© Florian Bayer

Germany´s role in the world

More and more war zones, populism on the rise, and an ever increasing number of people who are suffering as a result of conflicts and the adverse impacts of climate change – the world is in turmoil. In these turbulent times, interviewees would like to see Germany assume more responsibility, partly or indeed particularly as a counterweight to the USA, Russia and China.  

Germany, in great demand as a global player

Given the global political situation, a proactive Germany appears to be in greater demand than ever before – to uphold the values of the western world and for the good of as many people as possible. In the 2012 study, interviewees called on Germany to dare to assume a more assertive role. At the peak of the economic and financial crisis in 2015, the prevailing view was that Germany had adopted a higher profile role in recognition of its responsibility, but that its heart was not really in it.

A cooperative soft power

The interviewees in the latest study expect Germany to assume a cooperative leading role without losing sight of proportions – a role that will also benefit other nations. Some worry, however, whether Germany’s almost universally appreciated soft power will be enough in international politics. The question as to whether Germany must become more involved in ‘hard military power’ is being voiced increasingly.

When it comes to security we look not to Germany but to France.

Look to the future, but don’t forget the past

Many interviewees consider the way Germany has addressed its past, and its vibrant culture of remembrance, to be exemplary. However, this is also seen as one of the reasons for Germany’s reticence. Many interviewees feel that it is time for Germany to step out of the shadows of the past. Although it should not forget its history, they believe that Germany can be trusted to act with moderation.

Germany’s vision and goals

It remains unclear what Germany’s own goals are. Where is the country heading? On what basis and with what long-term perspectives does Berlin take important decisions affecting international politics? What are its visions for Europe? This apparent lack of an agenda both surprises interviewees, and leaves them with a sense of discouragement or even suspicion.

I have the feeling that Germany sometimes does something big, and then quickly backs down again. It has no clear path.

Angela Merkel – great respect, and high expectations

Germany’s new leadership role is closely linked with the Chancellor herself in other countries. Angela Merkel no longer elicits merely sober respect, but genuine enthusiasm on the part of many interviewees. But this correlates with higher expectations. The list of jobs for her is long: counterbalancing Trump and Putin, playing a prominent part for Europe, and acting as a trouble-shooter around the globe.

The chapter ‘International role - responsibility in a time of upheaval’ provides more information on the findings of the study.

Additional information