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Spiegel: Germany v. France: Berlin Flexes Diplomatic Muscles on Syria

Author: Jonathan Laurence
August 23, 2013


"Contrary to appearances, Germany is not simply receding ever deeper into itself. In fact, the Berlin Republic is quietly asserting itself and fleshing out its foreign policy. The unwillingness to act as France's cheerleader in the greater Mediterranean comes with the creeping recovery of self-confidence, and a desire to reposition itself vis-à-vis this historically French sphere of influence."

Raising the ante in the confrontation with the Assad regime and its international supporters, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius this week called for the use of force in Syria. Across the Rhine Valley in Berlin, however, his German equivalent Guido Westerwelle urged caution: "Before speaking of consequences we must first have clarification." French daily newspaper Le Monde ran the outsized headline "Toxic Gas Massacre in Damascus". Most German newspapers that day led with the Bradley Manning verdict.

The 50-year-old Elysée Treaty, the European Union, and the euro join France and Germany at the hip, and their national security interests are fused at every other point above and below by virtue of a shared 451 kilometer (289 mile) border. But they exhibit diverging strategic postures vis-à-vis North Africa and the Middle East. Germany has gone from foot-dragging -- abstaining from the Libya intervention in 2011 and equivocating in Mali in 2012 -- to putting its foot down against French involvement in Syria

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