Germany’s Domestic Impact on Foreign Affairs


International affairs create a state’s image and determine how other countries perceive this specific nation. High-ranking officials’ actions, decisions, and claims are the typical manifestations of the state’s foreign politics. Germany represents a paradox when it comes to international affairs because it was reunified and became a full-fledged nation in 1990 and turned into a European superpower in the early 21st century. It means that it has taken approximately 30 years for the country to achieve successful results in this area. That is why it is exciting to consider how the state has managed to cope with this task, and one should start by defining Germany’s current place in international politics.

As has been mentioned above, Germany’s foreign affairs deserve specific attention. It is so because the state has managed to become a European hegemon without significant prerequisites (Szabo 2017, 38). It refers to the fact that this state does not have nuclear weapons at its disposal (Flemes and Ebert 2017, 254). Simultaneously, Flemes and Ebert (2017, 256) Germany does not have essential military power. Even though the Cold War and its armaments race officially ended in the late 20th century, military abilities are still a weighty international politics argument. Furthermore, this European state has some demographic problems that refer to population shrinkage (Flemes and Ebert 2017, 254). That is why one could suppose that it would be impossible for Germany to obtain relevance in the sphere of foreign affairs. However, this country is the European Union’s leading power since it bears the tremendous responsibility for managing the refugee crisis, Brexit consequences, military conflict settlement, and others. Thus, this paper’s principal aim is to explain how German’s domestic context has helped the nation succeed in international relations.

Investigating Domestic Context

There is no doubt that Germany’s success is the result of multiple factors. It is impossible to believe that a single phenomenon or individual could have led to such consequences. That is why the given paper will utilize a comprehensive approach to identify a cohort of internal issues that shape the country’s dynamic performance in the field of foreign affairs. The following information will comment on the effect of civic society and economic development, political leaders, and institutions.

Civic Society and Resources in International Politics

One should mention that the role of a European hegemon should have a solid base. Civic society and natural resources are suitable options in this situation since they provide a nation with internal strength and motivate people to take action. These two phenomena are described together because they are integral parts of the German population, and it is impossible to imagine a country without these features.

On the one hand, it is necessary to comment on the state’s economic development. According to As (2018, 6), Germany has large deposits of natural resources at its disposal. They include timber, coal, iron ore, natural gas, and others. This information denotes that the nation has suitable possibilities to enhance its internal strength. Simultaneously, As (2018, 8) argues that technological excellence plays a significant role in supporting Germany’s activity on the global stage. It relates to the fact that Germany is a famous producer of automobiles and other machinery worldwide. Thus, Hillebrand (2019, 3) admits that Germany has managed to benefit from these two phenomena since the country is among the top regarding multiple economic indicators, including GPD and GDP per capita. This fact allows Germany to feel confident from within while addressing external issues.

On the other hand, one can suppose that German’s culture and set of minds influence their foreign politics significantly. Firstly, it refers to the fact that the country experienced severe consequences after World War I and World War II. This memory prevents that nation and its policymakers from demonstrating an aggressive and militarized approach regarding some issues. As a result, Germany has created a “cooperative, multilateral, and civilian self-image” (Gaskarth and Oppermann 2019, 6). The researchers also explain that this strategy represents a pacifist tradition that is an integral part of the German civic society in the modern era (Gaskarth and Oppermann 2019, 10). This fact explains why the country acts as a leading peacekeeping force in numerous conflicts throughout the world, including crises in Ukraine, Libya, and others.

Secondly, one should state that stability is a significant phenomenon in German culture, and internal politics proves this claim. Since 1949, the country has had eight heads of government, which is the lowest number compared to the United States and countries in Western Europe (Hillebrand 2019, 4). It is so because these heads typically occupy the office for two terms. In addition to that, Flemes and Ebert (2017, 261) stipulate that federalism and consensus-seeking strengthen this stability. This phenomenon shows that German society is consolidated, which provides its policymakers with solid ground to pursue various objectives in the international context. That is why Germany always advocates for the consolidation and peaceful settlement of any global issues.

Thirdly, German’s foreign affairs demonstrate that this nation assesses common values higher than individual ones. It is a manifestation of a social role model, meaning that it is rational to be subject to some disadvantages even if this scenario will lead to more significant benefits in the long run. A recent situation demonstrates this element of German’s set of mind. It refers to Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s claim that “defending the liberal world order was more important than unfettered trade with Russia” (Aggestam and Hyde-Price 2020, 18). It means that the Germans’ internal beliefs made the political leader insist on pursuing social benefits for the whole world even though this decision implied economic disadvantages for a few nations.

Finally, one should emphasize the role of German consciousness regarding the nation’s foreign affairs. Flemes and Ebert (2017, 256) stipulate that the country welcomes moral and intellectual leadership. It means that the government forces its citizens to follow high standards of behavior, actions, and decisions. It is evident that the government should provide an example in this scenario, and it indeed copes with the task. The idea relates to the fact that Germany is not afraid of taking responsibility for managing the most significant challenges on the international stage. For example, moral and intellectual leadership that is powered from within resulted in the fact that the country welcomed more than one million refugees in 2015 (Steinmeier 2016). Simultaneously, Germany used its economic resources to save the Euro during the Eurozone crisis and bring stability to the region (Hillebrand 2019, 2). Thus, the information above demonstrates that Germany’s international politics is shaped by the German’s civic society based on its economic, political, and technological achievements.

The Effect of Political Leaders

It is not a surprise that political leaders significantly impact every nation’s foreign affairs, and Germany is not an exception. It has been described above that stability is a leading characteristic feature of the German political system, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is a current representation of this stability. In addition to that, it is evident that the Foreign Minister plays a crucial role in shaping the country’s international politics. Now, Heiko Maas has been occupying this position in Germany since 2018. Thus, one can state that these two individuals are responsible for managing foreign affairs. However, this section will more attentively focus on the Chancellor because she is more significant in this context.

It is impossible to overestimate Angela Merkel’s role in shaping the international politics of the state. It is so because this policymaker is responsible for the worsened relationships with the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation. Dieter (2019) explains that this situation results from Merkel’s desire to punish Russian intervention in Ukraine and her unwillingness to support Brexit. These decisions are the manifestations of the German’s set of mind that has been described above. In addition to that, one should mention that Germany’s decision to accept refugees from Syria and Iraq was against the EU’s regulation, and Merkel played a crucial role in that abrogation (Hillebrand 2019, 2). This situation also became possible because of Merkel’s desire to implement high standards of behavior. Thus, it is possible to conclude that Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the critical factors that shape Germany’s international affairs.

The Role of Institutions

In addition to that, one should state that institutions play a significant role when it comes to shaping both Germany’s domestic and international contexts. On the one hand, it is reasonable to mention that numerous formal institutions lead to a better domestic context, increasing Germany’s state capacity. It refers to the fact that the German government provides its citizens with “shared values such as democracy, open markets, and the international rule of law” (Hillebrand 2019, 1). Furthermore, free and democratic election results in the fact that citizens have the power to express their will and influence domestic and foreign politics. These phenomena create a favorable environment for people to live and do business. Consequently, the state’s legitimacy becomes higher because the citizens understand that the government does its best to provide them with suitable living and working conditions.

As has been mentioned above, the international context often relies on a domestic one, and the case with the institutions is not an exception. The suitable environment and increased internal legitimacy of the government lead to the fact that Germany can reckon on a significant impact on the global stage. Flemes and Ebert (2017, 253) support this claim by mentioning that world leaders acknowledge Germany. Furthermore, the country also takes specific steps to strengthen its institutional power worldwide, and multiple establishments are considered suitable options in this case. It refers to the fact that Germany is a member of numerous organizations, including the G7, G20, World Bank, IMF, WTO, and others (Hillebrand 2019, 5-6). There is no doubt that this membership provides Germany with better possibilities to express their opinions regarding some foreign issues and promote their interest on the international stage. Thus, this information has demonstrated that formal institutions result in Germany’s better domestic context, which provides the nation with an opportunity to achieve success in the sphere of foreign affairs.


Germany deserves specific attention when it comes to analyzing its international politics. It is so because this state has managed to become a European hegemon within a limited period of time. There is no doubt that this transformation required essential efforts and resources, and this paper has described some of them. It refers to the fact that Germany’s domestic context has provided the nation with solid ground to succeed internationally.

Firstly, one can characterize Germany as a civic society with high behavioral and moral standards. It means that German citizens tend to do their best to ensure that their decisions, words, and actions are aimed at achieving common benefits. This fact explains why this state plays a leading role in managing the refugee crisis and other issues. Secondly, this country has large natural deposits at its disposal, which leads to active economic development. Consequently, Germany has sufficient material resources to defend its point of view internationally. Thirdly, one should emphasize the impact of political leaders and elections on shaping foreign politics. It refers to the fact that German citizens participate in free and democratic elections to choose their policymakers. This sphere can impress with stability because German heads of the state typically occupy their office for two terms. Finally, other formal institutions also result in a more consolidated domestic context that leads to more active international politics. It relates to democracy, open markets, the rule of law, and others. Thus, this domestic context significantly determines how Germany shapes its foreign affairs.


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Dempsey, Judy. 2018. “Merkel’s Foreign Policy Footprint.” Carnegie Europe. Web.

Dieter, Heribert. 2019. “After Merkel: Germany’s Role in International Affairs.” Australian Institute of International Affairs. Web.

Flemes, Daniel, and Hannes Ebert. 2017. “Bound to Change: German Foreign Policy in the Networked Order.” Rising Powers Quarterly 2 (1): 251-269.

Gaskarth, Jamie, and Kai Oppermann. 2019. “Clashing Traditions: German Foreign Policy in a New Era.” International Studies Perspectives: 1-22.

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Szabo, Stephen F. 2017. “Germany: From Civilian Power to Geo-Economic Shaping Power.” German Politics & Society 35 (3): 38-54.

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