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Germans as Venutians: The Culture of German Foreign Policy Behavior


  • Author's note: I thank Johnna Malici, Stephen Walker, Mark Schafer, and the editors and reviewers at Foreign Policy Analysis for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this article.


The end of the Cold War eliminated many of the external constraints that had straitjacketed German policy during the Cold War era. At the same time, unification augmented Germany's already substantial power base. In light of these changed geopolitical circumstances, it was only logical for the dominant theory of security studies, namely realism, to expect a reorientation in German foreign policy behavior toward unilateralism and increased levels of power politics. Yet these expectations proved wrong. This article argues that German foreign policy behavior in the post-Cold War era can be ascribed to a foreign policy culture of reticence—a culture of restraint and accommodation that can be traced to well-defined sets of fundamental beliefs of the German decision-making elite. This article systematically examines these beliefs in the post-Cold War era, relates them to foreign policy choices, and concludes with a plea for increased attention to ideational variables.