Great Power Status

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LONDON german-foreign-policy.com documents a speech given by Horst Teubert, member of our Editorial Board, in Portcullis House, London, on 29 January 2007. The speech gives an overview on present German foreign policy.

Germany's Bid for Great Power Status through the EU
By Horst Teubert, Editor Informationen zur deutschen Aussenpolitik, January 2007

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I would like to give a few examples of the typical characteristics of German foreign policy which seem important to me. So I have selected themes which play a special role in the debate over foreign policy: the EU constitution which is much wished-for in Berlin, energy policy, the ever-closer cooperation between Germany and Russia and Germany's see-saw policy of playing east off against west which promises to make possible a further increase in German power. I also intend to look into a theme which is acquiring great topicality at present: the forthcoming secession of Kosovo which has been systematically promoted by all German governments since the Nineteen Nineties against massive internal opposition in Europe. In conclusion, I will cover a few aspects of internal developments in German society which, I hope, will make clear what motivates my critical analysis of German foreign policy.

January 2007 is a good time to speak about German foreign policy. The German government took over the presidency of the European Union at the beginning of the year and will lead the affairs of the union for the next six months. This provides special opportunities to increase influence in the coming months, which the German elites will not allow to pass them by. Consequently Berlin's activities will be particularly intensive in the coming months and so especially recognisable. For some time already Berlin has maintained with a portentous undertone that the EU President is "the face and voice" of the union. In these six months, Germany is claimed to have a "special responsibility" for Europe and its place in the world. Last year the Federal Government ascribed such an importance to its EU presidency that one had to ask oneself whether it intended to stand the EU on its head during its period of office. The arrogant language about Germany's "special responsibility" was so unwelcome to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that he was openly critical after attending a cabinet meeting in preparation for Germany's assumption of office. Barroso stated that "it was not fair to lay all the burden on Germany's shoulders" and reminded the government in barely concealed irritation that other states also were involved in the development of the EU.

The German government has made the adoption of the EU constitution in one way or another a central goal of its presidency. The existing proposed constitution corresponds in large part to Berlin's ideas for the future development of Europe. The tightening of a common foreign policy will make it possible to weaken world-political concepts which deviate from the German strategy, including British ideas which may be permanently excluded in the long term - at any rate whilst the German position in Europe remains as strong and dominant as at present. The planning for continual military rearmament, contained in the proposed constitution, corresponds exactly with the German intention to strengthen its own military power, which is at present regarded as insufficient, with the help of the EU. Arising out of such thinking, political advisors from the milieu of the Bertelsmann Foundation, probably the most influential private German think tank, developed a scenario four years ago for a "Superpower Europe".

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In this strategy paper it is asserted that a precondition for the rise of such a super power is a European constitution, on which basis all necessary political areas could be taken under EU control. This will at last make it possible to build a European army under the control of a Brussels high command and so under German influence, which has the nuclear potential of France and Great Britain at its disposal. In looking at further prospects, the text reads "Superpower Europe is finally abandoning the idea of a civil power and is providing for itself without restriction the means of conducting the policy of an international superpower". The paper closes with the remark "the great political and economic power potential of the EU permits comparison with the USA".

The EU constitution is useful for power strategies which are aimed in this direction. This appears to explain why the German government has been so stiff-necked in its insistence on the proposed constitution which must be reckoned as a failure by democratic measures. When the French people rejected the constitution by a clear majority at the end of May 2005, the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder demanded "the ratification process in the member states must continue". Already on the day of the referendum German commentators were suggesting that the referendum should simply be held again - a disrespect for French sovereignty equivalent to the disrespect shown to Irish voters in 2001, which degrades democracy to a competition in manipulation. It was said in Berlin that the French had been insufficiently "enlightened" about the constitution. After the second "No" a few days later in the Netherlands, the experts were rather more careful. The simple repetition of a referendum could only succeed in one of the smaller states, perhaps the Czech Republic. This was the disparaging opinion of a specialist in the Konrad Adenauer Foundation which is close to the Christian Democrat party. Nobody in Berlin is turning away from the German aim of pushing through the essential content of the constitution in one form or another. The debate around the constitution, which has been rejected in two states and is also acknowledged to face broad opposition here, is reduced to the ideas which will enable the document to be implemented against clear democratic majorities.

Since the double "No", the concepts which have been discussed for the past two years and are discussed to this day in Berlin, contain numerous plainly threatening gestures. They give an impression of the way Germany reacts when it does not get its own way in the EU. There is a plan - again from the Bertelsmann Foundation - to dismantle the constitution into its component parts and to bring them into force through multi-lateral treaties one at a time without consulting the people. "If the EU passes a treaty to introduce a European Foreign Minister, nobody would think it necessary to hold a referendum on the proposal" said one of the leading German political advisors, untroubled by the fact that this would entail massive consequences for the sovereignty of member states. There was also talk of excluding those countries which did not ratify the constitution as well as of a two-class EU with reduced voting rights in the European Council and Parliament for those which refused. Finally it was proposed to turn the EU almost overnight from an alliance of states into a federal state by holding a Europe-wide referendum on the constitution. In this way Germany's population could outweigh British resistance in a referendum.

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Britain's particular reservations over the constitution have been carefully studied by government advisors. Early last year the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), another influential think tank, came to the principal conclusion that British resistance could be overcome with a media campaign. The BBC was already aligned on the "Euro-friendly" side but problems could arise with the print media. The foundation calculated that roughly 2.75 million editions of the British daily press were euro-friendly as against 8.2 million on the eurosceptic side. Berlin's threats are formulated with a view to Great Britain and supported with historical analogies. "Only the European Union could provide the framework for lasting peace, freedom, welfare and democracy". Thus said Chancellor Schroeder in the Summer of 2005. Without further European integration, that means the threat of war, destruction of freedom, poverty and dictatorship. At the same time a Social Democrat MEP warned against "alliances like those of 1914 which were already leading Europe into a super-disaster of the 20th century". He warned against a new alliance of axis powers ready to unite, perhaps against France but certainly against Britain.

In the centre of Germany's EU presidency the leading thought is that a further tightening of the EU, perhaps also the constitution, can be forced through only by taking a diversion through foreign and defence policy. This is in no way a new idea. The attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 was presented in the German press as "a war of European unification". In spite of previous opposition Germany was able to conduct the war it wanted, as part of the community, as well as achieving a standardised EU foreign policy according to German concepts in an exemplary area - namely that of policy in South Eastern Europe. This method of unification is really old in German terms. It led to the founding of the German Reich in 1871 after Prussia won three "wars of unification". At a conference of the Bertelsman Foundation held early last year and attended by high ranking delegates, it was said that the EU could only develop further, if external threats were included at the centre of political propaganda. "Energy, Terror and Migration" were suitable themes below the threshold of war to bring the European states under actual or apparent external pressure in order to weld them together. "Energy, Terror, Migration" are the central slogans of Germany's EU presidency.

One can observe how this welding together will work by considering energy policy. Germany is presently in a long-term targeted process of clarification concerning all raw materials, which is intended to guarantee the provision of the German economy with all necessary resources in the coming decades. This process was started two years ago with a German "Raw Materials Congress" which will come to firm conclusions this year. Energy resources were excluded because they are dealt with separately in an "Energy Summit" established early last year. Working parties of high ranking executives and a round of conferences have drawn up concepts on which basis the Federal Government will work in cooperation with relevant companies to ensure that Germany is adequately supplied with favourably priced energy.

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The supply of oil and natural gas from abroad to Germany is of the highest importance, so the Foreign Office as well as the Economic Ministry is participating in the planning. In the second half of this year a "Common Strategy for Energy Policy" will be completed which will have drastic consequences for German foreign policy. In this, Germany is using the EU for its national purposes. In circles close to the Bertelsmann Foundation it is asserted that "Problems connected with energy supply cannot be solved by acting alone, so a strengthened European integration is necessary in this area. The formulation of a common European energy strategy is the primary task of negotiations".

EU heads of state and government agreed to this plan in March 2006 - just at the time when Berlin was cranking up preparations for the first "Energy Summit" to high speed. As President of the European Council, the Federal Government is now elaborating an "Energy Action Plan" which will be adopted in March this year. This will establish what parts of future energy supply will be controlled from Brussels and what Berlin will take in hand for itself. This, coming at just the right time, is intended to ensure that German influence will predominate in EU energy strategy.

Above all however, the Common Energy Strategy forms a basis on which a Common Foreign Policy must be realised. For the energy strategy, forced through by German pressure, demands amongst other things, an option for certain supplier countries, requiring common diplomatic approaches. With this, the energy strategy gives increased leverage to Germany to weaken those foreign policy concepts which diverge from the German position. Perhaps Central Asia provides a good example of this. The district around the Caspian Sea with its enormous energy resources belongs to those regions to which the Federal Government devotes special attention. A new EU strategy for Central Asia is under construction during the German presidency. Opposed interests within the EU first came to light in November when the continuation of sanctions against Uzbekistan was on the agenda. The sanctions were imposed after Uzbek security forces massacred demonstrators in May 2005. Berlin, which wants to build contacts with the states of Central Asia as quickly as possible, pressed for relatively weak sanctions from the beginning - and broke even those very soon. In the second half of 2006 German diplomats pressed for a total lifting of sanctions and so came into conflict with a whole row of other EU member states which supported tougher measures against Tashkent. On account of Uzbekistan's energy resources, the argument concerning the EU energy strategy will show just how far Berlin could succeed in deciding the debate in its favour.

The strategy with the slogans "Energy, Terror, Migration," which aims to standardise EU foreign policy along German lines, could soon achieve a success here. Russia is even more important for EU energy supply than Central Asia. The EU Commission calculates that by 2030 EU member states will need to import around 70% of their natural gas supplies. Today this figure is just 40%. At present around two fifths of this forty per cent come from Russia, but by 2030 this will be around three fifths of a much greater volume. In the more distant future this could rise to four fifths. You can see that Russia will have really huge significance for EU energy supply. In Germany it is thought that this will also apply to Great Britain.

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You know much better than I how things really stand with regard to future supplies of oil and gas for Britain. German policy is informed by the thoughts of their experts who are totally unanimous. A few weeks ago an influential German paper wrote that Great Britain "would be compelled by 2020 to import 90% of its gas requirements. So Russia could become an important partner for London too". If everything goes according to the German plan, the energy supply of Great Britain - as of other EU states - will be under full German control in a few years. It is well known that German concerns work in close cooperation with Russian companies, which will control three fifths of European natural gas imports.

The German firm Eon AG is the largest world-wide private energy concern. Eon is now trying to take over the Spanish firm Endesa to strengthen its global dominance in Europe and expand to South America. Through its subsidiary firm Ruhrgas, Eon is a shareholder in the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom with which it has long-term supply contracts. Eon's chairman is the only Western European with a seat on Gazprom's board. The German chemical company BASF was the first foreign company to acquire direct access to an important Siberian gas field through its subsidiary Wintershall. BASF is also in partnership with Gazprom in the gas distributor Wingas. German financial firms are also cooperating with Russia. The Dresdner Bank has a long term strategic partnership with Gazprom and has advised the firm on its expansion and, above all, on its business strategy. Deutsche Bank has supported the energy giant with large scale credits. The strength of the German position is easily understood by reference to the development of resource exploitation on Sakhalin. You certainly remember that the Kremlin recently took proceedings against Shell and weakened its position greatly.

But that isn't everything. Not only do German firms work closely with Russian energy companies which, according to Berlin's view, will soon be large suppliers to Britain. Moscow wants to make Germany the hub for the distribution of natural gas to the rest of Europe. When President Vladimir Putin visited Dresden in the autumn, he said that this would alter the importance of Germany in the energy economy of Western Europe. This was a polite description for a massive growth of power which had already been announced with the construction of Nord Stream, the so-called Baltic pipeline. Above all in Poland, Nord Stream has caused annoyance and apprehension because the pipeline avoids Polish territory and deprives the government in Warsaw of an influential card in Great Power politics. In Poland old anxieties have grown of a tightening German-Russian grip. It is comparatively unknown that in December 2000 the EU accorded Nord Stream the status of a Transeuropean Energy Network (TEN-E). Nord Stream will have great importance for West European gas supply. which is only shared with the German firms BASF and Eon. It was expected that not only the German firms BASF and Eon would build this vital pipeline but that at least one firm from another European state would participate to dilute the national influence somewhat. But that is not the case. The Chief Executive of Nord Stream is a German and that former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is chairman of the supervisory board. And Nord Stream is only one example. Gazprom wants to dominate the European gas markets from Germany outwards through its subsidiary Gazprom Germania. Gazprom Germania is investing up to 3 billion Euros in the next few years, amongst other projects in the British gas terminal at Saltfleetby.

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Exclusive German/Russian cooperation, which shuts out other West European firms and makes Germany into the controller of West European gas supplies, is matched by military cooperation between the two countries. In the Autumn, plans for closer cooperation between the German-French arms supplier EADS and the Russian aerospace industry caused a considerable sensation. But this is only the tip of that famous iceberg. Joint Russian/German military exercises have taken place for years. In 2004 the two defence ministers agreed to develop military equipment and armaments in cooperation. In December Russia launched the first German military espionage satellite into space. As worried Polish analysts have established, cooperation in space is closer between Moscow and Berlin than with Washington or Paris. The Kremlin has agreed that Russian transport planes can be put at NATO's disposal on a German air base, namely Leipzig although this is contrary to international law. International lawyers say that troop movements in Leipzig are a violation of the "Two plus Four Treaty" which forbids the stationing of foreign troops in the former territory of East Germany.

This suspected German-Russian breach of the "Two plus Four Treaty", an international agreement binding on Germany, recalls an earlier phase of military cooperation between Germany and Russia. From the early Nineteen Twenties Berlin and Moscow began a secret cooperation which involved the armaments firms and forces of both sides. For Germany this was a method of circumventing the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles which had been imposed on Germany as the aggressor. On Soviet territory German soldiers could try out the use of poison gas, conduct an armoured warfare training school and carry out air exercises - all activities forbidden by the Versailles Treaty. Historians reckon that without Soviet help German forces could not have been completely ready for war by 1939. Cooperation continued right up to June 22nd 1941, the day when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. In September 1939 both sides concluded a frontier and friendship treaty across their common border in defeated Poland. In the first two years of the war the Kremlin placed the harbour of Murmansk at Germany's disposal, not only for merchant ships but also for German naval vessels, involved in the fight against Great Britain. An authority on German-Russian relations recently told us in interview that the present intensification of military cooperation between the two countries showed distinct parallels with the Twenties and early Thirties. The distinction between then and now consisted in the fact "that then there was a trace of political will towards disarmament whilst practically nobody shares that view today".

The see-saw policy between East and West, which was facilitated by German-Russian cooperation in the Twenties and early Thirties, is active today. Just as in those days, it brings Germany a further access of power and influence. This is not only evidenced by small but painful irritations directed against the United States, as can be seen in the current competition for energy. It could be seen in the Russian Shtokman Field, known worldwide as one of the greatest reserves of natural gas. Originally Moscow and Washington intended to liquefy the gas and to transport it to the United States by ship. In her first meeting with the Russian President, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel succeeded in causing a major policy shift. As President Putin announced this autumn, the Shtockman field would now be partially diverted into the Baltic pipeline and would go to Germany not to the USA.

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Whilst the tussle over the Shtokman Field can be put down as an example of normal competition, this cannot be said of other activities by Berlin. The moves towards European space travel speak a different language. German space experts demand above all, "we must not leave the field to the Americans". They also insist that a colony must be established on the moon "not under the stars and stripes but under the European flag". "Whoever has this orbit in his grip has a position of power" - so said a leading expert. A few weeks later, as expected, the first German spy satellite was stationed in space with Russian help. More will soon follow. A year before, the first satellite of the EU navigation system "Galileo" was sent into orbit. It is some years since a study published by the Federal Government said that this would give Brussels important intelligence capabilities and would basically permit the conduct of wars against the interests of the USA.

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Fierce competition with the United States does not in any way exclude close cooperation in many fields. It is the speciality of German see-saw policy that it does not come down permanently on one side but permits the increase of influence and elbow room with changing partners. The destruction of Yugoslavia provides a good example of German-American cooperation. It now looks as if this will shortly be completed by the secession of Kosovo. Germany's role as the outrider for the dissolution of Yugoslavia is well known. It is also worth looking at the German role in Kosovo today. Years ago, a German governor for the UN created a new independent legal order in Kosovo and negotiated a free trade treaty between Kosovo and Albania. The present German governor, previously responsible for the economy of Kosovo, sold off the state enterprises in the district to foreign buyers without consulting the rightful owner, the government in Belgrade. The arbitrary exercise of power by German UN administrators corresponds to the living conditions for the population. According to the Minority Rights Group International in London, the situation of minorities in Kosovo is "the worst in all Europe". A few months ago the organisation reported that nowhere else in Europe is there "such a high risk of ethnic cleansing in the near future and even the risk of genocide". Minority Rights Group International concluded that Western policy shared responsibility for the threat to Serbs, Sinti and Roma people by the Albanian-speaking majority. "Whilst they permit intimidation to continue, UNMIK and KFOR have impressively demonstrated that they will tolerate the ethnic cleansing and secession of Kosovo".

Berlin is working closely with Washington to prepare for the secession of Kosovo and, on this account, is holding down considerable opposition inside the EU. The most recent example of this is the NATO Riga Summit declaration of 29 November 2006, in which the NATO members demanded a solution for the conflict over secession in southern Serbia, "which is acceptable to the population of Kosovo". The agreement of Belgrade is no longer considered necessary. So Kosovo will become a precedent. The concurrence of the central government is no longer necessary for secession. Immediately a prominent Basque separatist asserted "On the day on which Catalonia and the Basque country raise their hands and say 'We are going independent' the Spanish government will no longer be able to raise its finger and say 'Yes, but only with Spain's consent'." You know as well as I do that Basque and Catalonian separatism also have claims on French territory. Romania and Greece, which both fear secessionist movements, are prepared to fight tooth and nail against the splitting off of Kosovo, desired by both Berlin and Washington. So Germany's title conferred by the USA of "partner in leadership" begins to sound rather strange, as it leads to the enforcement of German hegemony against resistance by other European states.

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Finally I would like to say a few words about internal developments in Germany, in order to make clear what induces me to a critical analysis of Berlin's foreign policy. Next I would like to mention a special aspect. You will surely have heard that neonazism is becoming stronger in Germany. An extreme right wing party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is gaining influence - above all in the East. Violent acts by neonazis have made whole regions into "no go areas" for non-Germans and those who disagree with them. It creates a climate in which the government itself can easily sanction severe internal political measures. Neonazi organisations cannot command majorities and become a strategic threat in the foreseeable future. But their partial successes have demonstrated that the German elites are quite capable of playing both sides of the national card, if the European story is not going down well. In the Nineteen Nineties Wolfgang Schaeuble, the present Minister of the Interior, did it in a strategy paper which has since become famous. In it, he demanded the eastward expansion of the EU and threatened Western powers with the consequences of opposition. If integration did not proceed, "Germany might be called upon or compelled by its own security considerations to take in hand the stabilisation of Eastern Europe alone and in the traditional manner". Schaeuble's paper was published on 1 September 1994, the 55th anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland. I have mentioned similar threats which were to be heard from the Social Democrat Party in the last eighteen months. Now as before, Germany's threat to "go it alone" is the whip with which Berlin keeps other states lined up behind its EU policies.

In this world-wide policy of hegemony, assisted by the EU, there lurk grave perils for the German people. There are clear signs that a gathering inward readiness for future Europe-wide and global power struggles is in progress. The German presidency provides a good example of this. Chancellor Angela Merkel called for unanimity in all matters concerning the EU presidency. Vice Chancellor Franz Muentefering demanded that the people should show "the same enthusiasm as during the football world championship". With background briefings and mass meetings, the German government is trying to nullify opposition to German foreign policy. There will be "a Europe Dialogue with Civil Society", School Project Days, "A German Citizens' Conference" - all with the purpose of getting people signed up to Berlin's plans for Europe. Similar undertakings are familiar from earlier phases of German history. They also served to prepare and accompany German expansion in Europe and the world. We all know what consequences that had twice in the last century - not least for the German people. Whoever wishes to prevent a new repetition must warn of the ever stronger tendencies in Germany towards a policy of hegemony and dominance.