it deserves.

The last and most important arbiter in German foreign policy remains the United States. During the reconstruction of Germany between 1945-1949, the United States defined Western Germany during its occupation. The German Constitution, created in 1949, was largely intended to copy the stability of the American Constitution, while maintaining a German sense of equal representation. The United States relationship with Germany is very similar to a master/apprentice relationship. During Germany’s weaker times, the United States offered much advice, as well as money and security. The United States exerted its influence during the inception of the Federal Republic, molding the Federal Republic as its easternmost ally against the new Communist threat. During the Cold War, Germany and the United States had the unique position of a symbiotic relationship. In exchange for financial assistance and military support, Germany served as the last democratic stronghold in Europe, and represented the end of the Iron Curtain. According to Donfried on page 67, “As the ultimate guarantor of its security, the United States was West Germany’s most important ally during the Cold War. West Germany’s strategic position, bordering the Iron Curtain, gave it unique significance to Washington.”

As is inevitable in master/apprentice relationships, eventually the apprentice gains all the master’s skills. After unification, the Federal Republic was beginning to act less like the timid apprentice, and was eager to display its new strength and power to the United States. Germany’s new power demonstrates the paradox of attitudes present concerning the United States. If Germany becomes a global power and begins to exert its influence across the globe, it would soon find itself competing with Washington. Since the United States thoroughly enjoys its global position, the new competition between Berlin and Washington could wind up fostering resentment. However, Germany cannot continue to hide in the shadows either. In lecture from November 16th, “Germans believe the United States to be either too intrusive, or too lazy; either too protective, or not protective enough. In contrast, Americans believe Germans to be not sufficiently thankful or compliant, but also not sufficiently assertive and independent.” Unfortunately, there is no simple method of defining Germany’s relations with the United States. Their politics are as inconsistant as the market economies that drive the countries.

Germany’s current foreign policy is attempting to match its political power to its economic power. In the process of trying to grow, Germany creates growing pains for its neighbors and its partners. Just like any political movement, there will be some winners and some losers in Germany’s quest for global political power. Seemingly, the losers would be the Americans, while Europeans and members of the European Union stand most likely to benefit from a strengthened Germany. Only time will tell how a stronger Germany will leave the rest of the world.

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