Germany is looking more and more like the main loser in the geopolitical struggle between Russia and USA
This translation appeared at The Saker, translated by Tatzhit Mikhailovich
The harsh rhetoric of Merkel at the Moscow press conference on May 10th, as well as her very sour face after talking to Putin, may have very real and important reasons. Germany is looking more and more like the main loser in the geopolitical schemes of both Russia and USA. Well, if we don’t count Ukraine, which is the main battlefield.
It’s no secret that Russia’s most important foreign policy objective has long been fostering closer ties with Europe, especially Germany. This is not only about Russia’s traditional goal off “Westernization”, or the fact that President Putin’s previous work in Germany has impacted his strategic views, but also about elementary lessons of history. Russia and Germany ended up on opposing sides in two world wars, and took immense losses, while USA and Britain reaped most of the spoils. So, attempting to break this pattern is only natural. Unfortunately, each of our countries looks out for its own geopolitical interests first and foremost, and those are often opposed to each other. And, like twice before, Germany is about to fall prey to its short-term interests going against its long-term strategic position.
We could talk about Germany not being fully sovereign and all of this happening due to United States influence, but this is only partly true. In the last three decades, Germany has made enormous progress towards restoring its geopolitical standing. It became the leading power in the EU – virtually all other European countries are dependent on German loans and already severely in German debt. The process has gone so far that many talk about the new “EuroReich”, as EU is essentially economically controlled by Germany.
Another cornerstone of the German resurgence was great international relations, with Russia in particular.
But the Ukrainian conflict changed all of that overnight. Traditionally, USA are blamed for orchestrating the February 2014 violent overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government, but that is also only partially true.
Dragging Ukraine kicking and screaming into the European sphere of influence was initially an EU project, just like extending European Union influence to Eastern Europe before that. There was, in fact, an informal sharing of responsibilities, where EU handled the political and economic aspects of takeovers, whereas USA handled the secret services and military aspects, up to direct military action (e.g. in Yugoslavia). And by saying EU, we mean Germany – it’s no accident that all the Maidan leaders were constantly visiting Berlin during the “active phase” of the overthrow. Russia swallowed the aggressive EU expansion in East Europe, albeit with some grumbling. But the attempts of invading over post-Soviet space were instantly met with hostility.
So, we can say that US pretty much used Ukraine to lure EU, and Germany in particular, into a trap which has no easy way out [Russia is caught in the same trap, of course]. But there’s another point that’s even more interesting: officially, USA is currently not involved in the conflict (all the negotiations during and after the takeover were handled by Europeans), it’s not involved in the Minsk “de-escalation”, and can pretty much leave everyone to their own devices anytime they want to, regardless of the situation. They don’t much care whether Putin forces the rebel republics to submit to Kiev, or does a 180 degree turn and occupies the whole country with his troops. In the first scenario, America can claim victory, in the second scenario, they can claim their militaristic paranoia was justified and their worldwide protection racket needs more arms sales. The current “de-escalation through negotiations” is the least favorable scenario for the US, but overall it also suits them because the continued instability and turmoil are negatively affecting European and Russian economies, so investment capital flees to US.
For Europe and specifically Germany, the situation is much worse. Not only are they stuck politically supporting a regime that is, objectively, quite far from European values [of personal freedom, not burning protesters alive, not suspending the declaration of human rights, not glorifying Holocaust perpetrators, or not murdering political opponents in the streets], but they will likely also have to pay the lion’s share of the costs – both supporting this regime and repairing the damage in the future.
There are two more aspects of the problem that negatively affect Germany in particular:
First off, USA are wholeheartedly opposed to Germany reclaiming the debts other EU members owe it, making these debts into liabilities instead of leverage. Any attempts to buy out the insolvent country’s assets are blocked. Even the worst offender, Greece, only smiles in response to talks about selling islands in order to pay off state debts. The longer this goes on, the weaker Germany looks, as a debtor incapable of recovering the money loaned.
Second, Germany is the most affected by Russia’s new pivot to China. Their economic alliance, among other things, directly threatens Germany’s position in the world economy. While Russia was friendly to Germany and the EU, there was an informal agreement that Russia will not help China catch up to Germany in areas crucial to German economy – mostly metallurgy and higher chemistry.
In most other areas, Germany is now directly competing with China and slowly losing its market share, but in areas that involve complicated metallic alloys and special plastics used in industrial manufacture, instruments, and aerospace, Germany’s technological advantage over China was indisputable – which gave the country a relatively large and profitable niche in the world market. But in the case of a full scale alliance between Russia and China, this can change radically. Although Russia’s own metallurgical and chemical industries have gone through decline, it still has the scientific and technological know-how to give a boost to these industries in China, nullifying Germany’s strategic advantages. Today, when German tools serve several times longer than Chinese ones and only cost 2–3 times as much, China cannot compete. Once quality becomes comparable, and China’s prices are still lower by at least 30%, Germany would lose the market, and its geopolitical standing would plummet accordingly.
Some may say that Russia acting this way, breaking our promise to the Germans, would be dishonest and ungentlemanly. But one can not always keep his word in the world where everybody else doesn’t stick to theirs.
In conclusion: Germany has subtly, under threat on all possible fronts. Losing face supporting the morally and financially bankrupt regime they brought to power in Ukraine, losing their debt leverage over other European countries – which could bring about the end of the EuroReich, losing their unique niche in the world market. And this is without mentioning smaller issues, such as losing the Russian market due to the “sanction war”, and other direct consequences of the conflict.
Moreover, it is likely that Germany would have to cope with all of this alone. France is mired in internal problems, although Merkel always tows their president along to pretend that the negotiation process involves all of EU.
USA is in the midst of yet another election cycle, so, as always, the current government needs to either fix all the messes they’ve created, or at least convince the voters that they are not responsible for them. The opposition, on the other hand, needs to blame the ruling party for all of the problems, as well as fix as many of them as possible to show their own competence. This logic would cause the US to try to finish the Ukrainian conflict by whatever means necessary, up to and including handing Kiev over to Russia. If that doesn’t work (Russia has no desire for be responsible for taking care of such a “generous” gift), at least distance themselves from the problem as much as humanly possible.
Overall, BundesKanzlerin Merkel is in a very tight spot.