Walter Russell Mead explains in his Hudson Institute article End of the German Idyll. Excerpts in italics with my bolds. H/T John Ray
Germany looked normal over the weekend as a genial Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the Group of Seven leaders and their guests to the luxurious Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps. But those appearances are deceiving. Germany is facing its gravest challenges since the foundation of the Federal Republic following World War II.
This is very sudden. As recently as 2020, almost the entire world agreed with the smug German self-assessment that Germany had the world’s most successful economic model, was embarking on the most ambitious—and largely successful—climate initiative in the world, and had perfected a values-based foreign policy that ensured German security and international popularity at extremely low cost.
None of this was true.
- The German economic model was based on unrealistic assumptions about world politics and is unlikely to survive the current turmoil.
- German energy policy is a chaotic mess, a shining example to the rest of the world of what not to do.
- Germany’s reputation for a values-based foreign policy has been severely dented by Berlin’s waffling over aid to Ukraine. And German security experts are coming to terms with a deeply unwelcome truth:
- Confronted with an aggressive Russia, Germany, like Europe generally, is utterly reliant on the U.S. for its security. At a time when American foreign policy increasingly prioritizes Asia and isolationist sentiment among both Republicans and Democrats appears to be rising, if Donald Trump returns to the White House in 2025, German security will depend on his goodwill.
Mr. Scholz and his coalition government have responded to Vladimir Putin ‘s invasion of Ukraine with a series of, by German standards, revolutionary changes. Germany is beginning to rearm. It is, with some false starts, sending weapons to Ukraine. It has taken the first steps toward energy independence from Russia, even at the cost of its ambitious climate agenda. Coal plants will lumber back to life, new gas-processing plants will be built, and Germany is asking Europe to delay decarbonization mandates that no longer seem realistic.
But the real work remains to be done.
Modern Germany was above all an economic project.
The collapse of the Third Reich left Germany morally devastated, physically wrecked and economically bankrupt. From the moment of its foundation in 1949, the country ‘s central goal was economic growth. That growth could:
- repair the destruction of the war,
- promote Germany ‘s peaceful integration into Western Europe,
- blunt the appeal of communism, and
- build a national identity independent of the malignant fantasies of the Hitler era and the bombast of Wilhelm II.
The hard work of the German people, the pragmatic policies of the political class, the skills and determination of German management, and the favorable international climate resulting from the development of the American-led world order took Germany to economic heights.
In recent years, the German economic miracle depended on a combination of industrial prowess, cheap energy from Russia, and access to global markets, particularly in China. Today every one of those pillars is under threat. German mastery of automobile technology through a century of engineering is challenged by the shift to electric vehicles. The chemicals industry, in which German technology has led the world since the 19th century, is coming under environmental challenges as global competition intensifies.
Those challenges are exacerbated by the loss of cheap and secure Russian natural gas.
Green energy, despite massive German investment, will be unable to supply German industry with reliable and cheap power for a long time. In the meantime, the alternatives to Russian pipeline gas are expensive and controversial. Nuclear power gives Greens the willies; coal is unbearable; liquefied natural gas requires long-term commitments and massive capital expenditures.
Beyond that, Germany ‘s economic relationship with China is changing for the worse. China was long the ideal customer for German products. Its newly affluent middle class fell in love with German luxury cars. Its rapidly growing manufacturing sector voraciously consumed German machine tools and other capital goods. But China ‘s growth is decelerating. Its maturing industrial economy seeks to compete with high-end German producers, often based on tools reverse-engineered from German imports.
Those in the Biden administration who dream that Germany will wholeheartedly join a new global American crusade for values should keep their enthusiasm in check.
Mr. Scholz may agree in the abstract with President Biden about the importance of liberal values and the danger of climate change, but his calculations must reflect the economic facts of German life. This naturally leads to thoughts about how to patch things up with Russia and China.
Mr. Biden ‘s job is not to sing hymns about Western values with Mr. Scholz; it is to make Berlin understand that U.S. security guarantees come at a price. Given the realities of American politics, Germany cannot count on continued American support unless it does more to back the U.S. at a time of grave and growing danger world-wide.
Mead’s essay focused on the challenges of German leader Scholz, but consider the various predicaments self-induced by other members of this G7 gang who can neither talk nor shoot straight. Mr. Biden increasingly struggles to even read or sign what they write for him, followed by observers noting that it is all lies and mean-spirited malarkey. UK PM Johnson is a lame duck in political limbo, only in office until his Tory replacement is chosen. President of Italy, 80 yr. old Sergio Mattarella wanted to retire, but agreed to a second term in January when ruling parties couldn’t agree on his successor. Justin “Fidel” Castreau of Canada has disgraced himself and his office, clinging to power by colluding with the equally unpopular NDP party leader. Japan’s nation building leader Abe was just assassinated, leaving the current novice Japan PM much lesser known or appreciated by Japanese people. Macron of France won his personal election, but his party lost bigtime in legislative seats.
Any bets on who has the right stuff to restore and advance Western Civilization?