German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a backlash at home as Germany flexes a more muscular foreign policy, most recently with a controversial decision to arm Kurdish forces in Iraq.
The decision to bolster Kurds fighting the self-declared Islamic State (IS) is opposed by nearly two-thirds of Germans. And while Ms. Merkel has been a master at tapping the public mood, even when that has meant U-turns on issues from energy to the minimum wage, she is now pushing Germany to be more assertive, both because of its growing world clout and because international crises have erupted so close to home.
“Germany is basically being forced to take on a new role in Europe,” says Toby Matthiesen, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. “The European Union cannot have a foreign policy if Germany does not have a foreign policy, or if its foreign policy tries to keep involvement in international affairs as limited as possible.”