Germany was declared the most connected country last year – in total flow of people, goods, finance, and online data. It was an apt and timely honor. Chancellor Angela Merkel also emerged in 2014 as a well-connected global leader, one whose style is to bridge differences rather than bemoan them.
Last year, Ms. Merkel stood up to Russia after its aggression in Ukraine, corralling Europe to impose sanctions. But she has also kept a door open for compromise so as not to isolate Russia. In the war on the Islamic State group, she has sent arms to Iraq’s Kurds yet allowed more Middle Eastern refugees into Germany than any other Western country. And in response to Africa’s Ebola crisis, she sent health teams, medical centers, and an air bridge.
Her style is already well known in Europe, where she set the pace during the euro crisis. She backed giving generous support to indebted countries like Greece but insisted on their making difficult reforms. And she convinced reluctant Germans to go along with the bailouts while promising that past mistakes of the European Union would not be repeated.
Merkel’s understanding of history helps shape her approach. In a speech for last year’s anniversary of World War I, she said Europe stumbled into the conflict through “no readiness to accept compromise.”
Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, sees the world today being driven apart by a global obsession with differences over religion, territory, and ideology. “For anyone who wants to resolve crises needs the opposite of differences: especially in crises, they have to search for common interests and need to know who has what to lose under what circumstances,” he says.
In 2015, Merkel’s style will be tested again. Elections in Greece and Spain will test her insistence on reform for further help. An election in Britain may challenge the EU’s openness to migration. And other world crises will likely require Germany’s approach.
“As the most interconnected country in the world, we are reliant on the existence of a peaceful, rule-based international order and have to work to ensure it is maintained!” Mr. Steinmeier says.