Monday, October 29, 2007

Praising Continuity

Yesterday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected vice-chairman of the Social-Democrat Party of Germany. Now, of course, this candidate isn't just anybody - he's the current German Foreign Minister.

His speech at the party summit, before being elected, summarized his intentions with regard to foreign policy quite easily - continue what we're doing, and balance our way through the international scene.

One particular project of his - sanctioned by the Chancellor - is the attempt to form a strategic partnership with Russia. He describes this as a "key question" for both Germany, the European Union, and beyond, and goes on to say that Russia - despite some "frustrations" - is a key to maintaining international stability.
Steinmeier's main "keystone" is "energy foreign politics", ie securing energy resources for Germany and the European Union. To him, "global security" means "energy security" foremost - hence a concentration of foreign policy on establishing the necessary ties to secure ressources.

Something that the German Foreign Ministry sort of highlighted last year is that "a lot" of areas German soldiers are operating in are potential energy ressource providers. The Northern areas that Germany commands and attempts to stabilize in Afghanistan - in particular the Jowzjan province - have natural gas fields, with the production facilities were destroyed in the 80s. There are German soldiers in Uzbekistan already, and Turkmenistan "looks interesting". Georgia, as an important future transit country of oil from Azerbaidjan, has a German military observer mission. In Sudan, where Germany has some 75 soldiers, Germany is supporting the oil-rich Southern rebels - and German companies are already planning "alternative" routes for Sudanese oil through "safe" Kenya.

The unilateral cancelling of the treaties that ended the Cold War - CFE, INF etc - by both Russia and the USA is something seen "with great concern". Germany is working on several initiatives regarding international disarmament, in particular with the renewal of the NPT, and these actions are rather "disruptive".
The US missile shield is a project Steinmeier sees "with concern" due to its repercussions on stability in Europe with regard to Russia - hence it's something technically - in the current "version" - opposed by Germany.
In recent months, Steinmeier has repeatedly talked about "renewing" and "redeepening" the relationship with the USA. However, recent US foreign policy (threatening with "WW3" and "military options") is something that has been sharply criticized by Germany.

Steinmeier - and the SPD - support Turkey in entering the European Union, in particular as Germany has had a considerable Turkish minority for the last 40 years. However, any kind of military escalation on the Turkish-Iraqi border is something also seen "with great concern". Iran is seen as another "keystone" in German politics in that area - including as a potential guarantor to peace and stability in areas where Germany is involved - Lebanon/Syria, and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a topic by itself really. The direction aimed for by Steinmeier - and hence, Germany - is to reduce OEF soldiers in favour of ISAF, stabilizing the region Germany is operating in (instead of patrolling the coast of Somalia). Withdrawing from Afghanistan is out of the question.

The one bloc that has seen changes recently is the treatment of China - that relation has cooled down significantly from the 2002/2003 times of open political cooperation. Germany has just been officially visited by the Dalai Lama - and Uyghur dissidents will also soon officially visit the Chancellor. China is of course reacting to this with the usual diplomatic inconveniences - which Germany fully returns. It will be interesting to see this developing.

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