Strategy of Tension
Commentary by Hans-Rüdiger Minow
“Ruin Russia,” Germany’s foreign ministry’s declaration of intent has, in just a few months, proven to be what it had always been from the very beginning: an unrealistic utterance of an aggressive impulse anticipating Germany’s failure in the history of German-Russian diplomacy, even in German-Russian relations in general. Already others in Germany’s foreign ministry had sought to “ruin Russia.” It is not permissible to mention their names in this context, because they were – and are – nothing more than the embodiments of an economy-based megalomania, riding on anti-Slavic racism. Millions had fallen victim to it in eastern and southeastern Europe. German troops stood at the gates of Leningrad, seeking to starve out the city; they ravaged in Warsaw; and slaughtered in Pančevo – but they were forced to retreat.
Slavophobic racism – now as “Russophobia" – perfuses the extermination incitement in Germany’s pace-setting journalism, unleashed by the foreign ministry. Especially Germany’s flagship for the business and feature elites – the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) – has, for months, been projecting an enemy image derived from the Middle Ages and instilling fear. At the extermination incitement’s regressive core of wanting to “ruin Russia”, Slavophobic specters with Asian features are rampaging: Just as today, it was back then, when Genghis Khan’s Tatar-Mongol hordes attacked the region of Ukraine” (FAZ May 10, 2022). “Today again, the invasion by Russian hordes is driving Ukrainians toward the west.”
The fact that the paper’s editorial board prints such texts without a caveat, should not be blamed on them. It was not an omission. Media organs like this, including the public-service broadcasters ARD and ZDF, have become public opinion-making assets of the state’s racist mobilization for war against “Russians.” Even though “Russians look European,” it was said during a prominent ZDF TV-roundtable, “we should not forget (...) that they are not European – in the cultural sense” (April 12, 2022). According to this thesis, the non-European Russians are ethnically – racially – hybrid, and their war is in their genetic code: this Slavophobic enemy image is extended with projections aimed at Asians – a future war against China. There is no indication that the German Press Council – a body for “voluntary self-regulation” monitoring “ethical standards of quality in (German) journalism” – has raised objections.
One would hope that these openly racist elements of the extermination incitement is limited to extremist milieus of Germany’s politics and media. Facts shatter this hope. Openly racist elements are grounded at the highest levels of the Germany-dominated EU. The above quoted remarks that “Russians,” look like, but are “not Europeans,” were pronounced in a verbal intervention by a political scientist, introduced by the ZDF as the Assistant Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). She is no extremist and holds degrees from universities in Munich and Berlin. However, the TV channel had failed to provide more comprehensive information about that scholar and the EU’s institute. The tax-funded institute is “engaged in the procurement of military gear for the EU” and cooperates “closely with individuals from the arms industry,” according to Wikipedia. A glance at the “individuals from the arms industry” indicates that they are from the highest level. They are Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the major European producers of warfare equipment, ranging from armor-piercing artillery weapons, to drones, to guided missiles, such as those being delivered to Ukraine by Airbus, MBDA, BAE, SAAB, Indra or Liebherr Aerospace, with sales in the billions. Their close cooperation with this EU-institute exposes the confluence of the arms industry’s economic interests with Slavophobic racism, fueling the popularization of the extermination incitement.
However, in spite of all the propaganda inciting violence, approximating the excesses of the cold war era, no enthusiasm has been stimulated within German society. Wanting to “ruin Russia” is reminiscent of the consequences of the last – for the time being – historical attempt, of the family stories of today’s sixty-year-olds, whose grandfathers never returned and whose fathers remained silent about what had happened at the gates of Leningrad, in Warsaw, or at the wall of Pančevo’s cemetery. One out of two military-age Germans fears a spread of hostilities in Eastern Europe and pleads for peace negotiations. By characterizing this desire as “combat fatigue” – a state of drowsy disorientation (FAZ June 2, 2022) – the foreign ministry is not only denigrating the aspiration for peace, but is encouraging bellicism, the violent affect.
Here is where the most aggressive segments of Germany’s operative and theoretical military bureaucracy chime in with a call to perpetuate violence in Ukraine, by delivering enhanced “firepower” (FAZ July 14, 2022). The signatories can boast successful careers in Germany’s Bundeswehr academies or working at the Bundeswehr's research institution focused on military history and social sciences in Potsdam, where the Operations Command Headquarters, coordinating foreign missions for German troops is also located. In Potsdam, there is “no room” for a diplomatic solution.
When there is “no room” for negotiations, what objective is Berlin pursuing? Whereas, they were initially calling for a ceasefire, today, the leaders in the Bundestag's Defense Committee are insisting on a victorious peace (July 17, 2022), i. e. the unlimited use of weapons for an unspecified duration of warfare, requiring the concentration of all forces, the unification of contradictions, in short, calling for the necessary formation for defeating the enemy on the battlefield. Berlin is radicalizing its objectives.
State of Tensions
The fact that these objectives are out of reach, is irrelevant to the German strategy. Discussions on the true balance of forces, the obvious miscalculation or the threatened use of lethal nuclear weapons distract from the true intentions, to draw out the duration of the war’s state of tension, so that the social control of legitimate force is restricted, then superseded by executive orders.
The German chancellor has made the first step toward deregulation, when he surprised the parliament with a previously unannounced budgetary decision – a €100 billion “special fund” for the state and private military apparatus (February 27, 2022). Since then, he has continued and radicalized this deregulation by domestically pursuing the paralysis of the trade unions’ collective bargaining autonomy (“Concerted Action”). As a result, it has already been agreed that “between employers, unions, scholars and political policy-makers,” everyone must “stick together,” “link arms” (FAZ July 18, 2022).
The “Action” – aimed at reducing effective wage increases with a simultaneous renunciation of strikes – is the economic linchpin for domestic deregulation. With more than a 20 percent price increase for daily bread-and-butter items, the “Action” leads to the objective decline of subsistence security, particularly for that sector of the population that, according to Germany’s statistics, languishes on the brink of poverty. What began with the intention of “ruining Russia” is now ruining social cohesion through social fragmentation. Domestic collapse is foreseeable and feared in Berlin.
Germany’s economics ministry is pursuing the strategy of tension in exemplary fashion, continuously intimidating the media’s audience with warnings of a catastrophe, if the special executive orders are not followed. Environmental protection provisions, for which citizens’ initiatives have campaigned for decades, have been forfeited to the higher interests of the alleged security interests. Nature and landscape reserves are being opened up to major industries; smaller hydro-power plants are threatened with closure (to the benefit of major energy providers). The strategy of tension seeks to reach a stage, where even decommissioned nuclear power stations can be reactivated, allegedly to prevent Germany’s economic collapse. This atmosphere, of an allegedly extraordinary emergency situation triggered by the war, permits bailouts in the billions for struggling private companies and special taxes imposed on the German population, because sanctions had to be imposed on “Russia.”
The international currency speculation already exposes the failure of this policy. Money market speculators are buying up the anchor currency of the West’s global war economy, as the euro sinks in relative value. This creates higher prices on commodities imported to Germany. The difference in value is passed on to the consumers, fueling inflation and reducing the daily bread and butter items. The willingness to continue bearing the brunt of the state of tension is diminishing, and not just among the neediest.
A nationalistic inflation of Germany within Europe and in the world is supposed to avert the actual collapse. Whereas the compulsion for economic growth in global competition for the remaining resources forms the subsurface of this hypertrophy, it is “Germany’s responsibility for Europe and in the world,” (Chancellor Scholz July 18, 2022) that provides the attractive facade: “As the nation of Central Europe” Germany must “lead,” namely “consolidating in Europe east and west, north and south,” making allusion to the fateful Central Europe ideology, an embellishment of Germany’s quest for power, for the economic domination of the continent. The German chancellor is already linguistically stepping in the footsteps of German apologists of two world wars, who, in the foreign ministry strove to achieve a “Central Europe,” meaning the subjugation of all non-German countries. German “leadership” will “put an end” to “the egoistical blocking of European decisions by individual member states,” Scholz states today in a similar fashion. It is no mistake, to perceive this announcement to be a threat addressed to the other EU member countries. From its position of assumed greatness and sovereignty, Berlin lays claim to having other nations relinquish their sovereignty, to be used, to a growing extent, for the economic benefit of German central power – in exchange for participation.
Fragmentation of Europe
Participation in the steady growth of German central power has already, in the past, been a bone of contention within the EU. The price negotiated for this has constantly led to disputes with the subordinate countries, and this price has been growing ever since the German chancellor made his demand that “in a world of competing great powers, the EU (...) must become a geopolitical actor;” the EU can “no longer afford” the privilege of “national vetoes, for example, on foreign policy issues” (July 18, 2022). In the state of tension during a war aimed at “ruining Russia,” Scholz even goes beyond “Central Europe,” to set his sights on the world, demanding the formation of the European states, in order to join the so-called great powers under German aegis, or blocking their paths. Berlin’s globally burgeoning central power, seeking to transform the EU into a “geopolitical actor,” would make satellites of Paris, Rome, Madrid; Warsaw or Budapest. Berlin’s demands are out of touch with reality. They fragment Europe, they do not unify.
War against China
The foreseeable German collapse, both in domestic and foreign affairs is not impeding the interests of the global West’s anchor currency. On the contrary. The dollar flourishes and will overshadow Europe, as long as the war’s state of tension persists. It is supposed to take a long time, Russia is to be ruined, Germany, weakened, the EU fragmented and war against China to become reality.