Trump and Germany’s path to a regulatory power

by Henrik Paulitz*

cc. The following essay was published in November 2016, shortly after the election of Donald Trump as US President. Reading this article, it becomes clear that Trump’s “policy towards Germany” also fits in a certain sense with the policy of the previous government, but under completely different circumstances, circumstances this analysis could not yet take into account (cf. the article on page 2). It also refers to other channels of influence enforcing, independently of official government declarations, political strategies via financially highly endowed organisations. Either way, all Germans are faced with the duty of examining what role they are meant to play – and whether they want to take on this role like turkeys voting for Christmas.

As expected, the alleged “isolationism” of the new US President Donald Trump will not lead to fewer wars, but merely to a new allocation of tasks among the global war powers. Trump consistently follows developments having been driven forward for years: The Federal Republic of Germany is requested to spend in future much more money on armaments and to play a “leading” role as a military force in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. An extremely threatening scenario.

Germany should “lead”

The United States, having emerged from former colonies, including those of the United Kingdom, are now often stylized as the “only world power”, the “empire”. What has been overlooked for many years is what has been said and written between the lines: The USA is “war-weary”. The country has been exhausted by decades of arms expenditure and wars, and increasing parts of the population are impoverished and threatened with further decline. According to SIPRI, the country accounts for roughly 40 per cent of global spending on “defence”. Due to numerous military interventions, the leading war power, the USA, is being hated in many parts of the world.
Against this background, a new scenario of the elites has been emerging for many years: The USA primarily confines itself and focuses on the Asia/Pacific region, while Europeans have to enforce the interests of the elites in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East up to Central Asia by diplomatic and military means. Since, for example, Great Britain is also considered “tired of war”, Germany in particular has been being asked for years to show “leadership” – a choice of words that set all alarm bells ringing.

New power, new responsibility

In the run-up to the 2013 German federal elections, two influential think tanks published a paper entitled “New power. New responsibility”. The Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) (Science and Politics) and the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) wrote: “Germany’s citizens enjoy a phase of security they have not experienced for a long time. The country is at peace with its neighbours in Europe […].” But the world would still be “full of uncertainty and danger”. For a globalised state like Germany, world security and German security were inseparably linked.
Finally, it says literally, almost threateningly: “If Germany wants to preserve and protect its own way of life, it must therefore commit itself to a peaceful and rule-based world order; by all legitimate means available to Germany, including, where and when necessary, the military one”. From Germany’s “increased power” and its “increased influence” there follows “more responsibility. For decades, Germany was a consumer of security, guaranteed by NATO and especially by the USA. Today, allies and partners expect Germany to produce security itself; and not only for itself.”
The “Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik” and the German Marshall Fund of the United States declare that Germany‘s prosperity as a trade and export nation is reliant on a liberal world order: “Germany […] benefits more than almost any other country from globalisation. Its current strength is largely based […] on its success as a trading and exporting nation. […] Germany therefore needs demand from other markets and access to international trade routes and resources. But even more it needs […] a liberal, norm-based world order with free, open states […]. Germany’s overriding strategic goal must therefore be to maintain, protect and further develop this world order.”
Germany’s so-called new responsibility as a global regulatory power is therefore to help establish a world order that serves “free trade”, which also means, among other things, giving multinational corporations exclusive access to raw resources, markets and trade routes. If necessary, against the will of sovereign states and by military means.

From North Africa via the Middle East to Central Asia

For Germany, concrete strategic goals must be formulated with a sense of proportion. “This also means that a pragmatic German security policy – especially when it comes to complex and long-term military operations – must primarily concentrate on the increasingly unstable European environment from North Africa via the Middle East to Central Asia; not least in order to relieve the American NATO allies in the course of their growing involvement in Asia,” write the two think tanks.
What is particularly strange is that in the paper “New power. New responsibility” it is in total three times almost word-for-word requested that Germany will have to “lead” more often and more decisively in the future.1

Coalition Agreement 2013

The extortionist logic of the project “New power. New responsibility” of 2013 did not remain without consequences. The coalition agreement forming the new German Federal Government of 16 December 2013 states: “The outstanding importance of foreign trade for the German economy, the increasing integration with foreign markets, […] call for greater political commitment to international economic relations. […] We are concerned about the increasing number of measures that limit or even prevent free trade. […] Germany depends on imports of many important resources. […]”
In the chapter “Responsibility in this World” of the coalition agreement, the German government offers itself – in line with expectations – as a “reliable partner in the world”. “Germany is facing up to its international responsibility. We want to play an active role in shaping the global order,” it says. “We are ready when our country is expected to contribute to resolving crises and conflicts. We stand for reliability and loyalty to the alliance. We want to be a good partner in shaping a just world order.”
Germany would continue to reliably fulfil its “appropriate share of the burdens in the alliance. Together with our NATO partners […]. The United Nations has a key role […] in meeting global challenges.”2
It was rightly and repeatedly stated that the coalition agreement thus meets the criteria set out in the paper “New Power. New Responsibility” to take up the foreign policy strategy.3
A sentence that is symptomatic of German foreign policy, “We stand ready when our country is expected to contribute to the resolution of crises and conflicts”, is anything but an expression of an inherently aggressive state. On the contrary, it is an almost submissive statement from a state under considerable pressure. In addition, however, this coalition agreement repeatedly contains clear commitments to underscoring peaceableness, such as: “In our view, the means of diplomacy, peaceful conflict regulation and development cooperation are paramount.”

“International expectations on Germany”

The international influence also has a direct impact on the German military doctrine. The “White Paper” of the German “Bundeswehr” of 2016 was produced with the participation of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). The powerful London think tank, under the patronage of Elizabeth II, is supported by 75 banks, energy multinationals and other large corporations, among others. During the kick-off event for the 2016 White Paper Process on 17 February 2015, Chatham House Director Robin Niblett, in the presence of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, presented the “international expectations on Germany”.
These days, non-state actors were always observing the benefits a country offered them, Niblett said, and continued threateningly: “Reinforced by the media, these actors can spread their power widely and thus hold politicians accountable in ways that were previously impossible.”
The process of globalisation was leading to a far more powerful struggle for influence, with “winners and losers”. In the USA as well as in Great Britain, national cohesion had been substantially destroyed by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Due to the restraint in these wars, Germany, by contrast, still had the capacity to mobilise broad agreement “if it decided to act”.
Probably Niblett’s statements have to be interpreted in this way: The United Kingdom and the United States have thoroughly disrupted their societies in decades of performing their function as powers of world order. Therefore, they can no longer organize sufficient approval for wars maintaining the world order in the interest of corporations. Against this background, Germany, among others, is now required to take up this function in parts of the world.
In his speech, the Chatham House Director openly called for an increase in German military spending. While facing a difficult economic situation British military spending was declining. Germany was already one of the “top ten” countries with the highest spending on “defence”. But Germany should rank higher in this list, or at least hold its position, if countries such as China, India, Brazil and others would increase their arms spending. So it seems that China, India and Brazil are also being expected to increase the profits of the arms companies and possibly also, in addition to Germany, to increasingly perform a role as powers of world order in their respective regions. The increasing practice of military resource control in the South Atlantic by Brazil and China’s military activities in the resource-rich South China Sea are current issues.

Germany has “no choice”

According to Niblett, Germany was not only a “mid sized power”, but a “great mid sized power”. The country did not have the opportunity to choose, it was simply a fact, and Germany had to fulfil the obligations arising from this position and had to bear the associated costs. The German people had to know that they had no choice but to serve Europe and thus the world economy.
Germany had to be an advocate of open markets. In this regard, probably in reference to the transatlantic free trade agreements TTIP and CETA, the Chatham House Director demanded the enforcement of corresponding decisions despite the strong public opposition.
In this sense, Niblett emphasized positively Germany bearing the costs of Russia’s sanctions – this was an example of the leadership “which one hoped to see of Germany”. It also meant bearing the costs of European energy security, said Niblett, and not just the costs of car exporters. Energy security was the absolutely central element for Europe’s future prosperity and security, with Germany playing a key role.
In military terms, Germany did not have to be involved in Asia. “But Germany was expected, and it should expect itself, to help create security in Europe”.

“Unavoidable to fulfil obligations”

He believes that Germany‘s leadership will succeed in bringing the “obligations of the country as a great power” to the sceptical public, provided it unanimously spreads the message “of the inevitability of Germany’s proportional obligations” to avert the dangers of today’s interdependent world. According to Niblett, these obligations also include a “punitive commitment”, for example in the form of sanctions.4
All this means that think tanks supported by large corporations require certain states, under threat of economic disadvantages, to significantly increase their arms expenditures and, as global powers, to use economic and military means to enforce and maintain a liberal world order in the interests of the corporations in various regions. The United States are supposed to commit themselves predominantly in the Pacific region, while Germany in Europe with its bordering regions (North Africa, Near East, Central Asia) has to take over more and more the function of the USA.
The will of the population does not matter; the state government must teach “the inevitability” of the respective “obligations” and implement appropriate measures against the democratic will of the majority. If countries like Germany fail to meet their obligations, they have to expect export opportunities and prosperity to be impaired. If states do not fulfil their intended role, other states have the duty of punishing them. The example of sanctions against Russia aimed at expanding oil production illustrates what is required of the world powers: The enforcement of resource control in the interest of banks and oil multinationals, also referred to as “energy security”.

Economic disadvantages in case of opposition

It is not the usual idea that states, let alone states like Germany, could be put under pressure or even blackmailed economically in order to bring them to military offensive actions in the world. Former German UN diplomat Hans von Sponeck described exactly that. He observed hardly any opposition in the United Nations Security Council against air attacks in Iraq, but rather a “fatal restraint” of states, even if they considered air attacks and the establishment of no-fly zones questionable under international law. In the two years of its membership in the Council in 1996/97, Germany also remained completely silent. This is done “purely for political reasons. Of course, out of the fear that concerns and opposition could […] be politically and economically detrimental to the doubter,” said von Sponeck. In the context of War Enabling Resolution 678 of November 1990 and Ceasefire and Sanction Resolution 687 of March 1991 against Iraq, “immense pressure” was exerted on the members of the Security Council. Yemen was after its no vote in the Security Council immediately cut off an assistance programme.5

“Burden sharing.“

Contrary to the often sketched view – states are usually not eager to wage wars or to participate in wars. This can be seen from the use of terms such as “burden sharing” and the fact that major wars can apparently hardly be started or conducted for many years without “conferences and agreements on troop-supply”. In the context of the war in Afghanistan, there is repeated talk of “fair burden-sharing”. States that spend a lot of money on armaments and wage regular wars are therefore not necessarily intrinsically “aggressive governments”, but possibly under considerable pressure to being imposed with “burdens”.

It gets dangerous with Trump

Against this background, US President Donald Trump’s announcements to reduce the US military commitment abroad and to expect more from Germany in particular are extremely dangerous. That the pressure on the Federal Republic of Germany could now increase further is also shown by the fact that immediately after the election it was mentioned in political talk shows that Germany would now be faced with corresponding requirements. Germany’s foreign and security policy to date, which despite constant militarisation can still be described as relatively restrained,6  could now come under even greater pressure than in recent years. The increasing militarisation must be criticised in the strongest terms. But that is not enough. It is at least equally important to make the system of “international expectations” for Germany, among others, a topic. How can it be that states are apparently forced, under threat of economic disadvantages, to punish other countries with brutal economic sanctions, to threaten them with wars and, in extreme cases, to wage wars against them? How can it be that so-called “think tanks” put pressure on states in this way? Peace will presumably only be possible if this blackmailing logic of war is explicitly made evident and it’s a crucial question to end this.    •

* Henrik Paulitz (born 1968) studied sociology and biology in Marburg and Bielefeld and is head of the Bergstrasse Academy for Resource, Democracy and Peace Research. The peace and conflict researcher is, among other things, author of the books “Anleitung gegen den Krieg and “Kriegsmacht Deutschland. (see also https://www.akademie-bergstrasse.de/buecher.php

Further background information and peace policy related recommendations can be found in the book: Paulitz, Henrik. Anleitung zum Krieg (Instructions for war), 2nd edition 2017

1    SWP/GMF: Neue Macht. Neue Verantwortung. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik. Berlin. The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Washington. 2013. P. 3, 6, 9, 20, 38f. a. 42
2    Deutschlands Zukunft gestalten. Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD. Berlin, 16.12.2013, p. 12, 14, 117 and 119
3    vgl. z. B. Wagner, Jürgen. Deutschlands (neue) Grossmachtambitionen. Von der «Kultur der (militärischen) Zurückhaltung» zur «Kultur der Kriegsfähigkeit». Not dated: http://imi-online.de/download/JW-Grossmacht.pdf (30.07.2016)
4    Niblett, Robin (Royal Institute of International Affairs/Chatham House). Internationale Erwartungen an Deutschland (International expectations on Germany. Lecture Berlin, 17.2.2015
5    Sponeck, Hans von, A Different Kind of War, 2006
6    vgl. Bierling, Stephan. Vormacht wider Willen. Deutsche Aussenpolitik von der Wiedervereinigung bis zur Gegenwart, München 2014. S. 267 ff. – Buro, Andreas. Deutschlands Verantwortung für den Frieden. Zukunftsszenarien für Strategien. Vortrag, Frankfurt, 2.10.2015. Thesenpapier. Mitschrift von Henrik Paulitz.

Quelle: Akademie Bergstrasse für Ressourcen-, Demokratie- und Friedensforschung, Analysen&Empfehlungen, November 2016

(Translation Current Concerns)