Blogs

  • Unfit for Fight – or Flight

    Germany’s army admits to massive equipment failure

    by Bettina Vestring, 30/09/2014 | Defence Policy, Germany

    Four years ago, Germany’s defense ministry decided to save money by cutting down on the purchase of spare parts. Now, more than half of the Bundeswehr’s aircraft have had to be grounded. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has admitted publicly that the situation is so bad that Germany would not be able to fulfill its NATO obligations in an emergency. It’s a scandal certain to get bigger.

  • Wearing Out Their Welcome

    The number of refugees seeking shelter in Germany is rising sharply

    by Bettina Vestring, 26/09/2014 | Migration, Germany

    Germany is expecting over 200,000 refugees to apply for political asylum this year. July 2014 saw the highest number of applications in over 20 years – a dramatic increase causing a heavy strain. Right-wing attacks on foreigners and asylum shelters are also on the rise. Chancellor Merkel’s government is under considerable pressure to increase restrictions.

  • The Houses That the Energiewende Builds

    How universities help guide Germany’s low-carbon metamorphosis, part III

    by Paul Hockenos, 24/09/2014 | Resources and Energy, Germany

    So far, multi-disciplinary collaboration has been key to push Germany’s shift to clean energy forward. While stock-taking, improved coordination, and the development of a master plan are now deemed essential, university researchers hope their input will continue – to ensure that the best ideas win out.

  • The End of Deterrence?

    Ukraine is at the mercy of Moscow now, the West is watching helplessly

    by Elizabeth Pond, 23/09/2014 | Conflicts and Strategies, Ukraine

    With two agreements about the future of eastern Ukraine now in place – one official brokered by the OSCE, one still secret between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Putin-aide Vladislav Surkov – the country’s fate seems sealed. Western-anchored near-neighbors “feel vulnerable.”

  • A High-Stakes Process

    Germany is retooling its foreign policy, two steps forward and one step back

    by Derek Scally, 18/09/2014 | German Foreign Policy, Germany

    When Frank-Walter Steinmeier returned to Germany’s foreign office, he hoped 2014 would be a quiet year. Now he has to recalibrate Berlin’s approach to the world amid international turmoil. Its "new" foreign policy is likely to evolve gradually and disappoint some. Listening to what Berlin says, however, is as important as judging it by what one expected to hear.

  • Too Few Immigrant Cops

    Germany’s police and intelligence services urgently need more diversity

    by Bettina Vestring, 15/09/2014 | Security, Germany

    In Germany’s police force of 250,000, immigrants are woefully underrepresented. And the situation is even worse in the intelligence services, says a Berlin NGO. Obviously, the security forces are shooting themselves in the foot.

  • Eulogy for Ukraine

    The country is again borderland playground for mightier neighbors

    by Elizabeth Pond, 10/09/2014 | War/Warfare, Ukraine

    Kiev has lost eastern Ukraine to Russia. The turning point came on August 27, as the first direct invasion of Ukraine by Russian regulars broke the Ukrainian army's siege of pro-Russian rebel strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk. The truce of September 5 echoed Thucydides’ maxim that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

  • Communicating Across Disciplines

    How universities help guide Germany’s low-carbon metamorphosis, part II

    by Paul Hockenos, 09/09/2014 | Climate & Energy Policy, Germany

    Germany’s shift to clean energy – the Energiewende – is an open-ended megaproject with no master plan. It gets much of its direction and input from research conducted at German universities and polytechnic institutes.

  • Filling Merkel’s Vacuum

    Germany’s euroskeptics are nasty – and successful

    by Bettina Vestring, 08/09/2014 | Elections, Germany

    In her 14 years as party chief, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has done much to modernize her Christian Democratic party. Yet she has left a vacuum on the right that Bernd Lucke’s euroskeptic Alternative für Deutschland is now attempting to fill. If successful, AfD could split Germany's conservative camp.

  • Wowi’s Last Bow

    Berlin’s mayor leaves, but the capital’s cocky sense of entitlement endures

    by Derek Scally, 04/09/2014 | Government and Society, Germany

    Under Klaus Wowereit, Berlin grew into its role as federal capital that is once again on the mind map of world leaders – and tourists. But on his watch Berlin’s state debt jumped one third to €64 billion, and boastfulness combined with incompetence and costly mismanagement, both deeply ingrained in the city’s politics, reached new heights.

  • A Face-Saving Invasion

    Sending troops into eastern Ukraine, Putin risks NATO involvement

    by Elizabeth Pond, 28/08/2014 | War/Warfare, Ukraine

    Russia’s “micro invasion” in eastern Ukraine is turning macro: Russian troops seemed to have opened a counter-offensive in southeastern Ukraine in support of beleaguered pro-Russian separatists, leaving German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution in tatters. Another round of sanctions will be inevitable, with Washington likely in the lead.

  • Merkel's Glass House

    Spying among friends unacceptable, unless you're the spy

    by Bettina Vestring, 22/08/2014 | Homeland Security, Germany

    Remember the big stink Germany kicked up over US spying practices? As it turns out, Germany's foreign intelligence service has been busy, too. German media have reported that the BND – supposedly by accident – picked up several telephone calls made by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton. Chancellor Angela Merkel, famously having declared spying unacceptable among friends, is hoist by her own petard.

  • A Radical Rethink, Almost Overnight

    Arming the Kurds, Germany takes another step on its road to foreign policy “normalization”

    by Derek Scally, 21/08/2014 | War/Warfare, Germany

    In a breathtaking break with the past, Berlin has announced it will aid those fighting the “Islamic State” terrorists' advance – not only with vests and goggles, but weapons, too. Citing the great dangers of the situation in northern Iraq, the German government is ready to risk letting the militarist genie out of its post-war pacifist bottle.

  • A Window of Opportunity?

    Efforts to find an end to the ongoing fighting in Ukraine are stepped up

    by Elizabeth Pond, 19/08/2014 | International Policy/Relations, Ukraine

    The first serious negotiations on the Ukraine crisis have finally started, but the outlines of any potential diplomatic resolution to the Ukrainian-Russian confrontation in eastern Ukraine remain murky – like the situation on the ground.

  • Many Small Steps, Not One Big Leap

    How universities help guide Germany’s low-carbon metamorphosis, part I

    by Paul Hockenos, 18/08/2014 | Climate & Energy Policy, Germany

    No master plan, no model, no fixed budget: Germany’s “Energiewende,” the all-encompassing effort to shift Europe’s largest economy to clean energy, is an open-ended experiment. Multifaceted research at universities and polytechnic colleges, however, offers some direction for the mega project.

  • Learning From Stalin?

    Why Vladimir Putin – perhaps – has not invaded eastern Ukraine yet

    by Elizabeth Pond, 13/08/2014 | War/Warfare, Ukraine

    Two theories are presently advanced as to why Russia’s president has so far shied away from openly intervening while Ukraine’s army is pressing pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk harder than ever. And the historical lessons of the Winter War of 1939-40 between the Soviet Union and tiny Finland do not bode well, either.

  • Where Have All the Handguns Gone?

    Merkel's coalition partners fight over who gets German weapons

    by Derek Scally, 08/08/2014 | Arms Trade, Germany

    Germany remains hesitant to send its soldiers into action abroad. But until recently, there has been little pause in the stream of weaponry made in Germany sold around the world. Now two major government figures are in a skirmish over how tightly to control the arms industry.

  • The Guns of August

    Will “wounded tiger” Vladimir Putin now pounce openly on eastern Ukraine?

    by Elizabeth Pond, 06/08/2014 | International Policy/Relations, Ukraine

    After a first military build-up in May, Russia’s president is again amassing troops along Ukraine’s eastern borders. With the revived Ukrainian army getting ready to advance on Donetsk, it seems likely that Putin once more will double down. The tit-for-tat escalation that has already started is especially dangerous as there is no sense of long-term strategy – either in Moscow or in the West.

  • Merkel and the Moles

    This time, the German government is really cross with Washington

    by Bettina Vestring, 29/07/2014 | Transatlantic Relations, Germany

    Last year’s NSA affair was actually a much bigger deal. Thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Germans discovered that the United States was listening in, not only on their Chancellor, but also on millions of ordinary people. But Berlin did not get really angry until the July discovery of two fairly low-ranking moles.

  • The Changing Equation of Escalation

    Kiev, not the Kremlin, is now writing the political narrative of the region

    by Elizabeth Pond, 28/07/2014 | Conflicts and Strategies, Ukraine

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took a huge gamble when he launched Ukraine’s first real counteroffensive against the Moscow-supported separatists. On the main it has paid off.

Latest Eye on Europe

  • Victory for Merkel, and for Europe?

    Europe after the German election

    Angela Merkel's CDU scored a bigger victory in the election than even they anticipated. But their former coalition partner, the Liberals, had such a poor showing that they will not return to parliament. What will the new government in Berlin mean for Europe?

  • Weimar Triangle on Power: Poland

    For Warsaw, power means reaching its potential

    The German, Polish and French view on central questions of European politics and European integration. This week our Weimar Triangle contributors address the question of power in the European Union, which states have it and why?

  • Weimar Triangle on Power: France

    Statistics have never been the source of French power

    The German, Polish and French view on central questions of European politics and European integration. This week our Weimar Triangle contributors address the question of power in the European Union, which states have it and why?

Latest Berlin Observer

  • The Snowden Dilemma

    Merkel caught between Washington and her domestic public

    Angela Merkel would like nothing better than to leave the NSA scandal behind. The German chancellor wants no shadow cast over her upcoming visit to Washington. But Merkel’s domestic public is not playing along. Germans stubbornly persist in considering the NSA’s whistleblower Edward Snowden a hero. This feeds into a strong current of anti-Americanism – with dangerous long-term consequences for the transatlantic relationship.

  • Merkel's Great Choice for Defense

    A portrait of Germany’s new defense minister Ursula von der Leyen

    Von der Leyen is a rare bird in politics: she has convictions and will fight for them. Her appointment to the defense ministry is good news.

  • Stupid Intelligence

    Berlin in an uproar over NSA monitoring of Chancellor Merkel's mobile

    For an intelligence agency, the NSA is remarkably daft. By its counterproductive flaunting of distrust in spying on the presidents and prime ministers of America's closest allies, the National Security Agency now risks undermining Washington's patient building of trust with those allies over decades.

Most Read

Latest blog posts

  • Unfit for Fight – or Flight

    Germany’s army admits to massive equipment failure

    Four years ago, Germany’s defense ministry decided to save money by cutting down on the purchase of spare parts. Now, more than half of the Bundeswehr’s aircraft have had to be grounded. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has admitted publicly that the situation is so bad that Germany would not be able to fulfill its NATO obligations in an emergency. It’s a scandal certain to get bigger.

  • Wearing Out Their Welcome

    The number of refugees seeking shelter in Germany is rising sharply

    Germany is expecting over 200,000 refugees to apply for political asylum this year. July 2014 saw the highest number of applications in over 20 years – a dramatic increase causing a heavy strain. Right-wing attacks on foreigners and asylum shelters are also on the rise. Chancellor Merkel’s government is under considerable pressure to increase restrictions.

  • The Houses That the Energiewende Builds

    How universities help guide Germany’s low-carbon metamorphosis, part III

    So far, multi-disciplinary collaboration has been key to push Germany’s shift to clean energy forward. While stock-taking, improved coordination, and the development of a master plan are now deemed essential, university researchers hope their input will continue – to ensure that the best ideas win out.