Seeing the Green Light

Sophie Schäffer

Sciences Po Paris and King’s College London

Sophie Schäffer is a MA Candidate in International Security at Sciences Po Paris and the Department of War Studies of King’s College London. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin and Sciences Po Lyon, and has worked for the German Ministry of Defense, the German Foreign Office, the German Council on Foreign Relations, and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.
Sophie is a board member of Women in International Security Germany, as well as a founding member of the Forum New Security Policy, a network for young professionals working on security and defense policy affiliated with the German Green party. Her research interests include German and European foreign, security and defense policy and strategy, transatlantic relations, and arms control. She speaks German, English, French, and Spanish.

What to Expect from the German Green Party on Foreign and Security Policy in 2021 and Beyond

Despite not being one of their original core topics, the German Greens are not green at all when it comes to foreign and security policy. Here is what to expect from the party with the second-highest level of support from voters in Germany, where national elections are taking place in September 2021.

The German political party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (The Greens) have developed from a radical, niche party in the early 1980s to a party with aspirations for the chancellorship. Originating in the peace movement, they once demanded the abolishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Today, they stand for NATO and the transatlantic relationship. What happened? Quite simply: The Greens have continuously adapted their policies to a complex and volatile world.

This process began in May 1999 at a special Green Party convention on a potential NATO intervention in Kosovo. “I stand on two principles, never again war, never again Auschwitz, never again genocide, never again fascism. For me, both belong together,” the first Green foreign minister Joschka Fischer addressed his fellow party members. Even though his speech was heavily criticized by the left wing of his party, most delegates voted in support of a NATO intervention in Kosovo – and the first German military deployment after World War II. This became a crucial moment not only for the Greens, but also German security policy, and portrays a mantra of Green foreign and security policy still valid today: The defense of human rights as a last resort through military force, embedded in systems of collective security, based on the principle of the Responsibility to Protect, the German constitution, and international law.

To understand what a Green Party in government would mean for German foreign and security policy and the transatlantic relationship, here are three pressing issues:

Firstly, climate and energy. The Greens call for an international framework to avoid climate and environmental conflicts. They adhere to the Paris Agreement and promote attaining climate neutrality by reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees. Their goal is the transition to 100 percent renewable energies and the exit from coal, oil, and gas industries. Additionally, the Greens are critical of Germany’s current energy policy. Regarding Nord Stream 2, party leader Annalena Baerbock argues that the gas pipeline undermines German and European sovereignty and stands in the way of a common European energy policy. The Greens thus demand not only a construction stop of Nord Stream 2 but also a realignment of Germany’s Russia policy.

Secondly, disarmament and defense spending. Disarmament, arms control, and the non-proliferation of weapons remain essential pillars of Green security policy. They lobby for a ban on arms exports to “dictators, people who despise human rights, and war zones,” as well as for a common restrictive European arms export control. In their eyes, a strict set of rules for disarmament and prohibition of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons is needed, including the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Their claim is a world without nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the Greens view NATO member countries’ goal of spending two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense as pointless. Given the fall in GDP caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, Germany has gotten closer to fulfilling the two percent benchmark faster than expected. Tobias Lindner, spokesperson for defense policy for the Greens’ parliamentary group judges that “it is a figure that says nothing about whether the armed forces are fulfilling their task or not.” The Greens demand more money for development cooperation, civil crisis prevention, humanitarian aid, and international climate protection.

Thirdly, alliances and the global order. For the Greens, the European Union (EU) is the “anchor for multilateralism and democratic sovereignty.” They wish for the EU to become “capable” of global politics through deeper political integration, in addition to strengthened European sovereignty. Moreover, the Greens commit themselves to the EU enlargement process and better cooperation with Eastern neighbors and countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Regarding financial politics, they advocate for a strong Euro as a global currency, a common EU fiscal policy, and common bonds. Once a touchy subject, the Greens nowadays define NATO as “an indispensable component that counteracts renationalization of security policy in the European security architecture as well as in transatlantic relations.” Nevertheless, they criticize the diverging security policies of NATO member countries, in addition to an unclear strategic perspective. Therefore, the Greens call for a strategic reorientation of NATO. Concerning the global order, they view China’s growing assertiveness in projecting strategic power worldwide critically. Party leader Robert Habeck requests the Chinese be excluded from the development of the 5G mobile phone network in Germany, citing European dependency on Chinese technology, and bemoaning the lack of a European answer to China’s superior knowledge in Artificial Intelligence and digitalization.

Who are the Green Members of Parliament (MPs) in foreign and security policy to look out for? Omid Nouripour, spokesperson for foreign affairs, is an outspoken transatlanticist, while Franziska Brantner, spokesperson for European affairs, promotes European sovereignty under Franco-German leadership. Tobias Lindner, spokesperson for defense policy, and Katja Keul, spokesperson for disarmament policy, tackle issues of defense and military policy. Agnieszka Brugger is the Vice-Chair for International Affairs & Human Rights, Margarete Bause the spokesperson for human rights. Responsible for civil crisis prevention and development cooperation are Ottmar von Holtz and Uwe Kekeritz, respectively. Jürgen Trittin and Frithjof Schmidt are both members of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Green icon Claudia Roth works on international cultural policy, Manuel Sarrazin on Eastern Europe. Former party leaders Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Cem Özdemir have published and spoken on the importance of the transatlantic relationship. Rumor has it that the latter is interested in the job of foreign minister, should the Greens become part of the next German government – although Green foreign policy legend Jürgen Trittin recently also expressed his interest in a ministerial post. We will know next September when Messrs. Trittin and Özdemir might go green on each other over the post of the Greens’ second foreign minister of Germany.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.