Twenty years ago, Kissinger called Germany a political dwarf, albeit an economic giant. Just days ago, yesterday and today’s leaders, Kohl and Merkel, celebrated a successful passing of a generational torch. They and their country together shed some of the shadows of history.
Germany had been Europe’s economic powerhouse for a long time when the two halves reunited. But it was still in some ways often muted, not to say timid, about acting internationally.
Increasingly among European Union friends it began to unwind and speak out more.
Analyst Mario Telò at the Free University of Brussels said: “Germany has learned from its long history, distant and recent, that it can play an international role essentially through the EU. It is only by giving up some of its sovereignty that Germany has acquired international weight. It is a multilateral solution.”
Germany got more engaged militarily after 1990. Although it is constitutionally bound to defensive action only, that scope was expanded. A Federal Court ruling let the Bundeswehr take part in operations outside of the borders of NATO members and mandated by the UN.
Since then, scores of German troops have been killed while on deployments abroad. Anti-war protests were also over German forces’ involvement in civilian deaths in theatres such as Afghanistan.
Berlin did not only step into the international arena with boots and guns. After long abstaining from high profile political exposure in the Middle East, Germany has increasingly added its diplomatic voice to support international peace calls.
Merkel has carried the momentum into industrial cooperation with countries in the region, notably in renewable energy and modern technologies.