• Europe shifting further right

    Parties on the extreme right are threatening to become the strongest force in nine EU countries in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Under von der Leyen’s presidency, close cooperation with some far-right parties is being discussed.

    BERLIN/BRUSSELS (own report) - In next June’s European elections extreme right-wing parties threaten to become the strongest force in a third of member states and the second or third strongest force in another third. This finding comes from an analysis by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a pan-European think tank. The latest polls predict a major shift in the make-up of the European Parliament. The far-right ECR parliamentary group and ID group will together be stronger than either the Social Democrats or the conservative EPP. The study indicates that the EPP parties and Social Democrats are about to face significant losses. Although they might mathematically still form a narrow majority in an alliance with the liberal Renew Europe group, such a parliamentary coalition would be unstable and unworkable in practice. This is the background to a debate in the EU on whether, under conservative EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, forces on the far right should be embraced as partners after the election. The focus is on cooperation with the ECR group, which includes the Sweden Democrats and Vox from Spain. In the European Parliament this group is led by the ultra-right Fratelli d’Italia under Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Read more

  • “Revenue that no one is entitled to”

    Scholz supports the confiscation of income on the interest of Russian state assets deposited in the EU. Experts consider this a clear violation of international law and warn that other nations, such as China, could withdraw their assets from the EU.

    MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Own report) – The German government is promoting EU plans to confiscate funds belonging to the Russian Central Bank. During yesterday’s EU summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke in favor of confiscating the interests accrued on that financial institution’s frozen assets to primarily invest in munition and weapons for Ukraine. The proposal had been officially presented on Wednesday by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell. Scholz alleges that this interest income constitutes “revenue that no one is entitled to” and therefore may be tapped into. Depending on the development of interest rates, they could reach between €15 – €20 billion by 2027. Business and financial circles are emphatically warning that this measure violates state immunity and is therefore in violation of international law. If Russia’s interest income is confiscated, financial institutions and companies, for example, from China and other countries may begin to withdraw their assets out of the EU, because these would no longer be considered safe. And ultimately, Russian retaliatory measures are to be expected. Read more

  • Kindergarten in the bunker

    Germany’s education minister Stark-Watzinger wants to involve schools in war preparations (“civil defence”) and urges close cooperation between universities and the Bundeswehr and arms industry.

    BERLIN (own report) – Germany’s Federal Education Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, is calling for schools to be involved in preparing German society for a possible major war. “Civil defence” was, she said at the weekend, “immensely important” and “belongs in schools”. The buzzword “civil defence” refers to measures designed to increase the civilian population’s chances of survival in the event of war. The minister demanded that schools develop a “relaxed relationship with the German army”. She said she could not understand why schools should have “reservations” about allowing Bundeswehr outreach officers into classrooms to tell children about defence issues. Leaders of the German Teachers’ Association and the Association of Towns and Municipalities have already called for school curricula to be “sharpened” to improve “defence readiness”. Even facilities for the youngest are to be included: kindergarten could be integrated in “civil defence” measures in a “child-friendly” way. Stark-Watzinger also wants to make greater use of universities for military research. And the Bavarian state government is now drafting a law designed to abolish the alleged “constraints on research” due to “civil clauses” (Zivilklauseln), which have long committed institutions to pursue only non-military research. Indeed, the new law will make it a “requirement” that universities cooperate with the Bundeswehr. Read more

  • Gaining war experience

    The situation in the operations area of the German navy’s high-tech frigate, The Hessen, is increasingly tense. The Hessen is supplying reconnaissance data to the American-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.

    SANAA/BERLIN (own report) - Following the death of three sailors in another Houthi militia attack on a freighter in the Gulf of Aden, the situation in the operational area of Germany’s state-of-the-art frigate, The Hessen, continues to worsen. In response to the attack there is likely to be a renewed wave of US-British strikes on Houthi (Ansar Allah) positions in Yemen. Yet it is highly unlikely that this firepower will dissuade Ansar Allah from launching further attacks on merchant shipping. The Hessen has been deployed to the Red Sea and neighbouring waters as part of Operation Aspides, the EU’s own maritime security mission to protect merchant ships. The vessel’s initial actions have not been a success. Its anti-drone missiles have missed their target several times, including an attempt to bring down a misidentified US drone. German naval circles speak of beginner’s mistakes and the need to learn lessons: “What the ship and crew lack is war experience.” The German navy is keen to gain this war experience. The Hessen can spy on large parts of Yemen thanks to its advanced technical equipment. The data yielded can be passed on to the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian, taking place alongside the EU’s own Operation Aspides in the Red Sea. This capability could have far-reaching consequences for regional tensions, although it remains uncertain as to whether the data will be used for strikes on Houthi positions. Read more

  • Battle for the electric car market

    The EU and US fight to keep out low-cost electric cars from China has begun. While Brussels prepares punitive import tariffs, Washington says Chinese vehicles threaten national security.

    SHENZHEN/BERLIN (own report) - The West’s battle against an export offensive by Chinese electric car manufacturers is getting serious. While the EU Commission pushes ahead with its anti-subsidy investigation, which could lead to hefty punitive tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports this year, US President Joe Biden has now announced that smart cars from China may pose a risk to American national security. With their cameras and sensors they are deemed capable of spying on the US. This is, Biden says, unacceptable and must be prevented. The biggest threat to Western manufacturers comes from the BYD Group, based in the south-eastern Chinese high-tech metropolis of Shenzhen. At the end of last year they became the world’s largest electric car manufacturer, ahead of Tesla, and are getting ready to expand into North America and, above all, into the EU. The company plans to sell 120,000 electric cars in Germany alone in 2026. This makes BYD a dangerous competitor for the Germany’s legacy automotive companies. Last week, the carmaker made headlines by exporting 3,000 electric cars to Germany in the first of its own specially-built car carrier vessel. Read more

  • Grounds for war

    A leaked recording of senior Luftwaffe officers reveals: discussion of options for Taurus strikes on the bridge to Crimea; Germany providing targeting data would meet the “criterion of being at war” with Russia.

    BERLIN/MOSCOW/LONDON (own report) - Bundeswehr officers are discussing Ukrainian attacks on targets in Russia using German weapons. This emerges from an intercept by Russian intelligence. The Russians have recorded and made public a Webex video conference recently held between four German air force officers, including the head of the Luftwaffe, Ingo Gerhartz. In their discussion they say it would be feasible to destroy the Kerch Bridge with “ten or twenty” Taurus cruise missiles. Successful strikes would, however, require German programming and targeting data to be passed on. And this act would, in turn, meet the “criterion of being at war”, in the judgement of the four officers. In other words, it would mean Germany entering into war with Russia. However, if the Taurus cruise missiles were supplied to Ukraine without also providing German data, the weapon’s effectiveness would, they agree, be significantly reduced. The officers then speculate as to whether British soldiers deployed in Ukraine could provide support for Taurus strikes. London had already reacted angrily last week to statements by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the effect that British military personnel were already actively supporting Ukrainian missile attacks. The candid Scholz was, said Tory hawk Ben Wallace, a former UK Defence Secretary , “the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time”. Read more

  • No ceasefire wanted

    A new study traces efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine since 28 February 2022: Russia’s repeated attempts to halt the fighting have been ignored by the collective West.

    BERLIN/KIEV (own report) – The first, almost successful, negotiations to end the Ukraine war began two years ago yesterday, on 28 February 2022. We have been reminded of this by a recently published study by a military expert: retired Bundeswehr Colonel Wolfgang Richter, a former military adviser to the German missions to the UN and the OSCE. Those talks opened a path to compromise in late March 2022. The deal would have centred on neutrality and EU accession for Ukraine, and Russian troop withdrawal. The talks brought an early peace “within reach”, argues Richter, who now works for the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). The main reason for their failure, apart from the “resistance” from Ukrainian nationalists, was the “massive influence exerted by representatives of Western governments”, who vigorously urged Kiev to continue the war. Moreover, the New York Times has reported on a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a freeze on frontline movements and a ceasefire as early as autumn 2022, and then again in September 2023. Kiev and the West have consistently rejected these offers. They insist on seeking to achieve victory at all costs. It is from this stance that Europe is now discussing the deployment of boots on the ground. Read more

  • The will to world war

    Despite warnings from the US, Berlin presses for a Ukrainian military victory over Russia. Supplying Taurus will move Germany closer to war, but media say: don’t be scared!

    BERLIN (own report) - In Germany, the second anniversary of the Russian attack on Ukraine has been marked by noisy sloganeering: calls to keep on fighting until Russia is defeated, and scorn for those who question the logic of ever more lethal weapons for Kiev. “They’re just scared”. From the United States come warnings that Ukraine will lose the war. Some voices within the US administration are now urging President Volodymyr Zelensky to negotiate with Russia. Yet Berlin is doubling down: Moscow must “lose this war”. The leader of the main opposition party in the Bundestag, Friedrich Merz (CDU), says bluntly that there should be “no negotiations” before Russia capitulates. Surveys indicate that not many agree: only 10 to 25 per cent of the German population think a Ukrainian victory is likely. Majorities expect a Russian victory and oppose further arms deliveries. Yet leading German media have joined in the ridiculing of Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his current stance against handing over Taurus cruise missiles to Kiev. He should, they say, stop being “scared”. Any fears are, of course, based on the well-founded assumption that Moscow would interpret the delivery of the Taurus as Germany going to war. Meanwhile, domestically Germany is in a downward spiral. The sharp rise in military spending is accompanied by social cuts and economic decline: “guns without butter”, as one economist quips. Read more

  • Getting ready for war (III)

    The Bundeswehr is propelling a militarisation of civil society with its “Operationsplan Deutschland”. Military planners want to integrate civilian resources for combating Russia.

    BERLIN (own report) - The still confidential “Operationsplan Deutschland” (Operations Plan Germany) announced by the Bundeswehr sets out not only military measures but also comprehensive steps towards a militarisation of German society as a whole. To discuss the details of the plan, conceived under the motto “Germany. Together. Defend”, Lieutenant General André Bodemann, Commander of the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command, Lieutenant General André Bodemann, invited “around 300” experts to Berlin at the end of January for an “intensified exchange of ideas between military and civilian actors”. The event brought together representatives from politics, police forces, technical relief organisations, fire services, academia, the media and business (particularly the energy and logistics sectors) as well as allied countries. The deployment of civilians and reservists is intended to free up military potential for operations in the east. Saxony’s Interior Minister Armin Schuster noted that Germany had already “learnt a lot” in terms of civil-military cooperation to combat “forest fires, pandemics and floods”. But “specifically on the question of leadership”, there was “no experience with war”. And a representative of the Federal Interior Ministry said Germany needed to be “less uptight” when “talking about war”. Read more

  • Lose-lose dynamics

    Munich Security Conference 2024: organisers warn of escalating global power struggles and “lose-lose” dynamics in which everyone might lose.

    MUNICH (own report) – Ahead of the Munich Security Conference, which begins today, the organisers are warning of the emergence of disastrous “lose-lose” dynamics in international relations. According to the Munich Security Report 2024, the foreign policy analysis that frames conference debates, power struggles around the world have become so intense that there is a real danger of everyone losing out. The event, which will attract more than 50 heads of state and government, around 60 foreign ministers and over 25 defence ministers over this weekend, is being held for the 60th time this year. The security conferences of the past ten years offer a useful guide to trends in global politics and great-power struggles. While the 2014 Security Conference showcased as an ambitious move by Germany to kick-start a global political offensive, the very next conference began to centre on competition between the major powers. Indeed, by 2019 debates had briefly taken up European concerns that the EU would be squashed in the tussle between global powers, and in 2020 discussion moved on to the prospect of a world no longer be dominated by the West. Read more