A Trap for Germany?

17:26 28.01.2015 •
MANY PEOPLE still wonder why Angela Merkel performed her "U-turn over the Atlantic" toward Washington. Indeed, there should be reasons which forced her to abandon the eastern political vector in favor of a center of power which, while retaining appearances, is losing real instruments of global governance.

This looks even stranger in view of what Simon Serfaty, an expert in the relationships between the U.S. and Europe and former director of the CSIS Europe Program, has said: "Never has America sounded less European." Those who explained the U-turn by bugging Merkel's private phone seem naive: on the scales of history this carries no weight. "Nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest," to quote the Bible.

Throughout the last quarter of a century, Germany's special relations with Russia were a fairly large political and economic bonus of sorts which added weight to Germany on the world scale, to say nothing of Europe. I have already written elsewhere that Germany's "Eastern policy" supplies it with strategic depth. This helps Berlin oppose the pressure of rivals and "friends" on both sides of the Atlantic who are watching the rising star of Germany with barely concealed irritation.

We have to find answers to several questions, the main being: What forced Berlin to suddenly freeze its relations with Moscow?

Some people say that Angela Merkel did not want to be left alone amid the unprecedentedly vehement anti-Russian campaign provoked by Anglo-Saxons. This is true - to a certain extent. Germany's weight in the European Union and the fact that it could have relied on those European countries which were unwilling to put pressure on Moscow make this explanation fairly slim. There are two other reasons in which politics and economics are intertwined.

This material is published as part of RIA Novosti's "From the Author" project // www.rian.ru/anthois/20100204/207658418.html

The United States comes second after France as the largest market of German products and services outside the EU. In some years, its trade surplus with the U.S. and UK reached 20 percent; therefore, those who say that in the near-and mid-term perspective it will compensate all German losses in Russia are basically right.

The unprecedented preferences, the result of Germany's trade and economic expansion over a vast areas stretching from the Balkans to Southeast Asia, are ensured by its economic growth and, last but not least, by security guarantees supplied by its Western partners, the U.S. in the first place.

Germany's "Eastern policy" supplies it with strategic depth. This helps Berlin oppose the pressure of rivals and "friends" on both sides of the Atlantic who are watching the rising star of Germany with barely concealed irritation.

According to the 2010 statistics, direct American investments in Germany were $106 billion, while direct German investments in the United States, $213 billion. According to the Russian official figures, by the end of 2013 accumulated German investments in Russia reached $21.3 billion. On the whole, writes Pavel Smirnov of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, "American economic partners may and will invest in American economy at the steadily growing scale. As an object of investments the United States is much bigger than any other country.... The U.S. federal bonds are absolutely reliable, which makes them an indispensable component of national and corporate portfolios.''

Long-term political motivations are much vaguer: Berlin knows that its growing strength will alert or even has alerted its EU partners and the United States. The latter is impressed not so much by Germany's economic growth (its economy, anyway, is smaller than American) but by the fact that its working capital strengthens the EU as an alternative center of political and economic power.

Washington needs Europe as a teammate or a reliable ally not as a rival. To be more exact, Europe can be accepted as a rival the share of which in economy and global governance remained under Washington's control to guarantee continued American domination in the EU economic and military-political sphere.

In this way, on the one hand, Berlin's ambitions cause apprehension in Washington. On the other, the German political class fears, with good reason, that the U.S. might join forces with London (on the strength of their special relations) and the so-called young Europe to cause a lot of headache for Berlin. This is all the more probable since too many EU members are not happy with the German domination on the EU internal market.

It took Germany several decades to become the leader of Europe. It had covered a tortuous road of making peace with France, its enemy of long standing, and with its closest neighbors; there had been "the German economic miracle" and the tragic division and the coveted reunification before it arrived at an absolute leadership in Europe. In the terms of Realpolitik, the U-turn was exchanged for the guarantees of its hard-won domination in Europe.

Simon Serfaty has pointed out: "The balance of military forces appears to favor Russia more than ever before; rarely, too, has the balance of economic influence been as favorable to Germany as it is now."

"Atlantic discipline," the price Germany paid to Washington proved to be fairly high while the Unites States used this "stone" to kill two birds: it has "divorced" Berlin and Moscow (to weaken the latter to the greatest extent possible) while shouldering tactical support of German leadership in Europe at the minimal risk for itself. Indeed, there are London and several absolutely loyal East European and Baltic states to look after Germany.

This is an old story: immediately after World War II, American diplomat George Kennan reasoned that the problem of German nationalism could not be solved "by thrusting Germany farther into the past." An experienced diplomat, he knew German psychology well enough to suggest that Germany needed an ambitious aim of historic dimensions. (This is what Germans and Russians have in common and what might cause a conflict between them.)

The American diplomat further wrote: "While in Berlin during the war, I came up with an unusual idea that because Hitler, however, from false premises and false targets, technically embodied the task of unification of Europe.... I asked myself: why not use this experience after the Allied victory?"

And specified: "It was necessary to thrust both Germany and Europe farther into the future by creating a united federal Europe into which the united Germany could be embedded" - a geopolitical trap of sorts for Germany.

The choice made by Frau Merkel is full of holes, the biggest being the hardly predictable developments in Europe. Irrespective of the angle at which we contemplate the situation in Europe we will see economic collapse, mounting ethnic tension and signs of a crisis gradually unfolding in the EU. Nobody can predict the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis while a threat of an even wider confrontation with Russia can be discerned. Germany as a national state and a leader of Europe is not looking into a bright future - it has wandered into a fog of unpredictability.

Can Russia find its way in this fog? Should we take into account the German "instinct" of expansion and geopolitical initiative? Russia has not yet tapped to the full one of its resources which might offer an alternative to Germany and the other EU members.

On the eve of the meetings of the EU foreign ministers scheduled for January 19, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, initiated a document on a possible abolition of anti-Russian sanctions. Washington torpedoed the initiative yet the document called, for the first time, to a dialogue with the Eurasian Economic Union on customs and transit which might help establish formal relationships.

It remains to be seen whether the Eurasian vector of cooperation between Russia and Germany and Russia and Europe will become attractive enough; much will depend on whether the EAEU project proves successful. Not matter how Utopian is a possibility of closer relationships between the EU and EAEU the statement about possible cooperation has been made. We live at the times when history moves amazingly fast.


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