Our TRT TV: Will Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s new Green Foreign Minister, be able/permitted to succeed?

David Foster hosts TRTRoundtable 15.12.21

Here’s our TRT Roundtable on Annelene Baerbock as new German Green Foreign Minister. The questions included, will/can she:

  • Prioritize human rights in China and Russia over German trade?
  • Stand strong vs Putin’s Ukraine-invasion threats?
  • Insist Chancellor Scholz (SPD) kills Nord Stream2?

Can the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, co-chair of the Green Party, possibly make any difference in German foreign policy under the strong hand of the new SPD Chancellor, Olaf Scholz?

I appeared on David Foster’s “TRT World” show, produced in London, to discuss Germany’s first woman foreign minister, whose Green Party is now governing with the Social Democrats (SPD) and liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Ms. Baerbock, the first woman foreign minister in German history, has a steep hurdle to overcome to put any imprint on German foreign policy. For example, the chair of Scholz’ party, said this week that he sees Putin’s 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders as, rather incredibly, a case of “mutual threats,” quite different from Minister Baerbock’s public views before assuming this office.

As Nato, EU and USA relations vis-a-vis Russia and China heat up, Minister Baerbock comes with no previous foreign affairs experience, and SPD Chancellor Scholz is expected to dominate foreign policy, just as Angela Merkel’s office did previously. [See footnote]

I discussed her much-asserted intent to shift to a “values-centered” foreign policy, to criticizing Russian and Chinese human rights violations, which were not emphasized by the “pragmatic” and “interest-based” foreign polity of Angela Merkel.

I also discussed her avowed “post-pacifist” political ideology – e.g., ​in favor of ​speaking more strongly​ than most Greens have traditionally done​ ​in favor of​ NATO security​ (and perhaps expansion?)​ in Eastern and Central Europe​, and​ than either the CDU and especially the SPD generally would, and ​also ​for a “European Army” to enhance EU defense capacities. However, what she exactly means by this is not ​so ​clear, and till now this stance has tended to be a distinction without any great practical difference to the policies of either the former CEU or the new SPD chancellor.

For example, as I pointed out, last week she indeed spoke clearly in opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a threat to Ukrainian security, and further said that it cannot be certified as it now stands, under EU law.. However, while she was in opposition, she consistently demanded the project be abandoned. Now, as foreign minister, she has only thus far stating what is known: that the pipeline is not possible to certify legally and bring into operation as its present ownership structure would violate the anti-monopoly provisions of European law (and, therefore, too German law), known as the “Third Energy Package.”

However, she has said nothing really new here. Gazprom and its Nord Stream 2 AG subsidiary are now increasingly being seen to be on legal thin ice (e.g., I gave a historical overview of this Gazprom difficulty in my 05.12.2021 Kyiv talk video: Plan C: Gazprom’s failures on Nord Stream 2 and in my written explanation accompanying it).

The question is, will she demand of Scholz that the pipeline be abandoned, especially not that Putin is openly threatening to commits new aggression against Ukraine? And, the Americans will demand it is he takes any such step, based on their reading of the “deal” they made with Mrs. Merkel’s government that the pipeline must not be used as an energy weapon and that an invasion of Ukraine would especially require the project being killed.

Should she do so, she has a very steep climb ahead in her governing coalition, especially coming up against the firm support for the project within Scholz’ SPD..

My fellow expert panelists included

NOTA BENE: A really very informative background deep dive on the decline of the German Foreign office under Merkel, who gradually took over all important foreign issues herself, by Politico’s Germany/Austria reporter is: “Who will be Germany’s next foreign minister? Nobody cares. During her 16 years in power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seized full control over international affairs.” BY MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG September 24, 2021. Here is the link.

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