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German foreign policy has been made under highly exceptional circumstances since the end of World War II. Now, however, these circumstances have changed dramatically–Germany is a united country, the cold war is over, and a new set of policy challenges is emerging in Europe. A debate has thus emerged in Germany and among its Western allies about the future of German foreign policy. Specifically, the debate focuses on what is termed the “normalization” of German foreign policy: the gradual attenuation of the particular restrictions that have influenced and constrained Germany’s international actions since, and because of, World War II.
Should Germany pursue a more active and assertive foreign policy? Has there, in fact, been a fundamental change in German foreign policy since unification? Is Germany’s international behavior-in terms of both style and substance-becoming more “normal,” that is, more like that of other large Western states? If so, what might explain why the new Germany would act differently in the world from the old? Before answering any of these questions, it is necessary to explore what was considered distinctive about West German foreign policy in the first place.