gGermany has given up any aspiration to a leadership role in Europe. Its inadequate response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine has exposed Berlin more as an obstacle to European security than a defender. German policy is also hypocritical in preaching the fight against corruption to Balkan states seeking to join the European Union while allowing massive Russian penetration of its economy and political system.
Germany emerged as the economic powerhouse of Europe on the basis of the US Marshall Plan, which launched massive reconstruction from the ruins of World War II. The US military umbrella allowed Germany to focus on economic development and neglect any effective responsibility for European security. The end of the Cold War was naively seen in Berlin as the end of division so that business could be pursued with a supposedly democratizing Russia, regardless of European interests and values.
UKRAINE GIVES RUSSIAN FORCE MAJOR CHOICE ‘RETREAT OR DIE’
Successive German governments opened the country to Russian state influence, which penetrated all major political parties, national institutions, banks, businesses and energy companies. The results of this massive Russian corruption were visible in energy projects such as the Nord Stream pipelines and the laundering of billions of dirty Russian money through German banks. The results of Moscow’s penetration of German foreign policy have been evident since the launch of its protracted war against Ukraine.
Berlin has been reluctant to send arms to Kyiv, allegedly fearing it will provoke Moscow and escalate the conflict. The only party that has learned practical lessons from Germany’s own imperial history is the Greens, who argue that a genocidal regime must be stopped by military force as soon as possible. After months of pressure from its own public and its NATO partners, Berlin finally began supplying Kyiv with desperately needed air defense systems, multiple rocket launchers and self-propelled howitzers.
Yet Berlin has also been reluctant to impose harsh economic sanctions on Moscow. Again, he fears the impact on his own economy rather than taking the strategic heights. Germany is also slow to provide economic support to Ukraine. A recent G7 conference in Berlin devoted to Ukraine lacked concrete promise for post-war reconstruction, and a proposed new Marshall Plan seems a distant prospect largely due to German reluctance. Washington believes that the European Union should take the economic lead just as the United States took the military lead in helping Kyiv. Unfortunately, Germany’s aid to Ukraine as a percentage of its gross domestic product pales in comparison to its poorer eastern neighbors. Poland and Lithuania pledged nearly half a percentage point of their GDP to Ukraine, while Estonia and Latvia pledged almost 1 percentage point. By comparison, Berlin’s liabilities amount to a pitiful 0.085% of its GDP.
Germany’s failures in Ukraine are reflected in its shortcomings in the Western Balkans. Berlin’s top international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, recently signed into law controversial reforms for seats in the Bosnian-Croatian entity parliament that will strengthen nationalist parties, deepen ethnic divisions, encourage separatism and risk leading to to armed conflicts.
Berlin is also at the forefront of EU efforts to strike a mutual recognition agreement between Serbia and Kosovo. However, it continues to tolerate the destabilizing policies of the pro-Kremlin Serbian government of Aleksandar Vucic, which intends to undermine the integrity of Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro. An ongoing Franco-German plan to reach an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo has no enforcement mechanism and little hope of success. Unless Berlin, together with its European partners, imposes deadlines and consequences for the rejection of a bilateral settlement, the plan will result in another German strategic failure in European security management.
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Janusz Bugajski is a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC His new book, Failed State: A Guide to Russia’s Rupturejust published.