Leader and Followers

BERLIN (Own report) – Leading German media are demanding that the German government transform the EU into “an effective counterforce to Trump” and, thus become “the savior of the free world.” Berlin must assume “a leading function” in the EU and assure that the rest of the member states “follow.” Germany must take the “responsibility for leadership.” It is “Europe’s last powerhouse,” one journal writes, in a snub to France, which, over the past few years, was unable to contend with Germany in the power struggle, and has lost much of its influence. Non-German observers doubt that Berlin will be able to sustain its claim to leadership within the EU. In Germany’s capital, an abundance of “triumphalism and sense of mission” is felt, reported an experienced foreign policy expert. There is a widespread conviction that “Germany has a mission in Europe, to lead the others down the right path.” Berlin refers particularly to France “with contempt.” “The French have no idea and must be disciplined.” The expert sees the possibility of coalitions in opposition to Germany being formed among EU countries. The German government is launching a new appeal for a common military policy and for “sticking together against Russia and the new US administration.”

“Savior of the Free World”

Since US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a conspicuous attitude of domination is characterizing the German debate on Berlin’s place on the world stage. Immediately following the November 8, US elections, the German government internationally began to position itself as the counterforce to the winner of the elections, to rally his numerous opponents. Already in her initial reaction to the elections, Chancellor Merkel posed “conditions” for future transatlantic cooperation – and sought to quasi present herself as Trump’s liberal adversary.[1] Government politicians, foreign policy experts and commentators in major media organs picked up this idea.[2] The weekly “Die Zeit,” once considered a liberal journal, carried an article on Chancellor Merkel entitled, “Leader of the Free World? Of Course!,” claiming the German Chancellor could even become “the savior of the free world.”[3] At the inauguration of the new president, major German media organs again depicted Merkel as “US President Trump’s adversary.” She possibly has the potential of becoming the “leader of the free West.”[4]

“Europe’s Last Great Power”

The presumptuous global-political behavior of a considerable segment of Germany’s elite has, at times, been supplemented by an open demonstration of Berlin’s predominance over the EU. Should the Union “become an effective counterforce to Donald Trump,” then this would “presuppose Germany having a leading function,” alleges Theo Sommer, former editor of the weekly, “Die Zeit.” Germany must now “assume the responsibility of leadership.”[5] Therefore, Berlin should “insure that the EU partners are following.” This contemptuous designation of the EU member nations as the subordinate “following countries” behind the German powerhouse is emblematic of the German establishment’s growing intoxication with power. Sommer further declared that the EU “needs a second founding narrative,” a “convincing concept for the future.” “Who else, besides Angela Merkel, can provide it?” Just recently, the Chair of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, promoted Germany to Europe’s “central power” thereby describing Berlin’s predominating role.[6] Now they are calling Germany “Europe’s last great power” [7] – a snub to France, which was unable to contend with Germany in the power struggle [8].

German Sense of Mission

For quite awhile, non-German observers have been criticizing the German establishment’s attitude of predominance. For example, Hans Kundnani, of Great Britain – who for several years has been working at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), and today is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow for the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS) in Berlin – draws parallels to the “atmosphere in the aftermath of Germany’s 1871 unification.”[9] Kundnani speaks of encountering “triumphalism and a sense of mission” in Germany’s capital. One feels the conviction that “Germany has the mission in Europe, to lead the others down the right path.” There is a “German tendency to believe, we know how to do it right – and you others in Europe simply do not understand this.” If nothing else, this attitude is evident in its dealings with Paris. “It is frightening, how they have been talking about France in Berlin, since the beginning of the Euro crisis,” says Kungnani. “Some high-ranking German functionaries or think tank associates speak of the French with contempt. They consider them ridiculous or simply dumb.” It is a widespread opinion that “the French have no idea and must be disciplined.”

Coalitions Opposing Germany


“Unfair Complaints”

Europe’s Engine

At the same time, the German government has reiterated its appeal to EU members to “stick together” – not only in the power struggle against Russia, but now also against the new US administration.[12] The common foreign and military policy is the means of choice to not only assure a leading position for the EU in world policymaking, but also to weld the alliance together against internal criticism. In early 2010, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, declared that the “European project of a common security and defense policy could be an engine for Europe’s continuous consolidation.”[13] This was at the beginning of the Euro crisis, with its multiplying centrifugal forces escalating.

For more on this theme, see: The Moment of the Europeans.

Full article: Leader and Followers (German Foreign Policy)

Comments are closed.