Thoughts on what a Steinbrück government would mean for U.S.-German relations

I’ve written a short piece today for Deutsche Welle looking at how U.S.-German relations might (slightly) vary if Peer Steinbrück, chancellor candidate for the center-left  Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party), defeats current German chancellor Angela Merkel, of the center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) in elections expected to be held in September 2013.

By and large, the main priority for U.S. policymakers, no matter who wins the Nov. 6 presidential election in the United States, will be that Germany keeps the eurozone from spiraling into crisis.

The key point is that U.S. policymakers should expect continuity, mostly, on the German position vis-a-vis the eurozone and on German economic policy:

Steinbrück, who served as Germany’s finance minister under Merkel in the SPD-CDU grand coalition government from 2005 to 2009, would also mark continuity in German economic policy – in contrast to center-left leaders such as former UK prime minister Gordon Brown and current French president Francois Hollande, Steinbrück derided Keynsian economics in 2008 and, alongside Merkel, refused to consider large amounts of stimulus funding in 2008 and 2009.

Nonetheless, on European policy, as well as on the more narrow focus of German economic policy, Steinbrück would not exactly mark a rupture; that will be especially true if the next German election leads to another grand coalition between the CDU and SPD.

Steinbrück emerged as the SPD candidate last month.

Ultimately, I note, the biggest area for potential disagreement is on foreign policy especially in light of the rift over Iraq between then-U.S. president George W. Bush and then-German chancellor Gerhard Schröder a decade ago:

[N]owhere will the US election matter more than in the area of foreign policy – a Romney administration would be much more likely than the Obama administration to consider military action to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapon capability.  While Merkel’s government has supported the Obama administration’s approach for increasingly tougher economic sanctions on Iran, it seems unlikely that Germany, especially under a SPD chancellor, would have much appetite for military action in Iran.