Are you sure?

Why Germany can be admired – and why it cannot

Germany has ceased to be a solid partner of the Western Alliance and decided to align itself with the likes of Russia and China instead of its natural partners. What are the consequences, and what is the lesson of such a policy for other countries?

I have been a fan of Germany. Not just concerning soccer, but the whole post-war mentality of that great nation and its responsible political, economic, financial elite: both its left and right side. I am convinced as a “vigilante” observer of that country that the rest of the world can only, and even should, learn from Germany how a nation, a country should face its own history.

And I have been a fan of Ms. Angela Merkel, too. She succeeded in starting from a “no-name Ossie” (former East German, a GDR citizen) to become a major player in the world of global politics, contributing enormously to the build-up of a rather positive image of the name: Germany. Ms. Merkel, you did a good job.

But I am not a fan of you anymore, Ms. Merkel. I ceased to be your admirer. It may sound brutal, but it happened, overnight. It was the night when Germany ceased to be a solid partner of the Western Alliance, and decided to align itself with the likes of Russia and China instead of its natural partners with whom the Bundesrepublik has always shared common values.

There are no serious observers within and outside the borders of Germany who doubt that the German government’s abstention in the UN Security Council vote on Libya is mainly to be explained by nothing else but domestic political concerns.

But give me a break!

Domestic concerns? Over what?

That vote was not about war or peace. If it were, then OK, I would understand, even appreciate that Germans, the German people do not wish to go to war, that they never want to play again the bad guys of history. They want to have the opposite role: the one of the good guy. At last.

But the vote in the Security Council was about whether the international community was ready to send the most pressing signal to the Libyan dictator, by establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, to halt Gaddafi in his war against his own people. All Western nations understood the vital challenge of this vote. Except Germany.

This is the first time – that I can remember – during her tenure as a chancellor that I am not able to take seriously her argument, which was “how could we support the resolution and then not send troops?”

We all know very well, don’t we, dear Ms. Merkel, that your words, just quoted, were jumping to an unnecessary conclusion. Every NATO member can determine individually its resources available for a military intervention. Plus: the need for ground troops in Libya is more than questionable to begin with and is not at all part of the UN resolution from which Germany abstained.

The sad fact is that with important state elections in Germany looming, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right wanted to avoid any hint in the eyes of its fellow German citizens that the federal government may participate in a military intervention in the Arab world.

And what happened last Sunday? In both Baden-Württemberg and Rhein-Pfalz, Angela Merkel’s CDU and the junior coalition partner, foreign minister Guido Westerwelle’s FDP suffered terrible losses at the local elections. Of course, not because of Libya but because of the new zigzag line of the Merkels and Westerwelles.

The lesson: a responsible foreign policy of a government of a country within the Western Alliance – may it be a large or a small nation – cannot be guided only by domestic considerations. If it is, the result may be isolation and the loss of confidence – of friends.

Péter Zentai is journalist, former bureau chief of Hungarian Radio in Berlin