Germany has lost trust among its partners. This is the result of a recent study by the German Marshall Fund think tank, in which people in 14 countries were interviewed.
The Federal Republic is therefore seen as less reliable than a year ago. "We explain this with Germany's hesitant attitude in the Ukraine conflict," says study author Gesine Weber.
This development is particularly evident in Poland. When asked whether the Federal Republic is a reliable partner for their own country, only a good half of those surveyed answered yes. Compared to last year, this is a decrease of 15 percentage points.
"Poland, as a frontline country, i.e. with a border with Ukraine, sees its territorial integrity threatened by Russia," says Weber. "And the people there are wondering to what extent they can rely on Germany in the current situation." Above all, the long hold on to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the wait and see position on arms deliveries have damaged trust.
In the USA, too, 59 percent fewer people consider Germany to be reliable than last year, a drop of nine percentage points. The loss of confidence in Germany among the Spaniards is just as great. Of all the populations surveyed, people in Turkey rated Germany as the least reliable: 43 percent and thus eleven points less than a year ago.
Basically, Germany's reputation with its partners is at a high level. With 70 percent of all respondents who see it as reliable, Germany is in second place behind Sweden. But the loss of trust, especially among some of his closest partners, is significant.
What is interesting is that on paper Germany does a lot to support Ukraine. If you take military, humanitarian and financial aid together, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Berlin ranks fourth behind the USA, the EU institutions and Great Britain (as of the beginning of August). But the damage has been done, according to security expert Weber. In order to improve the reputation again, the federal government must communicate better.
Weber refers to the keynote speech by Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht in mid-September at an event organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). Lambrecht named military security as a central task and called for an increase in German armaments spending. Germany's weight makes it - also militarily - a leading power, according to the SPD politician. "She set the bar very high," says Weber. “Germany will have to be measured against that.”
In addition to Germany, France has also lost confidence. In Poland, 56 percent of respondents saw Paris as a reliable partner, 11 percentage points fewer than last year. According to Weber, this is also due to the French President's contact with Russia's head of state. "It was an unacceptable decision for Poland that Emmanuel Macron continued the dialogue with Vladimir Putin," she says.
The winners on the confidence scale also include countries that positioned themselves early and clearly in the Ukraine war: above all Poland and the USA, even if their absolute values are lower than Germany's, for example. In Germany, 44 percent of people consider Poland to be reliable (up 12 percentage points), for almost two-thirds America is a reliable partner (up 14 percentage points). The reputation of Great Britain has also increased in Germany: by eleven percentage points. A development that is not based on reciprocity.
Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine was a wake-up call, in many ways. When looking at potential future crises, the picture is less clear. The study also asked about the view of China. It is true that the Chinese influence on world politics is seen as harmful, especially in Germany: almost two thirds of those surveyed answered "generally negative" or "very negative".
Nevertheless, the People's Republic is hardly perceived as a threat. When asked about the greatest security policy challenge of the coming years, only two percent of respondents in Germany named the People's Republic as the answer; the average of respondents in all countries is three percent. In the event of an invasion of Taiwan, three percent of Germans are in favor of supplying weapons.
Even in the US, only eight percent support this – although the government in Washington considers the defense of Taiwan to be a national security interest. "That hasn't really caught on in the minds of the populations on either side of the Atlantic," says Weber. "We see a clear drifting apart of political discourse and public opinion."
The market research company Kantar Public was responsible for conducting the "Transatlantic Trends" survey. In late June and early July, people in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the US were interviewed. The margin of error for each country is 2.5 percentage points with 95 percent confidence.