Stiftung Wissenchaft und Politik—or the German Institute for International Security Affairs—offers an excellent article discussing Germany’s role on the United Nations Security Council. In it, Elisabeth Schöndorf and Markus Kaim ask two critical questions that’s worth anyone reflecting on: what strategy should a country adopt when it is a UN Security Council Member, and why does it matter?
‘Big’ Picture Items:
Diplomatic Strategy and the U.N. Security Council: Elisabeth Schöndorf and Markus Kaim premise their article (“Peace, Security, and Crisis Management”) on the need for Germany “to determine its priority objectives and to sharpen their strategic focus”—why do they really have to? The authors pick out geographic areas—Africa and Afghanistan—and strengthening U.N.-NATO ties (but isn’t the real issue with NATO itself?). But—really—would it not be better for Germany to focus on thematic issues, backed up by practical national and international steps forward?
For example, Afghanistan will wind down (or up) according to America’s watch, not Germany’s. But, in keeping with Schöndorf & Kaim’s prediction of new crises and (possible) newly failed states, Germany may do well in helping the international community plan contingencies for the failures of States. Such steps could be practical: coordinating international responses for refugees; stepping up the ground-work for quick aid; and having sober discussions on w hat countries can and cannot offer in these situations. This quiet diplomacy could lead to templates for the international community to respond not only to today’s crises, but tomorrow.
Finally, such a thematic approach looks ahead to new problems developing, maximizing Germany’s influence when it comes to the great strategic and military moves ‘big’ powers may make.
Also, Schöndorf & Kaim miss a vital issue plaguing international security: battling the proliferation of WMD while assisting the world’s emerging economies energy needs.
The Importance of today’s U.N. Security Council
“The current council is probably the ‘strongest’ that has ever convened: for the first time, all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and the IBSA countries (India, Brazil and South Africa) and thus important regional powers are members, as are major troop contributors to UN missions, major donor states, and almost all of the members of the G8. In addition, nine of the fifteen members of the Security Council for 2011/2012 are also members of the G20.”
This is a critical observation (even if BRIC should really be BIIC), and may be a golden moment for the United Nations Security Council to shows its ability to follow through on commitments. Whether this is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon or Libya, it’s critical that emerging powers show that multilateral engagement—whatever its flaws—can foster peace, security, and development for all nations.
But this seems to foster Germany taking a thematic approach first; instead of replaying the same great power divides of past U.S.-led interventions in the Middle East.
The Lingering Question: Isn’t Germany Impact Really on Changing Minds on Individual Votes, and Won’t German Diplomatic Relations Have More Effect?
One critical omission for the piece: isn’t the true measure of Germany’s Council influence whether it changes other Member’s votes? And this will probably have more to do with bilateral relations than ‘grand strategy’ calculations. Yet, any country must identify their vital interests, lest it goes to the mat over every Council vote. But again, it seems a thematic approach would help more than country specific: engaging with countries on general topics give more room to identify mutual interests than simply outlining region or country-specific goals. And isn’t this especially the case when in one of these areas—Afghanistan—Germany will clearly be playing second fiddle to America’s strategic adjustments?
As a middle power, Germany has the luxury to not be bogged down in the ‘great power’ debates that so often cripple the Council. Instead, it can map a truly long-term strategy that allows it to be the ‘indispensible facilitator’ when future disputes arise.
And that’s one luxury Germany should not squander.