Angela Merkel had the advantage that during her 16 years at the helm, Germany was spared the economic and political upheaval many of its neighbors experienced, making her brokering EU leadership possible. Her successors may not be so lucky.
French President Emmanuel Macron has banked on Franco-German cooperation, an approach that finally proved successful in 2020. With Angela Merkel leaving the scene, he needs to build bridges to her potential successors, and quickly.
French voters often punish their presidents by refusing them reelection. However, Emmanuel Macron’s brand of relatively unideological third way politics seems to resonate with the electorate. His chances of securing a second term look good.
Debate about what can and should be done in German foreign and security policy will only find real resonance if it can make Germans understand that this is about their immediate and very personal future.
A double crisis involving China and Russia as early as next year is a plausible scenario. However, the German politicians jostling to succeed Angela Merkel have presented no answers. Worse, they are not even acknowledging the need for a long-term strategy.