Germany will have a new government next month after three parties agreed this week to form a coalition, ousting the ruling Christian Democrats, the party of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel. The new government faces an early test of foreign policy, as Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Europe’s eastern borders.
Members of the Social Democratic Party, or SDP, which narrowly won the most votes in the September elections, agreed to lead a coalition alongside the Greens and Liberal Democrats. SDP leader Olaf Scholz, who will be the next German Chancellor, pledged on Wednesday to strengthen existing alliances with Germany in a speech.
“Our friendship with France, our partnership with the United States and our commitment to world peace and prosperity are the pillars on which our foreign policy is based,” Scholz said in Berlin.
This peace appears more and more fragile on the eastern borders of Europe. Russia has deployed around 90,000 troops alongside military materiel near its border with Ukraine and continues to support separatist rebels in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
On Thursday, Merkel warned of tougher sanctions.
“Any further aggression against the sovereignty of Ukraine would come at a high price. It is quite clear,” she told reporters.
Support for Belarus
Russia also supports Belarus, which Europe accuses of being at the origin of a migratory crisis on its border with Poland. So how will the new German government deal with these immediate security challenges?
Scholz has not yet detailed his policy towards Russia. The 177-page coalition agreement reaffirms strong German support for NATO as a basis for European security, noted Liana Fix, program director for international affairs at the Körber-Stiftung analyst group in Berlin.
“Overall there is continuity, but what is interesting is that there is also quite a strong rhetoric when it comes to supporting civil society in Russia, and also quite a strong rhetoric when it comes to supporting civil society in Russia. he acts to counter the autocratic challenge that comes from Russia. And here you certainly see the imprint of the Green Party that entered the coalition, ”Fix told VOA.
The leader of the Greens party Annalena Baerbock will be Germany’s next foreign minister. A first major decision will be to approve the opening of the completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, which critics fear will be used by the Kremlin to blackmail Europe. The United States recently tightened sanctions against Russian companies involved in its construction.
“The Greens, who were initially actually opposed to Nord Stream 2, did not want to use their political capital to impose a stop of Nord Stream 2 in the coalition treaty,” said Fix.
What about personal relationships? Merkel grew up in East Germany under communism and is fluent in Russian. “It gave him privileged access to the Russian president,” Fix told VOA. “Olaf Scholz does not have this training, but he is well aware of the situation, where he has always maintained that ‘strength does not do good’ and that this is one of the bases of his understanding of foreign policy and also policy towards Russia. “
“The world will change”
In his speech on Wednesday after the coalition agreement was concluded, Scholz said Germany must be ready for a new world order.
“The world is going to change,” he said. “It will become multipolar, which means there will be many strong countries and powers around the world who will influence what happens in the future.”
For now, the new government will largely focus on spiking the rate of coronavirus infection at home. In Germany this week, COVID-19-related deaths have surpassed 100,000 since the start of the pandemic, a grim step as the coalition prepares to take the reins of power in December.