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Germany's parties on foreign policy and security

Lewis Sanders IV | David Martin
September 24, 2017

With Germany playing a larger international role, foreign policy and global security are major campaign issues. Here's where the major political parties stand on issues ranging from NATO to North Korea.

U.S. Air Force - B-52 und F-16
Image: picture alliance/Newscom/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Erin Babis

Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU)

NATO: The CDU/CSU supports the military alliance as a fundamental part of regional and global security. The CDU takes credit for Germany's accession to NATO in 1955 under former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who led the party at that time.

Transatlantic relations: The CDU/CSU views transatlantic relations positively, describing the US as a "central partner." However, since US President Donald Trump assumed office, the transatlantic relationship has experienced challenges, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Europe could no longer rely on Washington like it did before.

Read more: Angela Merkel: How the German chancellor defeats her opponents

Turkey: The CDU/CSU has never supported full accession to the EU. Given the heightened tensions between Berlin and Ankara in the wake of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's purge against civil servants and detainment of German citizens, Merkel called for all EU accession talks to be scrapped.

North Korea: The CDU/CSU states that sanctions and international pressure will ultimately undermine the North Korean regime, halt its weapons program and ultimately foster long-lasting stability on the Korean peninsula. Sanctions should therefore be stepped up also to target North's oil industry. The party also wants to see a ban on all North Korean guest workers, especially in Europe.

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

NATO: The SPD backs military deployment for peacekeeping missions, crisis prevention and conflict management, most notably under the framework of international order and its institutions, such as NATO and the UN.

Transatlantic relations: The SPD supports the US as an important ally and transatlantic relations favorably. However, the center-left party is wary of developments in the transatlantic relationship that may undermine established norms in Germany, including worker's rights and environmental protection. In the wake of 9/11, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder did not join the US for the Iraq War.

Read more: Who is Martin Schulz, the SPD challenger to Angela Merkel?

Turkey: The Social Democrats have, in principle, always favored Turkey's accession to the EU. Its manifesto initially stated that accession talks should continue, although the party has ruled out membership "in the foreseeable future." However, SPD candidate Martin Schulz has called for membership talks to be scrapped altogether.

North Korea: The SPD's chancellor candidate, Martin Schulz, has refused to make the North Korea crisis a focal point in this year's federal election. The party, however, has ruled out any German military participation in case of war.

Eastern Europe: The SPD's former head, Willy Brandt, famously started the rapprochement with Eastern Europe when he acknowledged German guilt toward the Polish people with a gesture of humility and penance toward the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1970. In the 2017 election campaign former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder caused his party some headache, as he took on another job with Russia's energy giant Rosneft. In a TV interview 2004 Schröder famously called Vladimir Putin a "democrat through and through" - a statement his opponents will not tire of using.

Infographic showing study's findings on populism in Germany

Left Party

NATO: The Left Party is the only German party that calls for the dissolution of NATO. It opposes all Bundeswehr missions abroad. The Left Party often organizes protests against NATO, which it describes as an obsolete remnant of the Cold War.

Transatlantic relations: The Left Party criticizes Germany's relations with the US, instead urging better relations with Russia. It views the US as one of the premier security threats across the globe, slamming its foreign military interventions and pursuit of what it views as unbridled capitalism. 

Read more: Sahra Wagenknecht: the uncompromising face of the Left party

Turkey: On migration, the Left Party opposes any sort of deal with an authoritarian regime, including the Erdogan government. It wants to scrap the EU's current migrant deal under which Turkey receives aid in exchange for reducing the flow of migrants into Europe.

North Korea: The Left Party has condemned Kim Jong Un's actions, but lays blame on the US for the regional crisis. American military bases and missiles have only heightened the risk of warfare in the Pacific region, it says. The Left Party wants Germany and the EU to work toward ensuring that all sides agree to nuclear disarmament.

Conflict Zone - The Debate

Party leaders came under attack from the political mainstream when they sent a letter with flattering birthday wishes to Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro on the occasion of his 85th birthday, praising him for safeguarding the freedom of his people in the face of pressure from the United States.

Green Party

NATO: The Green Party was a pacifist political movement until Green foreign minister Joschka Fischer famously forced his party to a U turn in 1999 when Germany joined NATO forces in former Yugoslavia. The party now supports NATO as a collective defense mechanism. However, since US President Donald Trump assumed office, the Greens have called for an "honest" revision of the alliance's core purpose, saying it is "dangerous" to use the alliance for other objectives, such as counter-terrorism operations.

Transatlantic relations: The Greens question whether the Trump administration shares the same values for international order. The party criticizes the US president's decision to pullout of the Paris climate agreement, its apparent willingness to start trade wars and the administration's rejection of human rights norms on refugees and torture.

Read more: Why the German Green Party is wilting

Turkey: The Greens favor Turkish EU accession in principal, but have expressed concern about Ankara's failure to meet its membership criteria. As a traditionally pacifist party, they have also called on the German government to halt all arms exports to Turkey.

North Korea: The Green Party has no official stance on North Korea in relation to its most recent nuclear tests and heightened tensions in the region. It has, however, promoted nuclear disarmament.

Infographic showing the Green Party's support across multiple election cycles

Free Democratic Party (FDP)

NATO: The FDP fielded German foreign ministers for decades as a junior coalition partner to CDU and SPD. It supports NATO, saying it is "fully committed" to the military alliance. The Free Democrats back the alliance's defensive posturing in the Baltic region as deterrence against Russia. The party believes in increasing Germany's defense spending to reach NATO's 2 percent of the GDP target.

Transatlantic relations: The FDP supports expanding the relationship with the US, most notably in terms of free trade. The Free Democrats believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal could serve as the "rules for globalization."

Read more: The FDP's feisty Christian Lindner: the king of the kingmakers

Turkey: As long as Erdogan continues to preside over Turkey, the EU should end all accession talks, according to the Liberal Party. In principal, EU membership should still be an option for Turkey, depending on the development of its rule of law and its human rights record.

North Korea: While the Free Democrats have taken no official position on North Korea and its nuclear weapons program, the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, a liberal think-tank with close ties to the FDP, has voiced its support of economic sanctions, and also called on China to cut off oil exports to North.

Alternative for Germany (AfD)

NATO: The AfD views NATO negatively in its current form. The party believes NATO purposefully circumvents Russia on an array of security matters in Europe and the Middle East, calling for better relations with Moscow. Some AfD members have questioned Germany's membership in the military alliance.

Brexit and Transatlantic relations: The AfD is the only German party that supports the UK's decision to leave the EU known as "Brexit." The AfD does not support Germany's relations with the US outright. The party rejected free trade agreements negotiated by the EU, such as the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. However, it views US President Donald Trump as a like-minded populist.

Read more: 10 things you need to know about Germany's right-wing AfD

Turkey: The euroskeptic party is against Turkish membership. The AfD also wants to scrap the EU's migrant deal with Turkey and has called on Europe to monitor its own borders.

North Korea: The AfD believes that UN sanctions imposed on the North have so far shown to be effective. However, the Security Council should do all it can to continue stepping up economic pressure on the rogue state, according to the party. It also wants to see the US coordinate its North Korea policy with China and Russia.

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