This program gives priority to three thematic areas:
- Geopolitical competition and the new global order with a particular focus on how the United States and European Union, as well as Russia and China, are defining international rules and action
- Changing regional orders with a particular focus on the role of Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran in Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, and Africa
- The interplay between domestic and foreign policy in Germany and across the world with a particular focus on how revisionist powers use economic interdependence to shift the foreign policy postures of other states
The rules-based (liberal) international order is coming under increasing pressure. The United States is struggling to act as its leading power and guarantor, and the “West” finds itself in internal crisis. Cooperative multilateral global relations are being replaced by interstate rivalry that is leading to the reorganization of relationships within regions with tendencies toward a multipolar order.
Throughout the world, individual states are finding common cause by positioning themselves against “the West” in general and the supremacy of the United States in particular. Great power rivalry is being driven by China and Russia – but in different ways. Russia is a strategic adversary of the United States and EU that seeks to undermine the rule based international order and revise the European security order. China has become a systemic adversary that wants to redefine the order’s rules and set its own norms and standards globally. While Russia is acting more aggressively in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, China is dominant in East Asia and Africa. Yet regional actors such as Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are also increasingly challenging the multilateral order and using conflicts to strengthen their own power or negotiating position.
All of this poses a huge challenge for Germany and the EU. Because both have hugely benefited from the multilateral order and its institutions, they have a strong stake in ensuring their perpetuation for the potential benefit of all. Both see a rules-based international order characterized by trade liberalization; the internationalization of value chains; multilateral cooperation to deal with cross-border and global problems; and growing freedom for people, ideas, and communication as the ideal framework for development and peace. Therefore, it is not an option for Germany or the EU to stay out of power-political conflicts, especially those in neighboring Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, and North Africa.
Until the 2000s, Western states had assumed that global economic integration would lead to a gradual opening and democratization of authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Authoritarian regimes, however, sensed only hazards that were confirmed by the “color revolutions” in post-Soviet countries and the mass social movements of the Arab Spring. Consequently, states such as China, Russia, or Iran have started to decouple economically and socially from the global economy to make themselves less vulnerable. They are limiting external influence, weakening civil society actors, dismantling independent media, and controlling and instrumentalizing social media. Now, it is the EU and Germany that are feeling vulnerable: Open societies like theirs are increasingly exposed to political interference, economic pressures, and cyberattacks.