As Germany has entered its third post-unification decade, questions about where it stands as a foreign policy player and as a leader in Europe abound. German government policies on foreign and security issues seem to be inconsistent and hard to classify. Most observers seem to agree that the foreign policy posture of the country has changed since 1990. Some say it has only changed fairly recently. But into what it has changed to seems to be less clear. Studies and articles trying to assess the country’s courses are numerous. Almost all of them focus on German positions, actions and the motivations of the government’s leading personnel.

Another way, however, of assessing a country as a foreign policy player is to look at its strategic culture, i.e. the long-term “soft” factors shaping foreign policy, defense and strategic decisions. This article will attempt to define, if not “the” strategic culture as such, at least some of the decisive factors shaping this culture as it currently prevails in Germany. It will attempt to provide an additional tool for analysts and political practitioners to better understand the positions and the behaviour of a country with a very special past and a crucial role for the future of Europe.