June 22, 2017

Ruminating on the Mittelage and the Sonderweg

Here are some excerpts from the thoughtful and alarmingly coherent Foreign Affairs article, "Keine Atombombe, Bitte" by Ulrich Kühn and Tristan Volpe, to which I have added some pictures and illustrative videos.

[E]very time Germany takes the lead, its neighbors recall history and grow nervous about German hegemony over Europe.

Such fears go back as least as far as the creation of the modern German state in 1871.  From then until the country’s partition after World War II, European leaders confronted “the German question,” a simple but unsolvable dilemma.  Germany’s size meant that no single European country could ever balance its economic or military power.  Yet Germany was never powerful enough to rule over Europe alone.  Part of the problem stemmed from the country’s so-called Mittelage, its location at the center of Europe, surrounded by potentially hostile coalitions.  Germany responded to external threats by pursuing what historians have called its Sonderweg, or “special path,” a term used to describe the country’s affinity for authoritarian rule and attempts to impose that rule throughout Europe.  Whenever it did that, the resulting wars devastated the continent...

West Germany could not dominate Europe during the Cold War since the struggle between the East and the West subsumed European rivalries. And after reunification, in 1990, the institutional bonds of the EU and NATO prevented the German question from recurring…

This halcyon era for German ended abruptly in 2009. The Great Recession and the subsequent EU debt crisis led many EU countries to demand German leadership. But when Germany imposed its solutions…it triggered accusations of rising German hegemony…

Against this backdrop, Trump’s election heightened the tensions among competing factors: the need for German leadership, the limits of German power, and Europe’s intolerance of German dominance…by declaring NATO “obsolete,” Trump undermined the system that has kept Europe safe and Germany restrained for over half a century.

But worst of all, by appearing to cozy up to Putin, Trump put Germany in a new Mittelage – this time between the White House and the Kremlin…

Should Europe find itself caught between a hostile Russia and an indifferent United States, Berlin would feel pressure to defend Europe militarily rather than just politically. But then it would face the problem of how to guarantee European security without reviving fears of German hegemony. And if Germany boosted its military power without integrating it into the European project, that might well lead to German isolation and the breakup of the EU.

Nuclear weapons seem to offer Germany a way out of the impasse.

I don't see any holes in this logic.  The authors go on to to argue energetically that  Germany should not do this, that there would be tremendous problems and complications from undertaking such a course, that Germany should try everything and anything else.

But, given stated U.S. and UK policy - the casual renunciation of close agreements held for generations - I don't see what choice the Germans have.  Comprehensive remilitarization at a minimum (also occurring in Japan), and probably some nuclearization as well (maybe take some cues from the Israelis?).

In any case, Angela sees it clearly:  they can't count on anyone putting their life on the line for Germany now, except Germans.  No point pretending otherwise.


Blogger VMM said...

1) Germany + France can dominate Europe
2) France has nuclear weapons

June 23, 2017 at 7:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home