The Moment of the Europeans

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Germany's top politicians are calling on the EU to close ranks behind Europe's "central power," Germany, following President-Elect Donald Trump's recent declarations in an interview. Trump suggested the possibility of "deals" with Russia, predicted the further disintegration of the EU and pointed to Germany's dominant role within the EU. A new Russian-American world order is looming, according to Elmar Brok (CDU), Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is therefore imperative that the EU "close ranks." Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed a similar opinion. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, called for Russian and US disarmament and for enhancing the EU's militarization. He recommended that "German nuclear armament" not be discussed - at least "at the moment."

"Vehicle for Germany"

Donald Trump's declarations in a recent interview have provoked Berlin's call for the EU to close ranks. In his interview with the German "Bild" and the British "Times," Trump called NATO "obsolete," because only five member countries are investing the generally agreed two percent of their respective GDPs in their armed forces. He also suggested the possibility of "some good deals" with Russia, hailed the Brexit and predicted that other members would leave the EU. He also pointed to Berlin's dominant role in the EU - a fact that is no longer denied in Europe's foreign policy establishment. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[1]) "You look at the European Union, and it is Germany; basically, a vehicle for Germany," Trump was quoted.[2]

Close Ranks on Military Policy

The prospect that Washington under Trump could reach agreements with Moscow on international policy issues without the EU - which, for years, has been crippled with crisis and actually is facing disintegration - has provoked indignant reactions from German foreign policy makers and appeals to close ranks. "If we fail now to close ranks in the field of security and foreign policy, we will be faced with a new world order under Russia's President Putin and the new US President Trump," Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs contended on Monday.[3] Already at the beginning of the year, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference had called for the EU to "speak more in unison in the future" and certainly not in the "cacophony of 27 or 28 European heads of states and governments."[4] Germany's Foreign Minister - who will soon become Germany's President - Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared, following a meeting with his EU counterparts last Monday that it has "perhaps become again clearer to one or the other, just how important it is that Europe stands together and assumes common positions."[5] Brok packaged his plea for a pan-EU closing of ranks into an appeal: "This is now the moment of the Europeans."[6]

Disarm the Rivals

In Berlin, the contention is making the rounds that an eventual rapprochement between Washington and Moscow could be politically advantageous - not least of all to put the power struggle over Ukraine on ice. This would permit a roll back of sanctions on Russia and create new room for German companies to make lucrative business deals with the East - without relinquishing one's own positions.[7] Thus, Ischinger alleges to have heard "courageous voices" in Kiev, who are prepared to forego membership in NATO. "A new US President Trump could talk to President Poroshenko in Kiev and Putin in Moscow and offer Ukraine security guarantees in exchange for renunciation of NATO membership," explained the prominent diplomat.[8] It is also important that US-Russian negotiations reach an agreement on a new round in arms control. Disarmament must be sought. "More trust must be established again between the militaries, between NATO and Russia." "I would make a plea for a round-the-clock jointly run crisis control center on neutral territory." Ischinger did not mention whether he would consider Germany a suitable site.

Never Again "No War!"

While calling for US and Russian disarmament, Ischinger speaks out also for the further militarization of German and EU policy. "Putin" - meaning the conflicts concerning Ukraine and Syria - has clearly "demonstrated, how absolutely wrong it is to contend that there can be no military solutions," he explained. Because the EU did not openly intervene militarily, "we, Europeans, ... have once again been banned to the sidelines - a spectator position - which is not the appropriate role for the EU, the world's largest trading and economic power, with a population of 500 million."[9] He "would like to see" that "no responsible German politician" will repeat the sentence, "there can be no military solutions." In fact, the EU is preparing - under German pressure - a considerable expansion of its foreign policy and military activities. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[10]) Even in transatlantic relations, there is "no guarantee of cooperation for eternity with us Europeans," declared Chancellor Merkel, last week.[11] That is why "Europe" must considerably expand it radius of political and military action.

The Question of the Bomb

Wolfgang Ischinger has begun to take the question of "German nuclear armament" into consideration. Currently, it is better to avoid a debate on the EU's "own nuclear arsenal," the German diplomat declared. The nuclear power Great Britain is leaving the EU, while the nuclear power France is not "willing and capable" of "Europeanizing its nuclear potential." However, "at the moment," it would be "a political mistake to debate an alternative of arming Germany with nuclear weapons," also "because we would provide an argument to critics in Moscow and in Europe that the central power Germany not only seeks to dominate Europe with financial policy, but also - in violation of all treaties - joint control over nuclear weapons."[12] Ischinger did not elaborate on what conditions could invalidate his argument of temporal limitation ("at the moment"), nor did he express conclusive arguments against Germany's acquiring nuclear weapons.

[1] See Leading from the Center.
[2] Trump: "Merkel-Asylpolitik ein schlimmer Fehler". www.krone.at 16.01.2017.
[3] "Wir müssen auf das Schlimmste gefasst sein". www.welt.de 17.01.2017.
[4] "Maximale Unberechenbarkeit". www.swr.de 03.01.2016.
[5] Außenminister Steinmeier nach dem EU-Außenrat. Pressemitteilung des Auswärtigen Amts. Berlin, 16.01.2017.
[6] "Wir müssen auf das Schlimmste gefasst sein". www.welt.de 17.01.2017.
[7] See Ostgeschäfte and Reversal of Business Trend with Russia.
[8], [9] Daniel-Dylan Böhmer, Thorsten Jungholt: "Frau Merkel muss sich warm anziehen". www.welt.de 13.01.2017.
[10] See The European War Union, Strategische Autonomie and Shock as Opportunity.
[11] Merkel: Keine "Ewigkeitsgarantie" für Unterstützung Europas durch die USA. www.welt.de 12.01.2017.
[12] Daniel-Dylan Böhmer, Thorsten Jungholt: "Frau Merkel muss sich warm anziehen". www.welt.de 13.01.2017.