Saturday, December 15. 2007
When Bavarian born Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope, a major German tabloid declared: "We are Pope." Germany is also "Export World Champion" and damn proud of that title as long as we have it; China is likely to defeat Germany in 2008. And we are also Soccer World Champion of the Hearts, just like Lady Di was Queen of the Hearts.
Against this backdrop it might not be so surprising that nearly half of Germans see their country as a world power. The just released international Bertelsmann survey (PDF, in German, HT: Jan) indicates that Germans' views of themselves as a world power increased from the 2005 study by 8 percent to 49 percent in 2007.
Personal comment: Megalomania seems to be on the rise. After all, Germany's foreign policy commitments have not increased in the last two years to justify this change of perception. I am not very appreciative of Germany's participation in the Lebanon and Congo mission.
The survey indicates that Germans, more than other nations, do not see military strength as an important quality of a world power, but rather "political stability and economic strength." Surprisingly many respondents from other countries (30%) believe that Germany plays a leading role on the world stage. Thus, it is not just Germans, who overestimate the federal republic's foreign policy influence.
Besides, the United States' role as a global power is diminishing according to respondents from around the world. Spiegel International reports:
Commentary at Observing Hermann.
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Zyme - #1 - 2007-12-15 17:27 -
Anonymous - #2 - 2007-12-15 19:02 -
The stars have lined up for Germany to reclaim its proper place as the dominant continental power; continental being the determinant adjective here. That elementary distinction being drawn, German foreign policy towards central Europe has, I believe, since '89 been a dissapointment. German public policy in the Reich's old lands and countries which prior to the Vertreibung had significant German minorities is insubstantial. More is needed from the German government than the odd Goethe Institut in a major if the justified apprehensions of the natives are to be overcome. Much as the Schroeder administration "encouraged" Mercedes to build a plant in the east, so Merkel's government should encourage manufacturing concerns to expand to old Reich cities--Reichenberg, Oppeln, Danzig, Breslau etc. This is not a revanchist attempt to wrest control away from the current governments but a reflection that cultural assimilation and cooperation is easier created in regions which previously enjoyed Germanic influence. The Austrians' current prosperity illustrates that it can be done. Raiffeisen and Bank of Austria among others monopolizes the banking sector in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and are moving in force into Poland. Hell even Viktor Orban states that no Austrian should feel a stranger in Hungary and Fidesz didnt even riot. It can be done. It just takes some strategic planning, political arm-twisting and tax incentives. All this talk of becoming a world power is tosh until Germany expands and strengthens its economic and cultural control over central Europe. So long as the central European governments are reflexively Atlanticist and not philo-Germanic, Germany will have difficulty garnering the requisite votes for its policies on the EU level or even defending itself from ad hoc British or French coalitions.
Zyme - #2.1 - 2007-12-15 20:59 -
I would argue that in many regions Germany has a traditional partnership with, our foreign policy has put its focus on - especially in eastern Europe. The only notable exception would be the former german lands in Silesia, Pommerania and East-Prussia - but for good reason: These are no longer populated by notable numbers of germans while the national governments of Poland and Czechia are traditionally very skeptical towards german influence. All we can do is to integrate them via the foundation of Euregios to losen the rigidity of national borders. The Austrians are not having a comparably hard time towards re-gaining their former influence in Hungary and south-east Europe. Those were their former lands for centuries and also mostly their allies even in the first half of the 20th century. These nations are not having such bitter feelings like for example Berlin and Warsaw have.
Don S - #2.1.1 - 2007-12-17 12:32 -
"The Austrians are not having a comparably hard time towards re-gaining their former influence in Hungary and south-east Europe." The Austrian influence was more long-standing than the inflience of Prussia. Austria was the Central European 'superpower' for many years prior to 1866, and that influience can be seen as far south as the Tirol in Italy. Austria was never as powerful and destructive as Germany became, and paradoxically the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WWI may have helped Austria regain it's influence. Austria is so small that it is not seen as a threat by it's neighbors and former satellites. Germany is so seen despite the pacifism. I think that many Eastern Europeans still perceive Germany as a potential wolf in sheep's clothing. Zyme-style rhetoric from Germany doesn't help that problem, I think. Germans could take a page from the Austrian book I think. Don't talk about expanding your influence and control - just do it quietly. As far as Germany being a great power - let me ask a pointed question: How many great powers require a security guarantee from another great power? One major measure of a power is whethther it supplies it's own security needs and those of it's periphery. Does Germany qualify on that count? I think that many Germans have observed that the situation has changed from the Cold War, but make the mistake of assuming that the situation is symmetrical. Theat is they assume that since Germany needs the US much less than it did in 1960 therefore the Germans will be much more powerful and the US much less powerful than before. Because the NATO alliance is assumed to be a permanent feature of the landscape (like a mountain range) Germany's improved position must mean an American diminishment. There are two problem with that theary. The first is that it will only occur if Germany increases it's capabilities, and not only it's economic and cultural capability but also it's military capabilities. The second problem is the assumption that NATO is permanent and therefore can be used as a sphere for Germans geopoliticians to increase German influence while leaving the actual duties to the US military and taxpayer as heretofore. If the US is somehow waning there are two or three intelligent responses. The most obvious is for the US to withdraw resousrces from where there is no current threat and no obvious mission and deploy them to where there is a threat. Bad news for Nato. Another adaption is that the US is and will be building diplomatic ties with countries important in threated areas and also in areas where the US has strong traditional interests. Current regional powers and potential superpowers like India, Japan, and others in Asia would be examples of the first category due to the , and regional powers like South Africa and Brazil form the second category. Many in the traditional West decry the Bush administration's lack of diplomatic effort, but he has actually put a lot of effort into building stronger relationships with India, Japan, and Brazil as partners, not satellites. I haven't seen that kind of effort with South Africa yet but then Africa does not fit either category above. It's not close to danger and it's not a traditional sphere of US influence. Historically Africa has been far more of a European sphere Tej influence of the US imay be on the wane (though that may not be as permanent a change as some may believe). But it does not follow that a country which is not increasing it's capabilities and influence (much) is going to fill any void (if there is indeed a void). I see India, China, Brazil, and even Russia expanding their military capabilities far more than Germany is, and all four are also making equal efforts in the diplomatic sphere. Germany may remain the EU's largest country and largest economy, but it has at least two major rivals (France, UK) and two others which have the potential (Spain, Italy). Not to mention Poland. Both og Germany's rivals int he EU have permanent seats on the UN Security Council; Germnay does not and is unlikely to be given a permanent seat. On the grounds that Europe already has three of the five permanent seats on the council if for no other reason. A strong case can be made for India and Brazil getting seats, and I would argue for South Africa and Japan long before adding another European member. A German seat would have to come at the expense of France, Russia, or the UK. See any volunteers? QED: Germany is not going to *dominate* the EU.
Zyme - #18.104.22.168 - 2007-12-18 17:44 -
"Zyme-style rhetoric from Germany doesn't help that problem, I think. Germans could take a page from the Austrian book I think. Don't talk about expanding your influence and control - just do it quietly." Well Don, do you think this website is a diplomacy test chamber, or a platform for genuine discussions?
Elisabetta B - #22.214.171.124.1 - 2007-12-18 18:49 -
Germany's contacts and relationship with Russia is the best since the R-M pact and Germany's waged a specially nasty war against them. Yet, Germany has made the effort post '89 to praise publically and often Gorbie, support "loans" through the OSCE, look askance whenever Ivan goes punitive on the locals etc. It can be done on a political level without any demonstrable level of popular support; forget where the poll was about how little the average German cares for the Russians, but the result was shockingly antipathetic. Germans have lived with or more appropriately amongst Romanians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Hungarians for hundreds of years and achieved a level of social interaction within the polyglott society that they never enjoyed in post-Petrine Russia. There are advantages that Germanic culture enjoys in central and eastern Europe that it does not enjoy in Russia.
Don S - #126.96.36.199.2 - 2007-12-18 19:13 -
I wasn't referring specifically to anything you wrote here, but rather to a few things I've read from you in the past, Zyme. The kind of thing where you advocated expanding German influence by making common cause with the Russians (presumably) to compell other countries in Eastern Europe to behave in ways advantaging Germany and Russia. Have you changed your mind since you wrote those things?
Zyme - #188.8.131.52.2.1 - 2007-12-19 00:57 -
Don S - #184.108.40.206.2.1.1 - 2007-12-19 12:53 -
"So you mean one cannot publicly cooperate with the Russians on so many areas while also wanting to gain more influence on the countries in between?" No, I am saying that you cannot cooperate with the Russians to impose your wishes on the Poles and other Eastern European countries and still retain their trust. Or even speculate about doing so, really. Germans may protest that the 1860-1945 period is a long time ago - and that is actually true. But from the Polish perspective I think the relevent time frame runs between 1770 or so and 1990. A period where Poland was either subsumed by Germany, Russia, and Austro-Hungary or dominated by Germany and Russia except for brief periods during Napoleonic times and between 1920 and 1941. I would certainly see it so if I were a Pole. If you look at it from that perspective you can see that the dominance period ceased only recently - and now we're hearing Germans and Russians proposing to try it on again? I wouldn't trust Germans (or Russians) further than I could spit right now - if I were a Pole!
Zyme - #220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168 - 2007-12-19 16:18 -
That is why I believe that the foundation of Euregios is our only chance to losen the rigidity of german-polish borders. By founding border-crossing regions which often orientate at historical regions that neglect the current borders we are able to influence the neighboring regions across the border and draw them closer to our side. But apart from that I see little chances for significant direct german influence on Poland. The only positive part is that the Poles have little choice. The French are oriented more to the mediterranean realm, the British foreign policy is paying most attention to issues abroad Europe. So it would be interesting to find out whether either Russians or Germans are more popular in Poland.
Axel - #3 - 2007-12-15 23:49 -
Sorry Joerg, but your interpretation isn't appropriate and I'm not sure if we're talking about the same study. As usual, the SPIEGEL article is rubbish, that's for sure... First, you're heavily linking "world power" with foreign policy but this clearly wasn't the repondents' understanding, see chapter 3.1 for the weightings of elements like economic power, political stability, educational system or social model. Military power ranked extremly low for Germans (11 percent) because the definition of "world power" wasn't specified. It's therefore no coincidence that German respondents called the EU (69 percent, chapter 3.2.1) or the UN (69 percent, chapter 3.2.1) a "world power". So your whole argument is based on a misunderstanding - Germans didn't overrate Germany's military power or its influence on world politics, they simply had a very different picture of "world power" on their minds - like the nororious "Exportweltmeister" or Germany's role in the EU. Second, the number of 49 percent of German repondends seeing Germany as a "world power"sounds megalomaniac, but what is with the number of [b]51 percent of Britons[/b] and with the 40 percent of French who answered the same about Germany? Are they also arrogant or do they have an inferior complex?
Joerg - Atlantic Review - #3.1 - 2007-12-16 19:55 -
Thank you Axel. I admit that I did not read the Bertelsmann study and instead relied on Spiegel. Re the German understanding of "world power": I have pointed out in the fourth paragraph that Germans consider economic power important. Though, I still believe it is a form of arrogance or megalomania to assume that Germany is a world power, because Germany's economic power is not that influential in the world. We do not have precious resources like Saudi Arabia and the GDP size is not anywhere near Japan's. Besides, military is crucial for being a world power. It is a form of arrogance to believe that a world power does not need a strong military. And even our soft power (based on our economic power etc) is very small. What has Germany achieved in the last two years? Have we brokered peace between Israel and Palestine? Have achieved a solution in Kosovo? Did we negotiate an end to the wars in Darfur, Sri Lanka, Columbia? I know and did write that respondents from other countries (30%) believe that Germany is playing a leading role on the world stage. Thus, it is not just Germans, who overestimate the federal republic's foreign policy influence. Still, I thought that Germans used to be pretty humble in the last half century in terms of their (our) country's foreign policy influence. My guess is that twenty years ago, Germans considered the EU and the UN a world power, but not Germany.
Joerg - Atlantic Review - #3.2 - 2007-12-16 20:06 -
"World Power" is about foreign policy, isn't it? Or are we soo arrogant to assume that being soccer or export world champion is the same as being a world power. Selling stuff means you are powerful and did not does not matter whether this power actually has any effect? Re economic power as world power: According to Weber power is "the probability that one actor in a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests." I don't think Germany is powerful because of our economy. The Bertelsmann survey indicates that 65% of Germans consider research and education system to be a key characteristic of a "world power," but I doubt whether we are that good. Do Germans consider South Korea to be a "world power"? You write: [i]"what is with the number of 51 percent of Britons and with the 40 percent of French who answered the same about Germany? Are they also arrogant or do they have an inferior complex?"[/i] Okay, you got me. My weak counter-arguments: The French might indeed have an inferiority complex or in other words: They are nice and humble. Only 34% of the French consider their country to be a world power despite the nukes and the permanent seat at the UN SC. The Brits watch too many WWII documentaries. They consider nearly everybody a world power, incl. their own country (74%) and Japan (60%). Or the Brits and the French and the Germans and everybody else (incl. myself) don't have a clue what "world power" means.
Zyme - #3.2.1 - 2007-12-16 21:00 -
John in Michigan, USA - #22.214.171.124 - 2007-12-18 02:22 -
@Zyme: "This means in case a potential enemy arises, we will not be forced to spend years on research while fighting against a superior force, we would only have to adjust our industries and keep our equipment up to date" In theory, I suppose this could happen. Perhaps in response to a threatened invasion from Antarctica. In reality, Germany's decision to avoid the bother and expense of actually building a world-power military has *nothing* to do with a clever strategy to skip ahead to the next generation of technology, or remain at the verge of preparedness without actually preparing, or similar nonsense. It has *everything* to do with maintaining a profitable export market for Germany military technology. Modern Germany doesn't want the bother and expense of building a military, period. The political will simply doesn't exist. For example, short of an actual invasion, it is hard to imagine the German unions permitting the kind of work rule changes that permitted the US to transform its auto industry so rapidly in WW II. Where are the German training cadres that could rapidly produce disciplined, high-tech soldiers at short notice? The Bundeswehr produces some excellent soldiers, but it is a fantasy to say that they are set up to rapidly increase their output. I imagine the naval and air elements have the same problem. I seem to recall, your new submarine was designed specifically to limit it to coastal defense, even though the technology could have had some interesting applications in blue water.... Another example: Between Gulf War I and Gulf War II, the US re-wrote our entire doctrine of tactical air-to-surface bombing and infantry support, so that the percentage of "smart bombs" went from under 8% (a special-purpose tactic) to something like 70% (a general-purpose tactic). This required almost no additional R&D, but required major changes to training and logistics, plus changes to the supporting industries. This all took place in the peaceful 90's, absent any threat of invasion, and while decreasing the overall size of the military. I would be shocked, and quite pleased, to learn that Germany could be anywhere near that flexible, in peacetime. It would take a lot of convincing. Consider that the "we have rightly not spended our precious money on a huge amount of troops but instead on constantly modernizing our weaponry" argument serves quite well as propaganda for the German arms export industry. They can pretend their subsidies are to keep the country safe while saving money. This line sets them apart from other German exporters, who can only make the weaker claim that subsidizing exports is good for Germany in and of itself. Pure genius. I do not claim you are spreading propaganda, but you may have fallen for it somewhat.
Zyme - #126.96.36.199.1 - 2007-12-18 18:27 -
John in Michigan, USA - #188.8.131.52.1.1 - 2007-12-19 02:30 -
Thanks for writing. I think you misunderstand some points. "I will not deny the fact that our export industry is also involved heavily. So?" I wasn't complaining about arms export subsidies per se, I meant to point out that keeping your industry on the leading edge of military technology, without actually building (and training) the Army or Navy to use the stuff, has very little to do with preparedness. The arms exporters have all the usual justification for export subsidies that you mention, plus, they have this extra argument (bogus in my opinion) "spend money on us and you don't actually have to build a large army or navy". "Your argument makes no sense as it combines two different possibilities that exclude each other" The topic was not whether Germany can provide for its own defense, it was whether Germany can become a world power. That would require projecting power on some level, and responding in some way to threats other than invasion. Which could be done by actually building a larger military with expeditionary capabilities, over a decade or so. It cannot be done by keeping your technology up to date and then switching from commercial to military production quickly as the need emerges. German unions are patriotic, and anyway, as you point out, the government could certainly take over if invasion was threatened; but could it do so if the threat was only to the larger German sphere of influence in e.g. central Europe? I think not. As to the submarine, I can't find the articles I read, so I'll drop that point. The Taurus missle you cite is a cruise missle costing nearly 1 million Euros each, it has nothing in common tactically with our simple GPS-guided bomb that is now widely used. Which itself is simple technology, the revolution is in how we use it, it has totally changed our infantry tactics. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Bundeswehr has a few very capable units that are using these tactics. But, the typical Bundeswehr unit hasn't undergone this revolution, nor has the Bundeswehr built the C3I (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C4ISTAR) infrastructure to support general use of these tactics. I'd be happy to learn differently.
Pat Patterson - #184.108.40.206.1.1.1 - 2007-12-19 03:44 -
Check out Hazegrey for a somewhat current inventory of naval forces and capabilities. [url]www.hazegrey.org/worldnav[/url] Which unfortunately does reveal that the Type 212a is indeed for coastal protection, it's range is 8,000km but unlike a nuclear powered ship it must be replenished and that means a trip back to Wilhemshaven or the remote possibility that one of the Berlin-class replenishment ships is available. But the main argument against seeing this submarine as extending the reach of Germany is that it is not a ballistic missile boat but an attack boat with limited range, weight and has to surface every 20 days to take in oxygen for the crew and the diesels. Torpedoes and AAW are not very effective in bending an enemy to your will unless the handful of marines on board can somehow substitute for either an ICBM or an IRBM. Maybe waving cutlasses and yelling mateys will do it?
John in Michigan, USA - #220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168 - 2007-12-19 08:06 -
Thanks Pat for the link, but I can't get it to work (cursed frames!). This link works for me: [url]http://www.hazegray.org/worldnav/europe/germany.htm#2[/url] But it doesn't provide much information. Another clarification: On the air support for infantry question, my point wasn't that Germany can never become a world power unless it masters that technology, nor must it master that particular tactic. What it must do, is show that it can transform itself into a post-Cold War force. Of course, actually attempting this transformation would set off alarm bells throughout the region. I'm not advising Germany to do this, I'm just pointing out it will be hard to become a world power without it. Possibly this transformation could happen in the context of the EU without setting off the alarm bells, but then it would be a case of the EU becoming a world power, not Germany. Sorry if I took a very indirect way to get to this point!
Zyme - #22.214.171.124.1.1.2 - 2007-12-19 11:29 -
Pat Patterson - #126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 - 2007-12-19 15:09 -
Zyme-Good point and I should have made it clearer that I was referring to the limitations on resupply in a more hostile environment. But again while attack subs are a necessary part of a modern navy they are relatively useless as implements of foreign policy aside from attacking shipping, escort and ASW. They cannot provide the kind of moveable air port or troop carriers that are necessary sometimes to enforce a country's will on another. Plus I found a general opinion piece on the Bundeswehr reforms that is in English but concentrates on the current state of the military and the difficulties in implementing these reforms. [url]http://www.aicgs.org/analysis/at-issue/bundeswehr.aspx[/url] O/T-I was in Beirut, stupidly on the beach, the day the USS New Jersey arrived and virtually all of the killing in the city stopped because sixteen inch shells shrieking overhead concentrates the mind wonderfully. But soon the nutcases figured out that there weren't enough Marines sent ashore to make a difference and started killing each other again and the American and French servicemen. Those big and small toys have to be used and not just dangled out for photo ops. Unfortunately with submarines you don't even get the photo op. The area I stayed in Beirut was essentially controlled by the Lebanese army and the Phalange. Several of the Phalangists would show me maps of Muslim and Druze villages and mark who they thought the New Jersey should attack. They always marked every site and then wondered why the Americans simply didn't kill them all. To them as fellow Christians the US simply wasn't doing its duty. Yikes!
Zyme - #184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1 - 2007-12-19 16:47 -
John in Michigan, USA - #18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 - 2007-12-19 22:07 -
@Zyme: Thanks for the English articles. OK, the Bundeswehr is attempting its own transformation. I sincerely hope it will overcome the stereotype that post-Cold War European armies are expensive anti-unemployment programs. You point out to Pat that subs have some usefulness, even if they can't project power. That is only true if they can [i]stay on station[/i]. "Ship agents"? Gentleman's agreement? Secure docking? Will these German ship agents still be welcome if the new German World Power actually does anything controversial? Do these secure docks have bomb shelters and anti-aircraft batteries? In Africa? What if the opponent rents them before you do? I wish my defense ministry had such a sense of humor. Tut mir leid, ich lese keine deutschen (blame Google translator) Traurig, lese ich nicht Deutschen (blame Altavista's babelfish) Sorry, I do not read German. I am curious, are either of these translations correct? Is one less incorrect than the other?
Zyme - #126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1 - 2007-12-19 23:24 -
joe - #4 - 2007-12-16 06:04 -
I believe Germans have seen themselves as world powers once before and that ended badly. I see nothing to indicate this new self vision will not also end badly.
Merkel-2 - #5 - 2007-12-18 05:02 -
It's not a surprise to me that so many German people think their country is a "world power" and play a leading role in international sphere. German people potentially feel they are superior to other peoples. When such kind of feeling leashed out in an inappropriate way like what Hitler did, it was labeled as rascist deeds. When it hides inside their minds , it become patriotic spirits which prevail in German. It was a pity for British,Freance... , they took deterrent policy towards German's rising interests and attempts during World War periods. The two World wars became the only solution to testify whether German could be a dominant world power. German lost 2 round of the game and was kick out of the core power circle(US ,Russia,Briton France and China). Under long time US and USSR's surveillance, German 's arrogance or megalomania suppressed for decades. After the cold war , the egoistic German iron out all its obstacles to be a world power ,it wants to show its muscle and teeth. It may be resonable to acknowledge German's interference and lead to be a responsible player in world affairs. In my opinion , Without EU platform German got nowhere in the world geopolitic sphere.
Reid of America - #5.1 - 2007-12-18 12:10 -
Merkel-2 says "German people potentially feel they are superior to other peoples." I don't see a problem with Germans feelings of superiority. A large number of national groups feel that they are superior. Here is a partial list of ethnic groups that have a superiority complex. Japan, China, Britain, France, Arabs, Jews, Kalahari Bushmen, Congo Pygmies, Persians, etc. The list of ethnic-national groups that don't claim superiority is smaller than the list that does. The reason Germans, Japanese, Jews and other high achieving groups are villified for superiority claims is they actually back up their claims. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Americans feel superior to everyone else.
Merkel-2 - #6 - 2007-12-19 05:28 -
There is no problem for a person to be proud of his/her country's cultrue ,history ,economy etc. But if it evloves to an inappropriate level, such feeling will drive people to search for its racism proof. I don't need to mention those atrocities happened in history which is highly racism-superiority related. When a country and its people,its politician held such feeling towards those "inferior" states, like what Chancellor Merkel did to African leaders, We all can understand what responses she will got from African leaders. African politician have good reasons to believe that Merkel is a hypocrite , She play double standards in Africa affairs. I can not imagine how can Chancellor Merkel can sell her propositions to those developing countries . She want to teach zimbabwe president a lesson on human rights and good governance. Maybe she also need a refresh her stubborn heads with the most elementary principles of mutual-understanding and mutual-respects in diplomacy.
Zyme - #6.1 - 2007-12-19 11:35 -
Consul-At-Arms - #7 - 2007-12-19 06:54 -
I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/12/re-arrogant-germans-see-their-country.html
joe - #8 - 2007-12-19 18:08 -
In the 21st Century wars for the most part are "come as you are" events. Meaning you are not going to have the long lead times necessary to produce the equipment needed to fight. Even the most basic items require years, not months, to procure in the quantities needed. Major systems require decades. A good example of this for the EU is lift aircraft which are needed to support any out of sector action. The Airbus M400 is still in production.
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