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Germany’s leaders need to have their brains rewired

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Germany is one country in Europe which grew rapidly with US assistance following the second world war. Its growth was impressive. It invited global admiration. Tight monetary policy, a reputation for quality and engineering excellence marked the way forward. It was hard work all through and it paid the country rich dividends.

However, modern Germany is an entirely different story. It is today an integral part of the European Union that was formed on 1st November 1993. Along with Italy and France (and the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland) it is one of the biggest contributors to the European Union. It is in fact the biggest as it contributes an average of nearly 31 billion Euros every year to the EU that increases with each passing year. All seemed to be going well until the Russian special operation on Ukraine began in early 2022.

One year after the war it is baffling and astonishing to discover the hard fact that no country involved either directly or indirectly in the war wants peace. India is a notable exception. The developed world very clearly does not want what India wants. Inevitably this suggests that different factors (such as pressure from its American allies) are at play. A good example is Germany.

This is a country whose leaders need to have their brains rewired to help them change their vision. Since the war began in Ukraine, Germany has been sending military assistance to Ukraine along with financial and humanitarian aid. Germany then joined EU efforts to stop Russian gas imports at a time when it needed such imports the most. Interestingly, neither the EU nor the US have stopped Russian nuclear energy imports.

Germany has traditionally been dependent on cheap imports of Russian oil and gas. Nearly 40 percent of its needs have been met by Russia. When President Trump warned German leaders that they were excessively dependent on Russian energy, they smiled at him with condescension, gave him coy looks that suggested that the US President did not know what he was talking about. But President Trump had got it right and the Germans had got it wrong.

Angela Merkel espoused a more sensible approach to restructuring Germany’s ties with Russia. She recognized the fact that there could be no solution without Russia’s active participation. She recognized the fact that Germany has no option other than reaching a settlement with Russia and this included Ukraine. 

Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger and Jeffrey Sachs and several other leaders in Europe would privately  agree with her. But the entire European Union has shown no backbone in resisting NATO’s efforts to break ties with Russia and using the war in Ukraine to wage a full-fledged shameless proxy war to destroy the Russian economy through a series of wide-ranging economic sanctions that was aimed at crippling the Russian economy.

It has taken a war in Ukraine to realize the brutal truth that the emperor has no clothes! Germany is today running from pillar to post for cheap oil and gas, while it’s population is reeling under the effects of inflation, an unprecedented energy crisis, a cost of living crisis   and businesses closing at rapid speed. The IMF predicts that Germany and Italy are certain to slip into recession in 2023.

The German consumer has for decades been used to low inflation and price stability. There is massive social unrest in Germany. German voters want their interests protected first and who is to say that they are wrong? Discontent is widespread. Lights have been dimmed in all public buildings. Heating has been restricted. Soaring energy prices have prompted the German government to go in for a massive loan of 200 billion Euros to subsidize energy prices. This step has not been well received by its European allies.

The sanctions imposed on Russia by The West have harmed the US and Europe more than they have harmed Russia. The IMF has actually scaled down its growth projections for Russia; it has admitted that Russia has done better than most countries and that it’s economy has proved to be remarkably resilient.

On September 10, 2022, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “We will stand by Ukraine for as long as necessary…even if the German voter goes against the decision”. This is a remarkable statement. She is basically saying Ukraine comes first then Germany! The German voter will not be pleased. And not just the German voter. The same Minister made inappropriate comments on Kashmir and later withdrew it. Yet again it was the same Minister who injudiciously declared that Germany was at war with Europe. She later had to correct herself. She is clearly unqualified to handle foreign affairs and has no experience of diplomacy.

Germany is today paying the price of uncritically toeing the NATO line of aggressive war mongering. Along with France it was an active participant to the Minsk accords according to which NATO would not extend its boundaries eastwards. This was an undertaking given to Gorbachev that NATO has violated with impunity. Unfortunately, there was no written agreement as the Russians in the wake of the demise of the cold war took the Americans at their word.

President Putin has been portrayed in the West  as an unrepentant aggressor who desires to extend the Russian empire across the Baltic states and threaten countries like Sweden and Finland. He is portrayed as a power hungry mentally deficient autocrat who is hell bent on destroying the West. Nothing could be more removed from the truth. Russia had made it clear several times that it has no interest in taking over Ukraine.

President Putin is a patriot and a nationalist who has put the interests of his country at the forefront. The West did not listen to his warnings and did not take him seriously. The Russian President has no interest in annexing Sweden or Finland. He does not even have an interest in occupying Ukraine. The West has failed dismally in understanding him and the German government leads the pack. This includes the Nordic countries and the Baltic states and Poland; the last is reported to be concocting plans of reclaiming parts of Ukraine that was once part of the Polish-Lithuanian empire.

According to projections, Germany’s economy would shrink by 0.3% in 2023, after growing by just 1.6% this year. Inflation is forecast to hit 8.1% this year and 9.3% in 2023.” Until 2024, 1.8% growth and 2.4% inflation could be expected. The situation is so grim that Germany, as has the rest of Europe, gone back on its commitment to meet its climate targets. It is reopening its nuclear plants, gone back to dependence on coal and is desperately looking for ways and means to become self-sufficient in energy.

The truth of the matter lies in the indisputable fact that the EU did not think through its strategy of getting rid of their dependence on Russian gas and oil. Alternate options were not in place. Hidden fault lines are now coming into the open. Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria have openly come out in favour of establishing ties with Russia. Other countries are expected to follow. Efforts are in progress to fix a price cap on Russian energy exports but this move is unlikely to succeed. President Putin has threatened to retaliate.

Within the EU countries are divided. There are reports that the EU is running out of further military assistance to Ukraine unless they dip into their stockpiles. Similar reports are emerging out of the United States. It is one big mess.  But European leaders maintain an outer façade of a unity that is actually tenuous and fragile. If Germany sinks then Europe sinks. The stakes are high for Germany. When will its leaders wake up, bring an end to the war and reconstitute their ties with Russia is as yet, a  matter of speculation.

The German Chancellor also appears to be a deeply divided personality. He is caught between political correctness and doing the right thing. Astonishingly, Chancellor Scholz has not uttered a word on the American destruction of the Nordsteam pipeline. This is all the more remarkable because it is Germany and Russia that have in the main paid several billions of dollars in building it.

The German government has forgotten that the maximum sacrifices that were made in the fight against Nazism came from Russia. It was Russia that suffered the most. Over 25 million casualties. It was the Soviet Red Army that liberated Auschwitz. Germany owes much of its prosperous industrial growth to cheap and generous imports of Russian gas and oil, not to speak of coal. On the face of it. The country comes across as an ungrateful and graceless nation whose memory of recent history is remarkably selective. It certainty has a rather extraordinary manner of expressing its gratitude.

Germany’s leaders need to rewire theory brains as it is in the wrong place. The country has been singularly responsible for triggering two of the most devastating wars of the twentieth century with much blood on its hands. It was also responsible for exterminating an entire race by using some of the most brutal ways known to humankind. Having caused and experienced unparalleled human suffering, it must know that it has a compelling responsibility to bring about peace through a negotiated settlement rather than supplying weapons to a country where the regime is dependent on neo-Nazis for its survival.

14,000 ethnic Russiand have been slaughtered by the Zelensky regime that was propped up by the West, Germany was an active participant to the Minsk accords. Is it not a matter of shame that the Zelensky regime remains completely unaccountable for the massive funding it has so far received?

Does it need a lot of intelligence to realize the fact that the peace that is proving to be so elusive in Ukraine needs to be urgently placed on the agenda upon a war footing and Germany has  a responsibility in making that happen? Leadership does not consist in explaining why this or that did not happen. It consists in making things happen.

By Ramnath Narayanswamy: The author is a Distinguished Professor in FLAME University, Pune. He is also a former Sovietologist.

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