The German Question

The German Question

Germany is Europe’s major financial power. Does it side with its continental partners, or with their adversaries? The issue has taken on new urgency as Berlin looks to Moscow for its energy supplies.

The German economy is the largest in the European Union, and the fourth largest in the world. It has the resources and capacity to play a major role in support of western ideals and defense, but fails to do so.

Despite its enormous financial and industrial clout, and having benefited from having U.S. taxpayers fund much of its defense needs for an extensive period of time, the question of Berlin’s loyalty to the west is increasingly relevant.

Germany’s ongoing failure to live up to it’s NATO defense commitments is indisputable. According to  the European publication DW,   “…a German internal analysis for 2022 also shows chronically underfunded armed forces … NATO planning goals of having Germany … contribute 2% of the GDP within the next few years, ‘can’t be initiated or realized on time,’ under the current budget.”

Tom Rogan, writing for the Washington Examiner, , outlined Berlin’s foreign policy succinctly:  “Berlin prioritizes cheap energy at the energy-and-security expense of its European partners. Berlin acts as a de facto outpost for the Chinese Communist Party, unable to signal anything but hesitant weakness even where it wants to appear resolved. Berlin hosts Russian chemical weapons facilities even as those facilities support assassination campaigns against Germany’s NATO allies. Berlin’s attempts to suggest it is a Western partner are often laughable…new Chancellor Olaf Scholz is now seeking to surpass even his predecessor Angela Merkel’s penchant for appeasing the West’s greatest adversaries…Scholz’s government has abandoned the 2%-of-GDP basic minimum NATO defense spending target and has pulled German support for NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture. Now Scholz is taking the natural next step: calling for new appeasement of Putin even as the Russian president dangles war upon the European continent.”

The issue of Germany’s failures regarding its NATO commitments is not new. Indeed, it was a major flashpoint in the Trump Administration’s bid to re-energize NATO.

Now, however, the question of Berlin’s loyalty to the West has taken a greater dimension as its newly elected government increases its energy dependence on Moscow. The current expanded extent of the problem did not arise spontaneously, and traces its origins across the Atlantic to Washington and the bizarre actions of the Biden Administration.

Dan Newhouse and Carol Miller, writing for Real Clear Energy note that “Before President Biden took office, the U.S. dominated energy production on a global scale. We became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, and until recently, our exports have exceeded our imports…[however] the Biden Administration has created a power vacuum by taking American oil and gas off the market. This allows nations like Iran, Russia, and others to step into the void, providing them opportunities to weaponize markets and threaten the stability and security of the globe. The Administration opened the door for Russia by lifting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions. It also terminated the Keystone XL pipeline and banned any new oil and gas leases on federal lands – forcing the U.S. to retreat from the global energy stage.”

Ukraine, currently under the threat of an invasion from Russia, has been deeply distressed both by the Biden Administration’s energy policy and Germany’s response to it.

Washington’s curious move to cancel the U.S. Keystone XL pipeline while supporting Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline angered America’s allies in Eastern Europe. Max Hunder, writing for the Kyiv Post noted: “In giving the green light on the project, Germany and the U.S. have angered allies and put Ukraine’s security at risk…Germany’s ability to stand up to a Russia it will be heavily dependent on for gas is less than apparent.”

Poland has been equally perturbed. Foreign Minister Zbignew Rau worried that “ In giving the green light on the project, Germany and the U.S. have angered allies … Germany’s ability to stand up to a Russia it will be heavily dependent on for gas is less than apparent.”

As Biden remains entrenched in his anti-fossil fuels policy at home and appears poised to grant concessions to Russia in Eastern Europe, the German question will grow more serious.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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