Germany Isn’t Special – To pull its weight, it needs to start seeing itself as a normal country, subject to the same pressures as all its neighbors.
Polls before this weekend’s elections in states in the former East Germany show the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) comfortably capturing 20 percent or more of the vote. This is just one of the ways in which the country at the center of Europe is confronting a new state of affairs.
Ever since reunification, Germany has built its liberal democracy on a few key pillars—a disavowal of the extreme right, a focus on economic performance, and a steadfast relationship to the United States—to avoid a return to the conflagrations of the past. By following these guidelines, the country has won itself respect around the globe. But it has also persisted in treating itself as a special case, not subject to the pressures affecting its Western peers. That, in turn, has led to resentment among its partners. It is time for Germany to buck its postwar policy traditions and begin to see itself for what it is: a normal power.
A German friend of mine summed it up more succinctly: Die Deutschen wollen immer eine Extrawurst haben. The Germans always want “an extra sausage” = special treatment. Are those days finally over? In the real world, I mean? Stay tuned.