Charles S. Maier, the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, is the author, most recently, of Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging Since 1500. (November 2017)
The recent setback to coalition talks in Berlin has heralded Germany’s most intractable political crisis in modern times. The deadlock created after the Free Democratic Party quit talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc and the Greens has left only what the major protagonists have previously ruled out as unacceptable alternatives: for the chancellor to try governing with a parliamentary minority, and for the Social Democrats to agree to enter a “Grand Coalition” once again; or for Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to call new elections. Germany owes its difficulty to the results of September’s election for the Bundestag, in which a party of the nationalist far right won seats for the first time in decades.