Hvilket Tyskland etter forbundsdagsvalget?

Franck Orban (AreaS) og Kai Hanno Schwind etter seminaret ved Høgskolen i Østfold. En franskmann og en tysker foran bildet av kansler Merkel og president Macron..

Kansler Angela Merkel takker for seg etter 16 år ved makten. Hvilket Tyskland etterlater hun seg og hvilket land får vi etter forbundsdagsvalget som ble holdt 26. september 2021? Forskergruppen ved HiØ AreaS tok imot Kai Hanno Schwind 27. oktober 2021 med stor glede for å diskutere veien videre for Europas og EUs  sentralmakt. Kai er førsteamanuensis ved Høyskolen Kristiania.

Kai leder Kristianias forskergruppe kunstfag og er bl.a. medprogramleder for podkasten “Tyskerne.”

Videoopptaket fra seminaret kan hentes her.

Is America Back?

It has been a couple of hard weeks for President Joe Biden. Even before the astonishing collapse of the American supported government in Afghanistan, his approval rating among American voters had slipped below 50% for the first time since he became President in January. This marked the end of the “honeymoon” period of his administration – a period in which Americans traditionally give a new president their support to see what he or she can do. The swift victory of the Taliban and the chaos that followed brought this period to a brutal end. In the first months of his presidency Biden had famously proclaimed to the world that “America is back!” on the world stage. But America’s swift and chaotic retreat from Kabul have led some commentators to ask if America hasn’t rather “Turned its back” on the world, rather than returned to it.

This article will concentrate on three of the great challenges Biden faced when he took office in January – taming the COVID epidemic, getting America’s economy up and running, and re-establishing America’s leading role in the world community. It will then briefly look to the future.

Taming COVID

When Joe Biden came to power his first priority was to get COVID under control. He promised to get 100 million American vaccinated in his first 100 days in office. He met that goal in only 58 days and went on to vaccinate 200 million before that same deadline Then he set goal of getting 70% of all American’s vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine by the 4th of July, America’s national holiday.

And that proved to be too much.

The campaign faltered and stalled because of widespread skepticism of vaccination among Americans. In part, this was because of misinformation spread through the social media. But it also mirrored the deep-seated political division in the US between the Republicans and the Democrats. COVID had become “politicized” during the Trump years. At heart lay an inbuilt skepticism of “experts” and “science” among many Republicans (See graph below). This skepticism was reflected on the ground. Where the Republicans were strongest – in the South and West of the country – numbers of vaccinated were lowest. In the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast where Democrats were strongest, numbers were highest.

Source : https://news.gallup.com/poll/352397/democratic-republican-confidence-science-diverges.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=syndication

Eventually Biden did reach his goal of getting 70% of the population vaccinated in early August. Meanwhile, however, the new Delta variant of COVID had begun to spread quickly through the unvaccinated population of the South and West, causing a surge in infections and deaths. Although the vaccination program has picked up speed again, the difference in numbers between Republicans and Democrats and between different regions of the country continues, undermining the containment of COVID nationally. (1)

Getting America Back on Track

Like countries all over the world, COVID dealt a devastating blow to the American economy in 2020. Although the Trump administration passed several large relief bills, it was too little, too late in the view of many Democrats. They wanted major government spending like that found during the New Deal. That is why Biden’s campaign slogan had been “Build Back Better!” He wanted to spend up to $2 trillion rebuilding much of America’s crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, ports and railways.

That would be an enormous stimulus for the economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. But he needed the cooperation of the Republicans to get the money. The election of 2020 had split the Senate 50/50 between the two parties, giving the Democrats the slimmest possible majority, using Vice President Kamala Harris’ one vote in case of a deadlock. For the infrastructure bill to pass the Senate Biden needed at least a 2/3s majority (in practice 67 of 100 votes). That meant gaining the support of 17 Republican Senators. In the poisonous and divided atmosphere of Washington, it did not seem likely that Biden would have much luck.

But Biden had spent decades as a Senator himself and knew the system well. Much to the surprise of his critics, he announced in June he had gotten the support of the necessary 17 Republican Senators for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. In part, this was because the program was very popular among Americans in general and the Republicans did not want to be left behind. But it was also a testament to the persuasive power of Biden. He had promised to try to bring Republicans and Democrats together to find “bipartisan” solutions to Americans problems and this seemed to be a successful example of just that.

But Biden is not out of the woods yet. As this is written, the Senate’s infrastructure bill has been sent on to House of Representatives where it will undoubtedly be changed before it is sent back to the Senate to be passed once more (both the House and the Senate must agree on major bills before they are sent on to the President to be signed into law. This leaves room for lots more pushing and shoving.

It has been said that politics is “the art of the possible.” (2)  It still remains to be seen what is possible for Biden in today’s divided Washington.

The Forever War

Within his first months in power, Biden reversed many of the foreign policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump. He stopped the US from pulling out of the World Health Organization. He rejoined the Paris climate change agreement. He reestablished close relation with his NATO allies. He rallied the forces of democracy around the world to stand up to the growing power of autocratic governments, particularly in Russia and China. This is what he meant with “America is back!”

But there was one Trump policy that he did not reverse – ending America’s war in Afghanistan. Trump had made an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw US troops by May 1, 2021. Biden decided to honor that agreement, changing the deadline to the symbolic date of September 11, 2021. That date would mark the end of 20 years of continuous warfare – the longest war in American history, the “The Forever War.” Despite two decades of effort, $2 trillion dollars and more than 2500 American casualties (not to speak of the more than 100.000 Afghan casualties), it had proved impossible to crush the Taliban or create a strong pro-Western government in Kabul. The American public had grown tired of this never-ending effort. 70% favored getting out of Afghanistan. (3) That was why they had supported Trump’s agreement and that is why Biden decided to honor it.

Defeat and debacle  

But having an agreement and actually putting it into practice proved to be two very different things. Instead of an orderly withdrawal, when NATO troops started to leave in August the Taliban quickly overran the country. This created chaos. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians who had worked with America and its NATO allies rushed to get out. Pictures of desperate Afghanis storming the airport in Kabul and clinging to American airplanes as they took off flashed around the world. The defeat of America and its allies in Afghanistan was swift, humiliating and complete. It sent shock waves around the world.

For many Europeans, it confirmed what former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundland had said years before – they could “no longer take for granted that they can trust the U.S., even on basic things.” (4)  German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked that, “This is a particularly bitter development. Bitter, dramatic and terrible.” (5) Within the EU, there were renewed calls for a separate military force to make it less dependent on America in the future. Meanwhile, as one American commentator put it, “China and Russia are having a field day saying: This is your partner?” This was not the image of America Biden had been hoping for with the words, “America is back.” (6)

The impact was serious at home, as well.  Fully 69% felt Biden had failed to handle the  withdrawal successfully. The Republicans were particularly critical, with 82% saying they strongly disapproved of him. (7)  Biden’s general approval rating among Americans fell from just under 50% in early August to only 43% by early September. His disapproval rate rose to 51%. (8)

Looking ahead

As noted, it is not unusual for a president to lose support after the first “honeymoon” period. But the drop in support for Biden over the past weeks has been severe. It remains to be seen if this will have long-term effects. That will depend on a number of factors.

Will the COVID cases go on increasing? If so, what measures will he have to take to handle the situation and how popular (or unpopular) will they be?

Will Democrats and Republicans in the Senate continue to support his infrastructure bill (much less his more expensive plans)? One Democratic Senator has already hinted that he will not vote for anything that costly. (9)

Most importantly, what will happen in Afghanistan? If the country reverts to the brutal and repressive dictatorship the Taliban imposed in the 1990s, Afghanistan may haunt Biden for the rest of his four years in office. The worst case would be if the country again became a breeding ground for terrorist attacks worldwide. Both Biden’s and America’s international reputation hang in the balance.

At home, it is now a little over one year before the next “mid-term” election is held. All of the seats in the House of Representatives and one third of the seats Senate will be up for grabs (see Access to English: Social Studies, Congress – legislative powers, pp. 186-187). If the Democrats lose a majority in either chamber, it will give the Republicans the power to block most of Biden’s plans for the following two years, greatly weakening his presidency.

Therefore, Biden needs to quickly repair the damage to himself and the Democratic Party caused by Afghanistan. He has come out swinging, strongly defending his decision to withdraw from the war in a speech on August 31;

“I was not going to extend this forever war,..I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan…I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.” (10)

The American people will have one year to make up their minds if they agree with him. Meanwhile the rest of the world will watch developments in Afghanistan anxiously.


  1. “The US has reached Biden’s July 4 goal to vaccinate 70% of adults — about a month late,” August 2, 2021

2.  “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” – Otto von Bismarck


3. “US Public Supports Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” August 9, 2021


4.  “America is Back – but for How Long?” June 14, 2021


5/6. “Biden promised allies ‘America is back.’ Chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal is making them fear it’s still ‘America First.’” August 19, 2021


7. “Majority of U.S. public favors Afghanistan troop withdrawal; Biden criticized for his handling of situation,” August 31, 2021


8. “This poll number will send Democrats into a panic,” September 2, 2021


9.  “Joe Manchin voted to advance the $3.5 trillion budget bill — now he says Democrats should press pause,” September 2, 2021


10. “Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan,” August 31, 2021


This article is written by AreaS member Robert Lewis Mikkelsen and was published by Cappelen Damm Updates in September 2021.

AreaS-seminar: Hvilket Tyskland etter forbundsdagsvalget?

Kansler Angela Merkel takker for seg etter 16 år ved makten. Hvilket Tyskland etterlater hun seg og hvilket land får vi etter forbundsdagsvalget som ble holdt 26. september 2021? Forskergruppen ved HiØ AreaS tar imot Kai Hanno Schwind for å diskutere veien videre for Europas og EUs  sentralmakt. Kai er førsteamanuensis ved Høyskolen Kristiania.

Han leder Kristianias forskergruppe kunstfag og er bl.a. medprogramleder for podkasten “Tyskerne.”

Sted: HiØs bibliotek ved Remmen
Tid: 27. oktober 2021, kl. 11.30-12.30

Ubåtskandalen: et australsk Trafalgar?

skrotet 15. september brått en avtale fra 2016 inngått med Frankrike om å kjøpe 12 dieseldrevne ubåter av Attack-klassen mellom 2030 og 2040. Den ble avløst av en ny avtale inngått med USA og Storbritannia om leveransen av 12 atomdrevne ubåter. Avtalebruddet går langt utover et giganttap for franske Naval Group. Det kompliserer en langsiktig strategi om å styrke Frankrikes rolle i Det indopasifiske området – et uttrykk som ble brukt for første gang i 2007 av den japanske statsministeren Shinzo Abe -, som strekker seg fra Afrikas østkyst til øynasjonene i Stillehavet.

To dimensjoner kan trekkes fram i ubåtskandalen. Den ene handler om hvordan bruddet skjedde og om hvilke reaksjoner som kom fra Paris. Den andre handler om hvilket handlingsrom franskmennene sitter igjen med etter dette.

For franskmenn er avtalebruddet et surt eple å bite i. Franske medier beskrev hendelsen som en ydmykelse og et «australsk Trafalgar», og trakk også paralleller til Fashoda-krisen i Sør-Sudan i 1898. Franske myndigheter fikk beskjed om avtalebruddet kort tid før nyheten ble kunngjort 15. september av Joe Biden, Scott Morrison og Boris Johnson. De involverte partene holdt kortene tett til brystet i måneder.

Kritikken mot president Macron og Castex-regjeringen går ut på at man har vært naiv overfor det som stod på spill. I september 1958 sendte de Gaulle – som nettopp hadde kommet tilbake til makten – et memorandum til Eisenhower og Macmillan, der han krevde en reform av NATO og foreslo et triumvirat hvor briter, amerikanere og franskmenn ville fordele seg imellom ansvaret for forsvaret at den frie verden. Forslaget møtte da en kald skulder, noe som førte til at Frankrike trakk seg gradvis ut av NATOs integrerte strukturer.

Når britene, australierne og amerikanerne nå danner AUKUS, samtidig som Frankrike forsøkes vraket fra et område med strategisk betydning, puster det nytt liv i oppfatningen om at «angelsakserne» slår til igjen. Det skjer til tross for tiår med aktive bidrag til NATO-operasjoner og andre eksterne operasjoner sammen med amerikanerne og britene, og franskmennenes gjeninntreden i NATOs militære struktur i april 2009.

Frankrike kalte straks hjem sine ambassadører i Canberra og Washington (men ikke London). En sint utenriksminister Le Drian anklagde Australia for bevisst å ha ført Frankrike bak lyset og kalte USAs oppførsel «en dolk i ryggen» fra en alliert. I et Frankrike som i 2019 kritiserte NATO for manglende strategisk dialog – ref. Macrons berømte tirade om at NATO var «hjernedød» –, kan NATO- og USA-skepsisen reaktiveres på kort varsel. Flere opposisjonsledere gikk ut for å si at Frankrike bør trekke seg ut av en allianse som har blitt mer irrelevant.

At det radikale venstre og det radikale høyre går inn for dette vil ikke overraske noen (Jean-Luc Mélenchon for LFI, Fabien Roussel for PCF, Jordan Bardella for RN). Antiamerikanismen er en viktig markør av deres identitet. Men at en presidentkandidat og mulig president i 2022 som Xavier Bertrand også er villig til å revurdere Frankrikes forhold til NATO sier en del om irritasjonsnivået i Paris. Slike reaksjoner vekker en gammel frustrasjon over systematisk å bli holdt utenfor det gode engelsktalende selskapet når det virkelig gjelder, og en reell frykt for at Frankrike har blitt en annenrangsnasjon i det globale hierarkiet.

Ingen oppførte seg irrasjonelt i denne saken. Det er logisk at Australia skifter ut en fjern alliert mot USAs nærhet og militære paraply for å sikre sine nærområder. Man kunne bare ha gjort det på en mer elegant måte. En følge av dette valget kan være et økt spenningsnivå med Kina, noe Australias tidligere statsminister Kevin Ruud påpekte i Le Monde.

Sett fra et amerikansk perspektiv er det ikke ulogisk at Australia inngår i en USA-ledet regional containment av Kinas ekspansjon ved siden av andre land som India, Vietnam, Japan og Sør-Korea. Det er heller ikke så overraskende at franskmenn vil spille en rolle i et verdenshjørne hvor de har strategiske interesser i form av landterritorier (Réunion, Mayotte, fransk Polynesia, Wallis og Futuna, Ny-Caledonia, samt franske sørterritorier), eksklusive økonomiske soner som tilsvarer 9 millioner km2 og 1,5 million franske statsborgere.

Derfor har det indopasifiske området fått stadig mer betydning for franskmenn de siste årene. Det ble gjort til en nasjonal prioritet av president Macron i mai 2018. Australia var i den forstand et viktig ledd i den nye satsingen og en avgjørende regional partner i forsøket på å få en bedre sikring av franske interesser og på å motarbeide et bipolært system dominert av USA og Kina. Nå må andre opsjoner vurderes.

Australia-krisen er nå avblåst etter en telefonsamtale mellom Biden og Macron. Amerikanerne ba pent om unnskyldning, lovet at noe slikt ikke skulle gjentas og gikk med på flere bilaterale konsultasjoner med franskmenn i forkant av viktige beslutninger. Det koster lite. Det gjør også erkjennelsen om at et mer bærekraftig EU-forsvar kan styrke NATO og det transatlantiske samarbeidet så lenge spørsmålet om europeernes strategiske autonomi forblir tabubelagt i Europa.

Å lege sår med australierne vil også ta tid, men er nødvendig i lys av felles interesser. For franskmenn representerer ubåtsaken uansett en realitetsorientering som neppe demper mistanken om at de anses som «juniorpartner». De står foran flere valgmuligheter. En av dem er fortsatt å prioritere en nasjonal strategi i det indopasifiske området med enda større vekt på støttespillere som India. De kan også «europeisere» sin indopasifiske agenda i større grad enn tidligere – slik de prøver å gjøre med terrorbekjempelsen i Mali-regionen –, for å redusere kostnadsnivået og øke gjennomslagskraften.

Da må flere EU-land være med. Begge alternativene er krevende – men ikke umulige – veier å gå.

Denne analysen er skrevet av Franck Orban og ble ble publisert på websiden til Den norske Atlanterhavskomité (DNAK) 29. september 2021 og på websiden til Transit Magasin 1. oktober 2021.