German Diplomacy

Speak Softly But Carry Big Sanctions

steinmeier-Handelsblatt-Marc-Steffen Unger
Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany needs to forge a foreign policy that avoids military intervention but also dead-end talks.

  • Facts


    • Mr. Steinmeier, 59, has been Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs since 17 December 2013.
    • He studied law and political science and has held various government positions.
    • He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.
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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier supports a new German foreign policy that pursues a course between military intervention and talks without consequences. He views the conflict in Ukraine as a litmus test.

Although Mr. Steinmeier wants to avoid isolating Russia further, he admits that the economic sanctions have had an impact in negotiations.


Handelsblatt: You work is in the mold of Willy Brandt. A portrait of the former chancellor hangs on the wall behind your desk and a sculpture of him to the right. What does Brandt’s policy of “change through rapprochement,” on which he founded his Cold War “Ostpolitik,” or new eastern policy, mean to you?

Mr. Steinmeier: Willy Brandt said in a speech in 1963, during the coldest days of the Cold War, that foreign policy must be the “attempt to find peaceful solutions to problems without having any illusions.” For us, it is clear that seclusion and isolation have yet to solve a serious crisis in the world. By the same token, that doesn’t mean that since the end of the Cold War, we can simply depend on the economy and trade relations and expect everything to fall into place by itself. We must be decisive and united in our reaction when European principles of peace are openly questioned, for instance, through the sanctions imposed by the European Union against Russia.

So conducting trade is better than rattling weapons?

Trade relations make an important contribution. But a look at the crises in the world clearly shows that a globalized economy and closer networking in and of themselves do not guarantee a peaceful world.

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