• Colonies in the 21st century (I)

    New Caledonia: Violent unrest shakes a remaining colony as clamor for independence grows. Germany also benefits from France’s hold over the archipelago.

    PARIS/NOUMÉA/BERLIN (own report) - Violent unrest has sent shockwaves through New Caledonia, one of the remaining colonial territories of the 21st century, which is still controlled by France. On the archipelago, located east of Australia in the southwest Pacific Ocean, sections of the indigenous population are in revolt after the French government decided to introduce a revised electoral law that disadvantages those communities. The reform would ensure a stable majority for the inhabitants who have moved there from France and tend to be politically aligned with Paris. It effectively downgrades the indigenous population to the status of a minority in their own country and, above all, worsens their prospects of decolonisation. New Caledonia is one of those places classified by the United Nations as “non-self-governing territories”, while Paris regards the archipelo as French soil. Under UN policy, a NSGT should move towards decolonisation without delay, but Paris refuses to budge. The islands have considerable geostrategic importance, enabling France to maintain a permanent military presence in the Pacific. The German armed forces have also benefited from the French military presence. If France were to release the colony, China could gain in influence there – a scenario that runs directly counter to Berlin’s strategic interests. Read more

  • Review: Le choix de la défaite

    Annie Lacroix-Riz analyses the portentous orientation of influential sections of the French elites towards Germany in the 1930s and the fluid transition to collaboration.

    “The day will come,” wrote the French historian Marc Bloch in April 1944, “and perhaps quite soon, when it will be possible to shed light on the machinations that took place in our country from 1933 to 1939 in support of the Berlin-Rome axis so that it could rule over Europe.” Shortly beforehand, on 8 March, Bloch, who had joined the Resistance to fight against the German occupation regime, had been arrested, imprisoned and severely tortured by the Gestapo in Lyon. Facing death, he was gripped by a question that he had already addressed back in the summer of 1940, shortly after the German Reich’s rapid military conquest of France. In his essay L'étrange défaite (Strange Defeat), he concluded that the French elites – military leaders, politicians, journalists, and above all industrialists – were prepared to “single-handedly destroy the entire edifice of our alliances and our partnerships” and enter into open collaboration with the Germans. Bloch, too, like so many others, fell victim to that collaboration: the Nazis murdered him on 16 June 1944. Read more

  • Rheinmetall, a “global player”

    German weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall aims to become a “global player” in the arms sector. Group CEO Papperger envisages a “European systems house” eventually joining the ranks of the big three US defence industry giants.

    DÜSSELDORF (own report) - Ahead of this year’s annual general meeting, on 14 May, the Rheinmetall military technology group announced its intention to become a “global player” in the arms industry. Its ambitious plans are rooted in a rapid increase in the demand for weapons and ammunition triggered by the war in Ukraine. The upward spiral in military spending has seen the sales and profits of the Düsseldorf-headquartered arms manufacturer skyrocket. Its weapons and ammunition division was able to boost turnover to 5.69 billion euros last year, generating a profit of 828 million euros – a significant increase on the 2021 figure (491 million euros). With a backlog of orders-in-hand that could reach 60 billion euros by the end of this year, the business appears to be very secure for years to come. A part of the upcoming orders is attributable the German government’s 100 billion euro “special fund” to upgrade the Bundeswehr. For around a third of this military expenditure is likely to flow into Rheinmetall. Group CEO Armin Papperger has wider ambitions for Europe-wide mergers. He is now advocating the creation of “a European systems house” capable of generating annual sales of 30 to 35 billion euros. Rheinmetall could then catch up with US defence industry giants, above all Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. This rapid expansion is driving the growing importance of the arms sector for policymaking and in the wider society. Read more

  • An EU defence force for Ukraine

    EU: growing pressure to deploy soldiers on Ukrainian soil. Berlin so far preferring an intervention scenario with air defence systems stationed in Poland and Romania.

    BERLIN/KIEV (own report) – As Russia’s current offensive gains momentum in Ukraine, politicians in Berlin are debating the merits of deploying European soldiers on Ukrainian territory. Last week, Lithuania announced that it was ready to send military trainers to the war zone without delay and was only waiting for a request from Kiev. Estonia has said that it is prepared to demonstrate military presence of its own on Ukrainian territory as part of a hoped-for “coalition of the willing”. Its focus would be on air defence capabilities. In Germany, the direct deployment of German troops is, with the exception of a few hardliners in Berlin, not publicly advocated. This is partly due to the important state elections upcoming next autumn. However, politicians from the CDU, FDP and Greens are backing intervention proposals that envisage the stationing of air defence systems on Polish and Romanian territory that can shoot down Russian offensive weapons over Ukraine. Warnings that this step would be tantamount to entering the war are being played down. At the same time, discussions are taking place on post-ceasefire scenarios, which might see the deployment of EU or NATO troops in Ukraine. Read more

  • It’s the economy, stupid

    Study: Germany and EU falling massively behind China in foreign trade with the Global South, so political influence in decline. Scholz’s political focus on the South has so far been a failure.

    BEIJING/BERLIN (own report) – Germany and the EU are fast losing economic clout in their trading relations with countries of the Global South. They should “not be surprised” by their parallel loss of political influence. This is the key finding of a recent analysis by the Cologne-based German Economic Institute (IW). The report shows how Germany’s share of trade with relatively strong economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America is stagnating. The EU’s share is declining even more markedly. Meanwhile, China’s share has been rising rapidly and now eclipses that of both the European Union and the United States. This trend is central to understanding why Germany’s “geopolitical weight in the Global South is also in decline,” explains the IW study. It takes Brazil as a case in point: under President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva this important country and BRIC member “is adopting a stance on the Ukraine war and the Middle East conflict that is contrary to the West’s position”, due not least to “the economic importance of China and Russia for Brazil”. The IW argues for decisive measures by Berlin to promote foreign trade with the Global South. Read more

  • Germany’s Pacific ambitions (III)

    Following foreign and military policy talks with New Zealand, Baerbock goes to Fiji, a hotspot of the power struggle with China. The West is leveraging colonial possessions and structures in the Pacific.

    BERLIN/AUCKLAND/SUVA (own report) - Following talks in New Zealand on joint foreign and military policy steps against China, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Fiji yesterday, Sunday. Baerbock had previously met with her counterpart in New Zealand and with the country’s Defence Minister. They exchanged views on, not least, the AUKUS pact. This arrangement provides for extremely close arms industry cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia to counter the rise of China in the region. New Zealand has recently elected an ultra-conservative government that is pushing for partial accession to the AUKUS pact, excluding the nuclear component of that alliance. Baerbock indicated her support for this move. The day before, she had already endorsed the pact in Australia. Germany itself will soon be sending warships and fighter jets to the region for wide-ranging war exercises. In Fiji, which has now become a focus of the increasingly tense power struggle between the West and China, Baerbock seeks to help block Chinese advances. The mainstream media in Germany have glossed over this dangerous power struggle and its military dimension, preferring photo ops of Baerbock returning objects once stolen from indigenous Australians and reports of German climate projects in the Pacific. Read more

  • “Optimally positioned for war”

    German Defence Minister Pistorius pushes ahead with organisational shake-up. The Bundeswehr continues its trajectory, first begun in 2014, towards war with Russia. Military and civilian elements to be interlocked.

    BERLIN (own report) – Germany’s armed forces are gearing their internal organisational structure to a future war against Russia. With the reorganisation announced by Defence Minister Boris Pistorius at the beginning of the month the military hopes to achieve “combat readiness, command capability and conscription preparedness”. Pistorius says the aim of the reforms is to “rebuild the Bundeswehr” in a way that ensures it is “optimally positioned for war”. This includes getting ready for “large-scale” deployment against a major power and ‘high-intensity combat operations”. The reform package contains three key innovations: command and control capabilities for home and abroad will be consolidated into a single operational command centre; scarce capabilities such as NBC defence, medical services and logistics will be bundled into a single support command; and the cyber and information forces will be upgraded to form a fourth branch of the armed forces. The organisational shake-up will embrace “all sectors” of the Bundeswehr and, according to Pistorius, will be implemented “within the next six months”. The aim was, he said, to ensure “build-up capability, [...] innovation superiority, and combat supply reliability”. The overriding “maxim” of all these actions was to make the Bundeswehr “ready for war”. Read more

  • Review: ‘Mutiny’

    Peter Mertens analyses the revolt of the Global South against Western dominance and the parallel revolts within the South and the West against poverty and exploitation.

    The world was in disorder, said Fiona Hill, former member of the United States National Security Council, in a speech delivered in the Estonian capital Tallinn in May last year. In numerous countries of the Global South we were witnessing the emergence among “elites and populations” of growing resistance to Western hegemony and, above all, the hegemony of the United States. Gaining ground is the conviction that the West has “imposed” an international order on the South “at a time of weakness”, a system that fails to meet its needs and its interests. Instead, they were seeing, she noted, how the transatlantic powers “dominated the international discourse”. The war in Ukraine was, Hill concedes, the most recent example. According to many in the Global South, it was not about defending Ukraine but, rather, securing the global dominance of the West, which Russia had openly called into question with the war. This was why the sanctions on Russia had received no support in the Global South. Instead, “a mutiny” was currently raging there: a “mutiny against what they see as the collective West”. Read more

  • Military states

    Western countries and their allies are home to one seventh of the world’s population – but account for some two thirds of global military spending. As the arms industry gains weight in Germany, economists predict “guns without butter”.

    BERLIN/WASHINGTON (own report) - At around two thirds, the share of global military spending by Western countries and their allies is twice that of the non-Western world. And it continues to grow. This is a finding of the latest study by the Stockholm-based research institute SIPRI, which was published yesterday (Monday). The researchers have found that global military spending rose last year to a record level of around 2,443 trillion US dollars. Of this volume, 37 per cent was spent by the United States and 24 per cent by the countries of Europe. And close allies like Japan must be included in the West’s share of arms expenditure. Germany is in seventh place in the SIPRI ranking of countries with the highest military expenditure worldwide. It is likely to rise to fifth place in 2024 due to its massive programme of arms spending on the Bundeswehr. The politically driven militarisation in the West is taking place at a time when the economic, and now political, influence of the transatlantic powers is on the wane – a trend that can possibly only be stopped by force. In Germany, the growing political importance of the arms industry and the burgeoning defence budget comes at the expense of tax revenues going to civil needs such as welfare, health and education. Read more

  • Escalation in the Middle East (II)

    EU and several G7 states announce new Iran sanctions, with Germany pushing hard. Yet Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus without consequences. Double standards widely criticised.

    BERLIN/TEHRAN/TEL AVIV (own report) - The EU and several G7 states are preparing new sanctions against Iran, partly in response to German pressure. This move follows Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend. The missile and drone bombardment was the first time Iran has directly targeted Israeli territory, although the two states have been engaged in violent clashes for many years. Since 2013, and increasingly since 2017, Israel has been hitting Iranian positions in Syria. Since 7 October 2023 the Israelis have focused on targeted assassinations of Iranian commanders, killing almost a dozen by the end of March alone. The airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus on 1 April killed seven Iranian commanders, some of them high-ranking. It marks “an unprecedented escalation” by Tel Aviv, notes the London-based think-tank Chatham House. It could yet prove to be “the spark that ignites the Middle East”. In response, the West has taken no action against Israel for, not least, violating the Vienna Convention on diplomatic sites. Iran’s retaliatory strikes – a choreographed show of strength communicated in advance – immediately triggered Western punishment. The double standards once again on display have given rise to some fierce criticism from the wider international community. Read more