A series of crises over the last decade have put pressure on Europe’s fundamental ordering principles: European integration, guarded by the collective defence umbrella of NATO. In response, German policymakers are scrambling to reinterpret Germany’s foreign policy for a new era. To understand this process, the authors utilise an interpretivist approach, analysing German foreign policy discourse through the lens of four traditions of thought informing debates: regionalism, pacifism, realism and hegemonism. The article examines a series of speeches by key German foreign policymakers and explores how these traditions are used to support certain policy ideas and marginalise others. To do so, it deploys a three-part structure looking at German identity, interactions, and notions of responsibility. The article suggests that despite serious challenges, prevailing patterns of belief centred round regionalism and pacifism, supported by a particular, civilian understanding of hegemony persist. Yet, Germany’s allies are challenging this framework and calling for the country to accept more responsibility for regional and global security. As a result, a realist tradition is re-emerging in Germany’s discourse. The taxonomy provided in the article allows a richer understanding of these debates as well as an appreciation of how policymakers mobilise ideas to resist or enable policy change.
- German foreign policy