Germany’s foreign policy stature does not reflect its political and economic importance. Our country must finally dare to take on more leadership (and responsibility to lead) in the international community—this is what our international partners expect of us. It is time for Germany to rise to this challenge. On the one hand, offering leadership means being true to principles. On the other, it means taking concrete action. That means, for example, not just mediating in Libya but working with our partners to bring peace to Europe’s southern border; recognizing with regard to the Iranian regime when the scope for words and diplomacy is so limited that concrete consequences are needed; and actively helping democratic friends when they are bullied by China, as Canada recently was.
And above all, leadership means working with our partners in Europe to provide security when Russia or China threaten this security. “With our partners” does not mean that we can wait for others to move forward and do the job. On the contrary, from Washington to Tallinn, people are waiting for Germany to stop using empty words and to provide concrete support for countering Russia’s aggression and China’s quest for power. Not because we are better or smarter than our partners—and certainly not because we harbor any skepticism or animus toward the Russian or Chinese people—but rather because without Germany, the most populous and prosperous country in Europe, it simply won’t work.
To achieve these goals, defense and economic policy as well as development cooperation must become more closely interlinked, better coordinated, and more efficiently structured. Experience from other countries shows that the most appropriate instrument for this is a National Security Council, headed by a National Minister of State for External Security with cabinet rank and the corresponding competencies and resources. Having such a council would allow us to more effectively put into practice the “networked approach” espoused by the German government, which currently exists mainly on paper. In addition, the competitive relationship between the Chancellery and the Foreign Office slows down the cumbersome process of formulating foreign and security policy objectives. Both government departments must therefore be headed by people who belong to the same party.
We must be ready by the next federal elections—at the latest. Those who do not concern themselves with the world will be surprised by it more quickly than they would like.