The opening paragraphs of the foreign policy section in the coalition agreement emphasize Germany’s willingness to assume greater international responsibility and contribute reliably to crisis and conflict resolution in partnership with its allies and partners. [1] The new direction expressed in the coalition agreement and the subsequent statements and actions by the German government comes in response to calls from allies and partners for Germany to assume a greater leadership role and become more engaged in international efforts to address challenges to peace and stability, especially in the unstable regions on Europe’s periphery. [2]

  • Foreign Minister Steinmeier stated in an interview with the weekly Der Spiegel that he wants to change Berlin’s habit of commenting from the sidelines about how the British, French, and Americans are pursuing the wrong course without being prepared to do more itself to address international problems. [3]
  • In one of her first speeches after becoming Defense Minister, von der Leyen highlighted the importance of Germany’s ability to win support from other allies for its positions at NATO, and praised former Defense Minister de Maizière for demonstrating that leadership in NATO does not have to come only from the United States. [4]


Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe. He has worked more than 33 years on this area for the U.S. government, most recently for the U.S. Department of Defense. He can be contacted by email at The views expressed are those of the author alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS).

[1] Deutschlands Zukunft gestalten – Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD, 18. Legislaturperiode, 27 November 2013.

[2] Radoslaw Sikorski, “I fear Germany’s power less than her inactivity,” Financial Times, 28 November 2011; “The reluctant hegemon,” The Economist, 15 June 2013.

[3] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “Ukraine: ‘Alles kann noch scheitern,’ Auswärtiges Amt (reprint of article from Der Spiegel), 23 February 2014.

[4] Ursula von der Leyen, “Rede der Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen zum Abschied von Thomas de Maizière,” (MP3, 12.4MB), BMVg, 9 January 2014.