Yesterday I blogged about my long-held suspicion that there has been a quiet war going on between the USA and Germany since ca. 1988, or, if one wants to pin that watershed moment more precisely, since the German reunification.
I've pointed out, for some time, that German and American interests are really on a collision course: Germany's economy is export driven, and turning to the vast markets of Asia and the Pacific, while German industry requires the energy and natural resources of Russia. Meanwhile, America's empire is over-extended, its military technology is being challenged by China and Russia, and both of those nations are thermonuclear powers and field substantial conventional militaries of their own. America is pivoting to the Pacific, at the same time that Germany is (and, as we have noted elsewhere, Britain).
The "quiet war" hypothesis certainly gains corroboration from Mr. Trump's remarks to Frau Merkel during her recent visit to the USA, when Mr. Trump famously presented her a "bill" for military services rendered, and for Germany to do more for its own defense. Frau Merkel, as we saw yesterday, has responded in kind, by pointing out that the UK and USA are no longer reliable as allies, and that Europe - meaning Germany - would have to strike out on its own and take more control of its own future and security. As I pointed out yesterday, this was not simply the Chancellorin reacting, on the spur of the moment, in a flash of temper. Rather, it reflects a long, and gradual, turn in German policy that was announced a few years ago by the then German Foreign Minister, Steinmeir. Frau Merkel simply seized upon the recent disagreements with the USA and the Trump administration as a crisis of opportunity to cement a process that was under way prior to the last American presidential election cycle. If there were doubts in Berlin - as there surely were - between the "Atlancists" and the "Asianists" prior to this year, those doubts have, in my opinion, been resolved.
There's another reason, however, for the growing doubts in Berlin than simply Mr. Trump's pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, and that's the whole issue of German-American trade, as this article shared (once again) by Mr. H.B. points out:
I hope that the reader caught one very significant statement in the previous article that is very important to the geopolitics of the emerging decade:
The German trade surplus rose to a record €235 billion ($284 billion) last year, while the US trade deficit widened in January to its highest level since March 2012.Excluding the EU, Germany is the third largest exporter in the world, after China and the US.
Let that sink in for a moment: one billion Chinese account for the second largest export economy in the world, approximately three hundred and twenty-five million Americans account for the largest export economy, and about eighty million Germans (and immigrants) account for the third. Do the math, and this means that person-for-person, the German economy is enormous.
This brings us to the heart of the geopolitical issue: the German strategic problem is greater now than at any time in its prior history: (1) an enormous economy(if viewed on a per-capita basis), perched precariously on top of (2) a relatively narrow population base and even more precariously on top of (3) a lack of strategic natural resources, which can only be obtained - by commerce or conquest - in the East. What this means is that that lack of population base has to be supplied by the rest of Europe, and that in order to maintain this economy, and secure its supplies, like it or not Germany must expand its military capability.
And this at a time the American President is complaining of the enormous amount of trade Germany does with its auto market in the USA. Reading between the lines as they must be doing in Berlin, this means perhaps either tariffs, or US subsidies to the auto industry, or both, either of which will make high-tech German products like autos more costly in the USA, and necessitate a shift in trading emphasis, once again, to the East.
So, with that in mind, consider this article from Business Insider's Elisabeth Braw:
Consider the implications:
But this year, far from the headlines, Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, quietly took a radical step down a path toward something that looks like an EU army while avoiding the messy politics associated with it: They announced the integration of their armed forces.
Romania's entire military won't join the Bundeswehr, nor will the Czech armed forces become a mere German subdivision. But in the next several months each country will integrate one brigade into the German armed forces: Romania's 81st Mechanized Brigade will join the Bundeswehr's Rapid Response Forces Division, while the Czech 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, which has served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and is considered the Czech Army's spearhead force, will become part of the Germans' 10th Armored Division.
In doing so, they'll follow in the footsteps of two Dutch brigades, one of which has already joined the Bundeswehr's Rapid Response Forces Division and another that has been integrated into the Bundeswehr's 1st Armored Division. According to Carlo Masala, a professor of international politics at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich, "The German government is showing that it's willing to proceed with European military integration" — even if others on the continent aren't yet.
As the article points out, in part this is due to the Germans' well-known fear of too much defense spending. But the rest of Europe is unlikely to be terribly willing to pay for the common defense of Europe, and of all that German industry, without the Germans doing the same.
Mr. Trump has now provided the opportunity, and Frau Merkel appears to have seized it. Watch for the plans to continue under this model, and to do so under expanding German exports, and defense spending. The model is not, as the article indicates, ad hoc, nor is it going to go away. I suspect, rather, that in coming years it will expand dramatically.
See you on the flip side...