New German Chancellor Faces a Slate of Foreign Policy Crises


Rarely has a German chief come into workplace with so many burning crises.

When Olaf Scholz is sworn in as chancellor in early December, he should take care of a surging pandemic, tensions on the Polish-Belarusian border, a Russian president mobilizing troops close to Ukraine, a extra confrontational China and a much less reliable United States.

“The pressure is huge,” mentioned Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The new government is taking office in a situation that has been heating up on multiple fronts.”

Foreign coverage was barely mentioned within the election marketing campaign however it may effectively find yourself dominating the primary months of the brand new administration. With Germany taking up the presidency of the Group of 7 in January, Mr. Scholz will instantly have the highlight on him on a host of urgent worldwide questions.

Few analysts count on Mr. Scholz to vary course considerably from Ms. Merkel.

To these of Germany’s allies who’re hoping for a extra strong stance on China and Russia and a rise in navy spending that promise of continuity could also be solely partly reassuring.

“Many of our allies are yearning for more robust German leadership but they’re unlikely to get it,” mentioned Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff of the German Marshall Fund.

With so many fires burning on the worldwide stage and a few structural geopolitical shifts underway, circumstances — and his extra hawkish coalition companions — may pressure Mr. Scholz’ hand, Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff mentioned.

In Europe, one of the primary checks Mr. Scholz will face is methods to take care of Poland, which has violated some of the democratic rules underpinning membership within the European Union however can be below strain from neighboring Belarus, a Russian ally.

Mr. Scholz’ Social Democrats are historically dovish on Russia, supporting initiatives just like the controversial Nord Stream 2 fuel pipeline. But if Moscow launches one other offensive in Ukraine, it might be a important check.

On China, the image is extra sophisticated.

As Beijing has turn into extra confrontational and German business extra outspoken about its dependency on the Chinese market, Germany’s China coverage was ripe for evolving from the mercantilist tender contact of the Merkel period, analysts say.

“The German position will get tougher on China for structural reasons,” mentioned Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff. “Mr. Scholz is no hawk. But he is not Merkel either and he will face pressure from the other parties in his government,” he mentioned.

In the United States, Mr. Scholz does have a seeming center-left ally in President Biden.

But nobody is aware of how lengthy that’s going to final.

“We don’t know how dependable the Biden administration is and we don’t know how long it will be in power,” mentioned Ms. Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

As one of Mr. Scholz’ advisers put it: “Biden is America First, just more polite.”

As a consequence, Mr. Scholz will focus a lot of his power on strengthening the European Union, his advisers say. His first overseas go to shall be to President Emmanuel Macron in France, who faces his personal troublesome election marketing campaign subsequent yr.

“We will talk a lot more about European sovereignty. We will sound more French. But in reality it will be hard to turn that into real policy,” Ms. Puglierin mentioned.