Pro:Berlin is a reliable partner and has earned a permanent seat By Matthias NassIn a few days the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote on a proposal to expand the Security Council. Germany has teamed up with Brazil, India and Japan to form the "Group of Four" (G4). These nations run for a permanent seat on this most important body of the UN. It is, as Volker Rühe says, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Parliament, "the right moment and the right goal."Reform is overdue and it is in sight. The composition of the Security Council has little to do with the reality of the 21st century. It mirrors the world as it was in 1945. For 60 years the "Permanent Five" have been the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China – the victors of World War II. Whole continents, Africa and Latin America for example, are not represented by permanent members. Prospering Asia is dramatically underrepresented. It has only one seat. In its present form the Security Council is an anachronism.Without representativeness no legitimacy. However, the Security Council is in desperate need of legitimacy since – according to the UN-Charter – it has the last word about war and peace. And increasingly it is creating international law. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks it imposed rules about how to fight terrorism on all member states, especially with regard to the screening of international money transfers. The Council must be expanded, it's legitimacy improved – not to satisfy the ambition of wannabes, but because a global threat assessment dictates it.UN General Secretary Kofi Annan's High Level Working Group on Reform has identified two criteria for the expansion of the Council: all regions of the world should be represented; nations should be included that "make the largest contributions to the United Nations - financially, militarily and diplomatically." Undoubtedly, Germany belongs into this group of nations. It helps to close "the gap between hopes and performance" (Annan). Germany contributes 8.6 percent of the UN budget, surpassed only by Japan (19.4) and the United States (22.0). Four permanent members of the Council pay less: Great Britain (6.1 percent), France (6.0), China (2.0) and Russia (1.1). Germany has always been a reliable contributor.In addition, the Federal Republic has become one of the largest contributors of troops. German soldiers are engaged in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia. They were part of the peace missions to Cambodia, Somalia and the Persian Gulf.More importantly: German diplomacy has largely played a constructive role in the last few years. It fought for the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It argued for intervention in Dafur. Even human rights activists attest to the fact that Berlin has acted credibly and unselfishly.Multilateralism is the axiom of German foreign policy today. Berlin would have abandoned its candidacy immediately had there been the slightest chance for England and France to give up their seats in favor of a European seat. The Schröder Administration has stressed: Germany will give up its permanent seat the minute the European Union is willing and able to speak with one voice on the Security Council.Germany's European partners do not see a collision of interests emanating from the candidacy. It is only Italy whose pride seems to be hurt. Together with Pakistan, Argentina and South Korea, Italy is organizing the opposition in the so-called "coffee club." However, France and Poland, Germany's most important neighbors, support the candidacy. They will even be co-sponsors.None of the candidates, by the way, demands a veto right which is jealously defended by the "Permanent Five." The candidates do not only abstain from this claim because they see no chance for success anyway. A veto is an anachronism in any composition of the Security Council. It has only one justification: to keep the sole superpower on board. America would simply never subject itself to a majority vote (see: Iraq). But without the United States the world body would be paralyzed.Germany has enjoyed the benefits of life in the blind spot for quite some time. After unification, expectations towards Germany have risen. The country cannot just duck down as if the Cold War was continuing. Ever since the world is not longer divided into east and west, the Security Council has gained weight. Today, it is virtually in permanent session as a global crisis center. Those who wish to strengthen the United Nations, those who would like to see it meet the challenges of the 21st century must hope for Germany to become a permanent member of the Security Council - along with Brazil, India, Japan and maybe South Africa and Egypt. Then and only then will the "world" body have arrived in the present.Contra: Less people, less soldiers: We Germans are not a power for the future By Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff If Jeannie, the beautiful genie from the bottle really existed and constantly read her masters lips, Germany would already be a member of the United Nations Security Council. But since foreign policy is more than wishful thinking, some hard questions about the German bid have to be asked: Is an aggressive campaign for a Security Council Seat in the German interest? Is the need urgent enough to justify the costs of the project? Does the German strategy promise success or just disgrace?The best sentence from the German application reads: he who pays the piper calls the tune. Indeed, Germany is the third largest contributor to the UN budget. Taxation and representation are twins. But beyond this argument that draws from the American Revolution and from the grand old school of checkbook diplomacy the German bid falls flat. Yes, it is true that the Security Council represents the power structure of 1945. To fix this problem the world could recruit countries from Asia, Africa or South America for the Security Council. Today, three out of five members are European, namely England, France and (at least partly) Russia. Why another European power should become a permanent member is inexplicable.And why the Federal Republic? Germany cannot claim to be a big power of the future (while India can). Its economy is stagnant. Its share of world trade is falling. Ditto the number of soldiers and the number of citizens. Germany is a shrinking (some say: a declining) country with growing ambitions. Statesmanship would aim to manage this potential conflict wisely. But instead the advocates of a German seat are running foreign policy as if they were racing in a little Opel GT car. They rev the engine and hope that nobody understands their car just doesn't have enough horsepower under the hood.If Germany became a permanent member of the Council, it would have to take a position on virtually every global conflict and bear the responsibilities that flow from its vote. In a lot of cases that would mean: pay and send soldiers. Yet, Germany spends only 1.2 percent of its GDP on the military, as much as Luxemburg. Is the country really ready to allocate more for foreign aid and defense only to sit at the table with the big boys? The Schröder Administration had to win a vote of confidence to be allowed to send soldiers to Afghanistan, a war that was a clear case of self defense and thus legitimate and legal. What will Germany do in murkier cases if the Security Council obliges it to take a position? Is it really willing to give up its "culture of restraint" that its citizens are so proud of?Advocates of the German bid argue that abdication will lead to the "garden gnome option" of German foreign policy: a big Switzerland with no international responsibilities. Yet, there is no automatism. In fact, Germany will have to shoulder more global responsibilities in the future – even without a Security Council seat. Only without permanent membership can Germany pick and choose its engagements depending on its power, means, will and interests. To go without the seat doesn't mean that Germany will enter into age of irresponsibility. It only increases Germany's freedom of action. It's a truism: Germany is not a big power, but a medium sized one.To wage such an ambitious campaign for the seat, the Schröder Administration should be reasonably sure to win in the end. Or else its campaign is nothing but a gamble. And a dramatic loss of global prestige could be the unwelcome consequence. The Chancellor has chosen to schmooze with the Russians and the Chinese to win their support. He also bases his strategy on a coalition of the willing. Four wannabes pretend to combine forces, but multiply the forces of opposition instead. Japan’s major adversary is China. India brings Pakistan as a counterweight. Argentina rejects Brazil. And Germany is openly opposed by Italy. Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands and Spain are said to be sceptics. Other countries do not want to expose themselves, yet hope for a German failure. And that is in Europe alone. Thus, Germany's unilateral move jeopardizes a vital national interest (European unity) in pursuit of a secondary interest (the Security Council seat).Since World War II German Foreign Policy has pushed three large-scale projects: integration into Western Security structures, detente and German unification. All of them were successful not least because the United States supported them. Permanent membership on the Security Council is the fourth project, and it is the first one that is pursued without or even against America. The Schröder Administration contends that the United States has no veto, but only one vote in the General Assembly that gets to decide about Council reform. And America certainly is not too popular in today’s world.Semi-distance, not closeness to the United States guarantees success – or so team Schröder hopes. It seems to be more than a tactical approach to an election. It could easily lead into the next phase of parting ways between Germany and the United States. That would be the gravest of all misreadings of German interests. The Federal Republic became secure and prosperous only in the convoy of western partners. Wise self-restraint has been, until recently, the secret of German Foreign Policy. What is it that has suddenly changed?The price for a German seat on the Security Council is high, indeed very high. If only Jeannie, the genie, could wish it away.