The situation in Afghanistan has suddenly dominated the debate in the middle of a sluggish German election campaign. Candidates to succeed Angela Merkel are having to declare their positions. Military intervention is out of the question without US backing. The question then becomes a repeat of the Syrian crisis: will Germany once again open its doors to potentially hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants?
It’s an unequivocal ‘nein’ from the government. ‘There will not be another 2015’ came the strong response from the ruling coalition of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SPD. The Green party, currently in opposition but the second strongest party in most polls, are fudging the issue. With serious ambitions for the chancellorship, they need to outline a clear vision of what a Green government’s foreign policy would be.
The developments in Afghanistan should have provided a welcome opportunity for Annalena Baerbock, the Green chancellor candidate. Foreign policy has been a continuous strand in her life: she participated in the Young Global Leaders programme of the World Economic Forum, and worked a dissertation on humanitarian aid (although didn’t complete it).
Yet the campaign has pushed Baerbock into the background. She acted cautiously during the recent flooding, worried about coming across as opportunistic. Meanwhile, the candidates from the established parties wandered the flooded villages, patted backs and promised government action.
Baerbock’s image was also damaged when a light was shone on irregularities in her CV, forgotten expenses claims and allegations of plagiarism in her recently published book. The Greens have lost nearly 10 percentage points in many polls. There is now even speculation whether the party might put forward her co-leader Robert Habeck as the candidate for the chancellorship.