Tuesday, November 15, 2022

German Clear Voices are There if You Look

"The German Problem" when it comes to their reliance on Russia over the last few decades for their energy needs - a huge strategic error of the first order - has been a regular topic since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

In fits and starts, each passing month makes it harder for the Germans to not change in at least the medium term and hopefully will have a lasting effect on the German view of Russia for at least a few generations. 

I am a believer that eventually things will regress to the mean, and for centuries Russia has not been anything but ... Russia - so humility in the face of history may help the Germans in this regard. How many times must the Germans be reminded that their fantasies in the East are just that; fantasies. This has been true since the The Ottonian Dynasty over a thousand years ago ... we have a dataset.

However, there remains a growing problem with Germany's desire to find some way to make some money off the main global threat to the West, the People's Republic of China.

One of Europe's largest ports, Hamburg has excelled at trade since the Middle Ages. Back then, the city clubbed together with other ports along and beyond the Baltic coast to form the Hanseatic League, which dominated commerce for centuries.

Now the city's port is joining forces with a Chinese shipping giant. The state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co., known as COSCO, is about to buy a stake in a container terminal.

China has been Germany's largest trading partner for much of the past decade. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pushed the COSCO deal through his cabinet last week, despite opposition from six key ministers. 

It does not matter that a plurality of the German political elite don't want to accept it - but Germany must be a strong advocate for strength and unity in the West. Her government cannot just act like a national Chamber of Commerce, she must value Western ideals and security needs more than her balance sheet.

Why invest so much in making nice with Moscow and Beijing while at the same time seeming to make extra efforts to slow-roll investment in NATO defense and irritate friends in London, Paris, Warsaw, and DC?

Not all of the German elite institutions and leaders feel that way.  I worked with many Germans in and out of uniform who were frustrated they could not do what they need to do as a 21st Century leading medium power - but they are not the dominate voice, at least not yet.

Some are coming out of the shadows and placing markers that are there for people to see. It gives hope. 

This time their security services seem to be signaling to Germany's frustrated friends that, regardless of what the politicians do or do not do - that they are not to blame and they know what time it is.

That is the optimist's take...and I try to be an optimist when it comes to the Germans. So much potential...but so frustrating. That is my bias, so keep that in mind. I'm self-aware, but ... oh, well.

As I always seem to want more from the Germans in the national security arena than the Germans who hold the levers to power want to provide, perhaps I am trying too hard to find an intellectual structure a 21st Century German leadership could build on to make what Germany should be - a full and responsible alliance partner and cornerstone to the foundation of Western society. The stronger the collective West and her auxiliaries are, they can help guide the larger international order in a positive and constructive direction.

It is a direction Germans - and all Westerners - should be proud of promoting. There are no better alternatives out there - even for those non-Western nations who don't want it. 

We in the West may disagree with 20% of what that order should be, but 80% we should be aligned with. We need to leverage that. We can't do it without a responsible Germany.

A large part of that is blunting and pushing back on the regressive vision from Moscow and Beijing.

Germany is not ready right now to be that cornerstone I would like her to be, but I know there is a core waiting for the time to be ripe. At such I enjoyed this article coming from ... well ... the Bundestag's press office;

The annual meeting with the presidents of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) took place on Monday for the sixth time.

BND President Bruno Kahl called the war of aggression against Ukraine a "watershed," which, however, "didn't really" come as a surprise. What happened was what his agency had warned about for years, that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains willing to use force to achieve his goals and that those goals have not changed. "Unfortunately" it has been common in public discourse over the past few decades to ignore threats and dismiss warnings from the security authorities as scaremongering. The BND's reporting on Putin's tendency to violence was always "rather unreserved", however: "The tendency of politicians and the public to trust in a positive turn is simply there."


For the time being, the Kremlin is not interested in a negotiated solution. The war will therefore certainly continue next year. Kahl acknowledged that if conventional warfare continued to fail, Putin might be tempted to use “sub-strategic” nuclear weapons to force Ukraine to the negotiating table and impose a dictated peace. However, there is currently no evidence of this: "We do not see any preparations for the use of strategic or sub-strategic weapons at the moment. There is no need to panic.”

In the long run, a significant threat is to be feared from an “autocratic China that is rising to become a global power,” Kahl warned. Business, society and politics in Germany have also been too trusting in this respect and have become “painfully dependent” on a power that “suddenly no longer seems well-disposed”. Together with the BfV, the BND has been trying for five years to raise awareness of the risks posed by China in business and science. A first success in 2019 was a skeptical statement by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) on economic ties with the Far Eastern superpower. But there is "a lot of trust and naivety in the scientific field" that is not appropriate.


Like the BND President, Haldenwang also made it clear that in the long run the far greater threat to German security and German interests would come from China: "Russia is the storm, China is climate change." 

Read it all. Yes, you will have to sift through some boilerplate German bureaucratic belly button picking ... but that is just pro-forma. I like what I pulled above - there is some sound thinking here that hopefully will grow in influence.

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