“Whose Zeitenwende? Germany Cannot Meet Everyone’s Expectations”, Kristi Raik and Martin Quencez (DGAP, Germany)

Russia’s full-scale of invasion of Ukraine pushed Germany to fundamentally revise its foreign and security policy, including its assumptions about European security, its relations with major powers, and its role as a mediator of intra-European disputes. The Zeitenwende’s level of ambition entails a profound reckoning of the failure of past policies, and has to be both European and global. Germany bears a special responsibility for strengthening European defense vis à vis Russia, reducing Europe’s vulnerabilities vis à vis China, maintaining a strong transatlantic alliance while also preparing Europe for a possible reduced US commitment in the future, and ensuring a coherent EU.


Germany’s European partners, should anticipate that the cost of a more strategically driven Germany is a Berlin that is likely to become more explicit in promoting its own national interests. A successful Zeitenwende will not make Germany more French or Polish, but more assertive in pushing for a German vision of Europe.

The required strategic, cultural, and institutional transformations entail costly trade-offs in terms of public spending and political capital to pass difficult reforms.

Berlin will have a hard time managing the expectations of its allies, who tend to expect that the Zeitenwende will make German foreign and defense policy align with their own.

Germany’s relationship to the US faces the risk of deep tensions as Berlin opposes the emergence of a US-led bloc against a China-led bloc.

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