2016.06.20 German Foreign Minister Steinmeier - A Voice of Reason

I rushed out this morning (Sunday, June 19) to buy a copy of the Bild am Sonntag, the German tabloid where, as had already been announced on Saturday, an interview with German Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier would be published that is critical of the current NATO "saber-rattling," as he called it, in eastern Europe, in which Germany is also participating. The fact that the equivalent of the secretary of state was seemingly contradicting his own government's policy is considerably less shocking than it would be coming from, say, John Kerry, because Germany's parliamentary system does allow for differences of opinion even within the (coalition) government. Steinmeier is a Social Democrat (SPD), whereas the chancellor (Merkel) and minister of defense (Von der Leyen) are Christian Democrats (CDU).

Still, it is newsworthy, and Steinmeier's remarks were widely reported both in Germany and abroad (e.g., here , here , here , here ), even by Radio Free Europe and the New York Times -- at least in the online version of the NYT where they reproduced the Reuters and Associated Press newsfeeds. How much got into the print editions I don't know.) I finally found the full text of Steinmeier's remarks, even translated into English, on the official website of the German Foreign Office.

I have yet to find the original text of his remarks in another interview reported today (June 19) by Reuters(also reproduced in the NYT) in which he advocates the (gradual) lifting of sanctions against Russia, but after all, it is Sunday, and this is not really new since the SPD party leader, Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the current German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, has been calling for this since September of last year.

Steinmeier and Gabriel are no radicals, to be sure, and they face opposition even within their own party, but their positions on the sanctions and the NATO "saber-rattling" are reasonable. Unfortunately, even here in Germany, these reasonable positions are not reflected significantly in official policy since the CDU (Merkel's party) has a parliamentary majority.

Nevertheless, it does the democratic cockles of one's heart good to see that even within the German government there are people who do not walk and talk in lockstep and are free to express dissenting opinions. In the United States, by contrast, "dissent" takes the form, most recently, of 51 mid-level armchair (are there any other kind?) warmongers in the State Department petitioning their boss to drop even more bombs in Syria, kill even more people, and create even more refugees for Europe to deal with (the U.S. being unwilling to do so); see here and here.