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Europe's Indispensable Nation

Germany is Europe's "indispensable nation," in charge of "the unipolar moment within the eurozone," and it is to the EU what the United States is to NATO. That's how European and US think tankers compare Germany with the US:

David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy (via atlantic-community.org):

To the extent the EU, NATO, or the G20 have an effective future, Germany will be central to setting the parameters of the agenda. For some, the notion that so many issues important to the future of the world depends on the international engagement of a benevolent Germany will seem more than a little ironic. So too will the fact that Germany has become Europe's indispensible nation. But these are among the game-changing facts of the 21st century. Germany is not just the wallet of Europe, it also must necessarily be Europe's spine and its heart.

The European Council on Foreign Relations makes another comparison with the US. Financial Times:

"Rarely has Germany been as important in Europe - or as isolated - as it is today," say Ulrike Guérot and Mark Leonard in a new pamphlet for the European Council on Foreign Relations. "There has been a kind of 'unipolar moment' within the eurozone: no solution to the crisis was possible without Germany, or against Germany."

Constanze Stelzenmueller wrote in another Financial Times article about Germany: "In economic terms, it is to the European Union what America is to NATO: the superpower that gets to call the shots."

Germany should lead? No thanks. Most Germans rather want their country to be a bigger version of Switzerland. We prefer to just sell our cars, machines and tools around the world, play soccer, watch Tatort, and attend to our Gartenzwerge (lawn gnomes).

Germany's Embarrassing Policy on Iran

Never has Germany been more isolated, wrote Former Foreign Minister Fischer regarding Berlin's position on Libya. The Merkel-Westerwelle government alienates our Western allies with its dealings with Iran as well. Apparently, Germany's foreign and economic ministries agreed to let India pay 9 billion euro to Iran via Germany's central bank.

The United States had pressured India's central bank to end previous business transactions with Iran via an Asian bank. Now Germany's government appears to be undermining these sanctions. India gets about 15 percent of its crude oil imports from Iran. Sources in German: Handelsblatt and Zeit. In English: New York Times.

According to Spiegel International the stands in connection to the release of two German journalists from Iran.

Are Germany and India new best buddies? Both abstained in the UN Security Council on Libya.

Dialog International writes about "The Westerwelle Doctrine", which "would seem to dictate that Germany will seek out different international partners depending on how the domestic winds are blowing.  Germany is happy to align with the US and Great Britain, as long as it doesn't require the use of force or the commitment of resources.  Otherwise it will join with Russia, Brazil or India."

Atlantic-community.org wonders how Germany can repair the damage to its international reputation and convince voters of the right course at the same time. Foreign policy makers and experts in Germany and around the world criticize Germany's position on Libya. However the majority of Germans seem to approve it.  Any ideas?

UPDATE (April 5, 2011): AP: "A plan for India to funnel oil payments to Iran through Germany's central bank at a time when Tehran faces international sanctions has been scrapped, a German government official said Tuesday."



The Forces Behind the Revolution in Egypt

Who gets the most credit for toppling Mubarak? And who will be blamed if the revolution turns nasty in the next 12 months? Who inspired the events that could change history like the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the Islamic Revolution in 1979?

Facebook? Twitter? Rising food prices? The "liberation" of Iraq? George W. Bush? David Hasselhoff? The Egyptian Army? The youth groups of the opposition parties? The Tahrir square campers? Or the tragic narratives of the two individuals Khaled Said from Alexandria or Mohammed Bouazizi from Ben Arous?

1. The BBC has a great image of "the camp that toppled a president."

2. Interestingly, the Boston Globe, often described as very liberal, gives George W. Bush some credit. A program to fund and train election monitors in Egypt "played a key role in the movement to topple President Hosni Mubarak's regime":

The program, which provided millions in direct funding to prodemocracy groups, helped dispatch 13,000 volunteers to observe Egypt's parliamentary elections in December. Thousands of those monitors, angered by what they said was blatant election rigging, joined the protests. Some became outspoken leaders; others used the networking and communication skills they learned to help coordinate 18 days of rallies. (...)

Continue reading "The Forces Behind the Revolution in Egypt"

Does Europe Have Something to Say on Egypt?

Prime Minister David Cameron, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint UK-France-Germany statement on the situation in Egypt:

We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections."

Of course, the NYT finds a negative angle to report on this: "The statement by Mrs. Merkel, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron exposes the lack of any coherent and united response by the European Union as a whole, even though under the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, its reaction to major events was intended to be swifter and united."

Well, the EU foreign minister did produce a united response yesterday calling for a peaceful, orderly and democratic transition. The problem is not the lack of unity, but the fact that we don't have something meaningful to say.

Continue reading "Does Europe Have Something to Say on Egypt?"

Europe and China: Weapons for Investment?

Atlantic Community:

EU countries mired in debt are getting help from an unlikely source: China. The ascendant superpower is buying up large amounts of European bonds and investing heavily in euro zone countries. Moreover, there is talk of a reversal of the long standing EU arms embargo on China. Is this all a coincidence?

Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and now managing director at Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University commented: "If all this were to play out - that is, lifting the embargo, subsequent sanctions, etc. - it would be a new low point in U.S.-E.U. relations." (HT: NATO Source)

I agree. I hope the EU does not lift the arms embargo. In my opinion NATO countries should not sell any arms to non-NATO members.

Blaming Each Others Financial Policies

From a Washington Post editorial:

ABOUT TWO weeks ago, Germany's finance minister described U.S. economic policy as "clueless." We don't want to sound childish, but after yet another bailout for an insolvent European country - about $137 billion for Ireland - we are inclined to ask: If the United States is clueless, what does that make Germany? The de facto leader of the crisis-ridden, 16-nation eurozone, Berlin has not performed its role brilliantly over the past year.

A good defense of German policy against US criticism of its "export-led growth model" can be found on Atlantic Community: Stop Lecturing and Do Your Homework, America!

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: America's argument about the Chinese currency manipulation may be valid but it is also a distraction. It is America's own lack of competitiveness that is hurting the US more than anything. America will be able to revive the credibility of its global economic leadership only when it stops blaming its democratic peers and instead starts doing its homework.

NATO has a New Strategic Concept

The Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon today is very concise. Just eleven pages. Let's see how substantial it is. And how it will be implemented.

At the Open Think Tank atlantic-community.org, my day job, we have created some policy recommendations for the New Strategic Concept over the summer and are currently running a Policy Workshop on Russian-Western Relations, another big issue at the Lisbon summit.

NATO features a summary of my survey of Russian experts in a special Lisbon summit edition of NATO Review, which is layouted in Portugal's national colors. Lovely!