European Council on Foreign Relations

Germany’s summer of discontent on foreign policy

In a different era, Robert Kagan provoked the transatlantic policy community by using the analogy of Venus and Mars to describe the mental split across the Atlantic on attitudes to conflict. A similar divide appears to exist on dealing with opportunity and risk in foreign policy. Some actors grow stronger when they perceive risk. Others depend on a positive-sum environment to exercise power and seem to be almost paralysed in the face of adverse conditions.

Among the major players in Western foreign policy, Germany is perhaps the one that best fits the latter category of a “sunshine state”. Berlin’s foreign policy machine works best when it can support, encourage, help, or reward. It struggles when it has to employ dissuasion, sanctions, or red lines. Public attitudes in Germany, as well as the country’s foreign policy resources and tools, lend themselves to co-operation, not

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Has Europe walked away from the Israeli-Palestinian project?

This text is part of an article originally published by Carnegie Europe where leading experts answer the question: “Has Europe walked away from the Israeli-Palestinian project?”. Please find a link to the original post here.

Europe has not walked away, it has simply continued to play a rather marginal and unconstructive role.

That role is defined by a combination of internal division, excessive deference to U.S. positions, and, for some, a deliberate distortion of the conflict’s realities driven by political cowardice. The EU foreign ministers’ statement of July 22 was a Christmas tree affair, decorated with an eclectic mix of good, bad, and irrelevant policy positions. But by adopting Israel’s position on disarming Hamas and more, the EU sent a signal that was spun by Israel as an invitation to ramp up its military operation at an appalling cost in Palestinian civilian

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What can the Cold War teach us about applying sanctions to Russia?

After the MH17 plane crash, the West once again has to wrestle with the question of what to do with the defiant regime in the Kremlin. Diplomacy is not at the moment effective, but military options are unthinkable. Only economic sanctions will send a strong signal both to Moscow and to the outraged Western electorate. It is no wonder that the last meeting of European foreign ministers went further than asset freezes and travel bans for Vladimir Putin’s “cronies”. The ministers also considered “sectoral sanctions” that would target individual segments of Russia’s economy. They left open the option of placing an embargo on exports of “dual use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector”.

However, economic sanctions are always controversial – and they are often not as effective as promised. The last time the West applied economic sanctions against the Kremlin was

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Hamas and Israel: why a paradigm shift is needed

Israeli military flare is seen in an area east of Gaza City on July 21, 2014. © ZUMA PRESS INC./ Alamy

Since the beginning of the latest round of confrontations between Hamas and Israel, the debate in both local and international media has understandably focused on the conditions needed to achieve a speedy end to the conflagration and deliver a ceasefire. Yet, while stopping the violence should indeed be a priority, it is just as important to develop policies for the post-ceasefire period that will ensure that the end of hostilities amounts to more than a temporary lull.

Indeed, the relationship between Hamas and Israel since 2007 has followed a repetitive pattern, with periods of relative quiet followed by recurrent short-term military escalations. Likewise, Israel’s overall policy toward Hamas has undergone very little change, focusing as it has on the political isolation of

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Why a Gaza cease-fire could reinforce long-term conflict

Viewed in isolation, Israel's current “Operation Protective Edge” has relatively modest ambitions. It's not envisaged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a game-changer; more like another round of what is known in the Israeli security establishment as “mowing of the lawn” — a periodic degrading of Hamas' military capacity. Netanyahu's other strategic goal is to disrupt the fledgling effort at Palestinian reconciliation between the key rival national organizations, Fatah and Hamas. Even Israel's ground incursion has set the limited goal of destroying tunnels and rocket launching sites.

Hamas, too, does not believe its rocket fire will fundamentally reframe the Israeli-Palestinian equation — indeed, it made clear at the outset that this was a confrontation it preferred to avoid. The movement has been so squeezed by its isolation in Gaza, intensified by the hostility of Egypt

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