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A Green Foreign Ministry?

On 22 October 1983 hundreds of thousands demonstrated in the Hofgarten in Bonn for peace and disarmament and against the NATO 'double-track' decision
The Greens' roots are in the peace movement, which put hundreds of
thousands of protesters on the streets in 1980s West Germany.
Photo: Bundesbildstelle

It was not clear at the time just how important a debate within the German Green party would become to European politics later. As Paul Hockenos writes, the Greens at the time appeared unlikely to ever be at the helm of German foreign policy:

In the early 1990s, neither within the Social Democrats nor the Greens had there been talk of a Greens-held foreign ministry, should a "red-green" coalition in fact come to power. The Greens' clear priority was the environment ministry. The Social Democrats swore to strategic allies that the anti-NATO environmentalists would not get close to the Auswärtiges Amt. In official trips to Washington, Greens foreign affairs expert Helmut Lippelt calmed U.S. policymakers: "I'd go through Congress or to the State Department and say that it is very, very clear to us that we are just a little pacifist party and that we won't have any influence on foreign policy. We'll never have the foreign or defense ministry portfolios, I'd say."

The issue arises when examining the metamorphosis of the Greens' foreign policies. Fischer's critics argue that he forced the party's hand to disavow its antimilitarist roots in order to prep it for prime time: a nationwide red-green coalition with himself as foreign minister. Fischer's centrality in pushing the Greens toward the mainstream on foreign policy is undisputed. But there is more to the story than ambition run rampant.

During the first half of the 1990s, the Greens as a whole grappled poorly with the epochal geopolitical shifts that were transforming the world around them. The Cold War-era party was out of step with the new realities of the post-Cold War world, which demanded a rethinking of once-fixed assumptions and flexible, creative responses to new problems. Instead, too many Greens clung to their pacifist credo despite the slaughter in Bosnia and they remained adamant that their nemeses of old – NATO, the World Bank, Washington, and industrial capitalism – were still their adversaries, despite the fact that the recently liberated countries of central and eastern Europe were clamoring to join the Atlantic Alliance, as well as to jumpstart freemarket miracles of their own.

Fischer himself had this to say about about the struggle between Realos and Fundis within the Greens:

Despite its grave content, the debate also had absurdist elements to it, especially when it came to bringing reality in line with the illusions of leftist Greens. Our leftists were demanding UN peacekeeping missions with German participation, too. But these units were not to be – nota bene – under the Bundeswehr, but rather with the foreign ministry and the customs agency! What genius had been at work on that one… [Translation from the German by ESI]

[pp. 243-244]

Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic. 2007. [Oxford University Press]

[p. 218]

Die rot-grünen Jahre. Deutsche Außenpolitik – vom Kosovo bis zum 11. September. 2007. [Kiepenheuer & Witsch]

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