On her way to becoming chancellor, Germany´s Green Party's Annalena Baerbock enjoys strong tailwinds. Election polls for the 2021 federal election remain positive for the Greens, and the public media are blowing the horns, too. The development of the Greens from original pacifism of the founding generation to bellicose neo-conservatism (along the lines of Albright, Bolton, Cheney or Wolfowitz) is cause for concern.
The Greens are mainly targeting the undisputedly blatant human rights violations in China and Russia. However, one hears little from the Greens about human rights violations in Egypt, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or in the Western countries themselves.
The threat of sanctions is a popular reflex of moral indignation. If you search Google for "Baerbock Sanktionen" (Baerbock sanctions), about 76300 results are retrieved in 0.36 seconds. Key statements can be found in Baerbock's interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung:
- On Russia: "Moreover, there are sanctions as tough measures, but they are permanently thwarted because the German government is sticking to the Kremlin's most important prestige project, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. I would have withdrawn political support for Nord Stream 2 long ago."
- On China: "a different approach to authoritarian regimes is a key issue for me in a future German government - for our security and our values. We are currently in a contest of systems: authoritarian forces versus liberal democracies. This is also about China. The New Silk Road project, with its global direct investments in infrastructure or energy networks, is not just about niceties. This is hard-core power politics."
The candidate does not specify the threatened sanctions. But no one should say afterwards that they knew nothing about it. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has already spoken of the "confrontation cries" of the Greens. The drumbeat of the candidate for chancellor suggests that the Green leadership is not sufficiently addressing the following questions:
1) Which sanctions against China or Russia are effective at all? Sanctions ease the pressure of conscience, but their effectiveness is doubted. An earlier study (GC Hufbauer, JJ Schott, KA Elliott, 1990) of sanctions in 115 countries since 1915 - by what is now the Peterson Institute for International Economics - found that economic sanctions were inadequate to implement foreign policy goals. Behavioural changes could only be observed in small target countries and with modest sanction targets. Meanwhile, in addition to trade and investment bans, 'modern' sanctions target financial transactions, business activities and individuals. Therefore, from an analytical perspective, an attribution problem arises in effectiveness studies (Marten Smeets, WTO, 2018). With regard to Iran and Russia, Smeets doubts that sanctions can bring about the change from an economic perspective that is often sought through the punitive measures taken. However, economic sanctions in general cause costs in all countries involved in the sanctions. The country facing the sanctions is likely to establish trade relations with third parties that are not part of the sanctions coalition.
2) How high is the damage of sanctions for Germany? This question has been resolved by a study that has attempted to isolate the effects of the Russian sanctions since 2014. Broken down to individual countries and product categories, it compares the hypothetical development without sanctions with the weaker actual development. The difference is the trade loss due to sanctions and counter-sanctions. The European Union (EU) in turn bears 92 per cent. Germany accounted for the lion's share of the sanctioning countries' damage, with 38 per cent or 667 million US dollars in trade loss per month.
3) Are there perverse effects whereby our sanctions strengthen those in power in China, Russia, etc.? Julia Grauvogel from the GIGA Institute analyses (IPG, 2020) that sanctions against authoritarian regimes like Russia pose a particular challenge. Sanctions may even prove counterproductive there and strengthen authoritarian regimes. Rulers can instrumentalise sanctions for their own purposes if they succeed in presenting the measures as an attack on the entire country. In this way, a chariot mentality can be conjured up against the common external enemy.
"Made in Germany" effects, meanwhile, have already been observed in China and Russia. China is now pursuing chip autonomy as a result of US sanctions, which is hurting the still-leading American chip designers and hitting global supply chains through chip shortages, such as in the automotive industry. Russia has imposed a ban on food imports as a result of US sanctions, stimulating domestic production; at the same time, food security is again a hot topic in import-dependent states.
4) How can a sanctions merry-go-round be stopped before it mutates into a military conflict? Western decision-makers are regularly confronted with the question of whether to maintain previously unsuccessful sanctions (Julia Grauvogel, IPG 2020). Therefore, it is important to think about the possible end of the measures from the beginning. It is easier to impose sanctions than to lift them again. Ending unsuccessful sanctions poses a foreign policy dilemma; it can damage the reputation of the sanctioning states. Clear predefined sanction targets may prevent such a loss of reputation.
The Greens would make their confrontational rhetoric more credible if they first clearly pointed out the human rights violations in Germany and in the Western allies. As long as their attacks remain asymmetrically directed against authoritarian emerging countries, the Greens come across as bellicose neoconservatives in foreign policy terms. They are thus (in my view) a security risk for Germany and Europe.
 Matthieu Crozet, Julian Hinz (2020), “Friendly fire: the trade impact of the Russia sanctions and counter-sanctions”, Economic Policy, Volume 35, Issue 101, January 2020, Pages 97–146.
 The designation of origin "Made in Germany" was introduced in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century as protection against supposedly cheap and inferior imported goods. As is well known, the stigma became a seal of quality.