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Zeitenwende, Europe and Germany’s Culture of Restraint


Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, German foreign and security policy has been under intense pressure to adapt to a much more threatening geopolitical setting. Notwithstanding the leadership’s decision to embrace change, the crisis has exposed some persistence in Germany’s antecedent ‘civilian power’ paradigm, or culture of restraint. A culturalist analytical approach finds that durable historical and ideational factors in identity formation, the embeddedness of foreign policy in domestic institutions and the close association of European integration with the core tenets of Germany’s identity constrain its capacity to act decisively and without equivocation, even under dramatically changed circumstances summarised in the concept of Zeitenwende.
Keywords: German foreign policy; German security policy; European Union; strategic culture