by Chris Becker
A hallmark of NATO, the European Union and US foreign policy in Europe has been about containing the economic and political behemoth of Germany whilst defending the Western half of the continent from external threats. In the post WW2 era this has worked, save for the creation of the Euro which effectively handed fiscal and monetary policy to Berlin in the form of a much cheaper Mark.
For the Germans it also meant a stark reduction in defense spending, with only 1.1% of GDP allocated, compared to Australia’s 2% allocation.
Trumps anti-EU rhetoric, perhaps under coercion from his Russian handlers but more likely a reflection of his administrations nationalist and isolationist policies, has paradoxically elevated Germany to a new power level. At least in terms of diplomatic power, but also reinforcing its economic influence over the continent and abroad.
We saw that recently when the new German Foreign Minister admitted recently on a trip to Japan that “new alliances” must be forged as the US empire wanes, stepping back from its “source of order” into a “destroyer of order”.
From Der Spiegel:
But the guest from Germany brought more with him in his suitcase than just friendly words. In Tokyo, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas presented the Japanese leader with his idea for a new alliance between states. It could fill the geopolitical vacuum created by Trump. In the coming months, a network of globally oriented states is to be created that closely coordinates its foreign, trade and climate policies.
“We need an alliance of the multilateralists,” says Maas — which is to say, an alliance that stands for the global rules and structures of the postwar order that Trump rejects. “It’s better to bend than break” would be the wrong maxim in these times,” Maas argues.
The outlines of the German government’s new anti-Trump strategy are currently being sketched out. The German Foreign Ministry has been doing preliminary work on it for some time now. Maas’s predecessor, Sigmar Gabriel, had already assigned the task of redefining the relationship with the U.S. in the period following the Republican president’s election. In the planning division, papers had to be constantly revised to reflect the U.S. president’s latest tweets.
The German diplomatic corps is rushing to form a new network outside of the US and indeed, the EU, from traditional Western nations and the “new West” here in Asia, in what is looking like a new form of globalism.
What role that Australia may have in this multilateral alliance, predicated on a set of liberal democratic values is unclear. History notwithstanding, it would be a key partner, but given its extremely close ties with the US militarily via ANZUS and the political and economic ties with China, plus the inabilty of both sides of the political spectrum to map out a future for Australia in Asia, it may be another opportunity left at the door.
More on the workaround that Maas envisages, which also sees Germany partner with France – a significant diplmoatic blow to the UK following its Brexit self-immolation.
Maas plans to float the first trial balloon during the General Assembly of the United Nations in late September. Together with India, Brazil and Japan, the German foreign minister is planning a proposal for a reform of the Security Council. Germany will serve on the Security Council for two years starting in 2019. If Berlin is assigned to chair the council, that would be the point at which the new alliance would appear together for the first time. Maas wants to define the new seat as “European,” in “radical alliance” with France.
That won’t be easy, because Paris and Berlin aren’t just pursuing contradictory goals when it comes to trade. French President Emmanuel Macron wants to found an “interventions initiative” in which other non-EU states can also participate. Germany, for its part, supports a European defense union, or Pesco for short, that is focused on the EU.
History is definitely not over in Europe as we steer a 21st globalised century into the echoes of the early 19th globalised century. A rising central power in Europe with the background of rising nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment, plus growing inequality are all refrains that should be worrisome. But the future may turn out to be different, including a possible return to rationalism in America.
All this just because of some “bad deals” and a misunderstanding of the US role in the world order by an administration that would rather bluster and put its foot down instead of leading the free world.