After World War ii, few would have envisioned Germany as a major power on the world scene again. Few Germans would have publicly admitted to national ambitions. Yet today, the German nation is at the forefront of global politics again. An accomplishment like that takes vision.
In 1965, just 20 years after the war, German politician Franz Josef Strauss wrote a book titled The Grand Design: A European Solution to German Reunification. It is not a large book. It is written in a candid, straightforward manner. This book details how Germany could rise to power again: not simply as a nation, but as part of a federal Europe. In 1965, the idea of Europe as a federated, cohesive force probably didn’t sound realistic to many nations. But less than 40 years later, though Strauss died in 1988, much of his grand design has moved from the planning stages to the world stage.
The United States of Europe
The central idea behind Strauss’s vision was what he called “a massive drive to achieve, step by step, a European political federation.” This aspect of his plan was to eliminate problems for Germany specifically, Europe as a whole, and even the United States on the other side of the ocean. Certainly the idea of a European federation has been pursued with tremendous energy on the Continent. When Strauss detailed his plan, the seeds had already been planted by the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community via the Paris Treaty in 1952.
Strauss’s envisioned much more than a mere economic union though: He wanted Europe to become a global power as it had striven to be in the past. This is perhaps best illustrated by the direct comparisons he drew between the U.S.—the only Western superpower then—and what would become a newly federated Europe.
“Europe only needs to combine its material and intellectual resources to provide for America a partner of equal weight,” he wrote. Strauss did not want Europe to be overshadowed by America.
Along those lines, Strauss also directly addressed America’s role as the policeman of the world: “America as shield and protector of the free societies is faced by ever greater challenges which in the long run she cannot meet out of her own strength alone. America needs Europe, not only in her cultural role as a modern Greece, but as a second independent power on her side.” Certainly, we can see how these words are applicable today as the U.S. increasingly turns to the United Nations and to Europe for global support. Europe, and Germany in particular, recently has been assuming more of the U.S.’s traditional role as regional policeman, acting as “peacekeepers” in the Balkans, Afghanistan and other regions.
This union would allow Europe to emerge as a military superpower. “Such a Europe should remain in close alliance with the United States. It should possess the means of self-defense up to and including the possession of the nuclear deterrent.” This greater military strength would reduce the need for American troops overseas: “If we can slowly build such a Europe, it would still need to maintain the alliance with America, but it would no longer require the physical presence of American troops in the magnitude now insisted upon.” The July 9, 1979, Plain Truth identified Strauss as the father of the Bundeswehr—Germany’s army.
In addition to these reasons for having its own military framework, Europe simply would not have to rely on the U.S. for military defense. “There was also the additional reassuring factor of eliminating the remnant of suspicion that the Americans might not necessarily be prepared to incinerate themselves in a nuclear holocaust for the sake of European freedom” (The Grand Design).
In 1965, the geopolitical climate of the world simply would not allow Europe to function this way. Europe was not united. Germany itself was split, its former capital divided by the Berlin Wall. Creating Germany’s rise to prominence in the world again would not be a simple task.
In 1989, as communism was collapsing in the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall was torn down. Though Strauss wanted a united Europe, his primary goal was the reestablishment of the German nation. When listing benefits of his grand design, he candidly stated, “Above all, it [European unification] would provide the one framework which would make possible the reunification of Germany and avoid all its latent dangers. Germany needs Europe more than any other country.”
There were many reasons it would take so long to actualize his dreams; perhaps chief among them was distrust in Germany as a nation. “We must find some means of destroying the legend, which still enjoys wide currency in many Western countries, that Germany is a country congenitally devoted to acts of aggression.” As part of a united Europe, Germany would no longer be individually feared because federal power would come before national power. This is why, for Strauss’s plans to come to fruition, Germany would have to pursue its plans under the umbrella of a strong, united European community. “Germany would lose the need to fight for its national unity if the whole continent was merged in a supranational European framework.” In exchange for Germany’s national sovereignty, the Continent, and the world, would gain peace of mind, knowing that Germany’s national will would be subservient to that of Europe as a whole.
Clearly, Germany is a nation with strong national ambition. Why then, would Strauss seemingly be willing to abandon its national identity? “We must understand that our European attitude was the only escape hatch we had, the only approach that made a comeback possible” (emphasis mine throughout).
Strauss shrewdly spoke of Germany’s helping to rebuild the European family as a form of reparation for the destruction that nation brought about in World War ii. “Germany has made a fatal contribution to the dissolution and breakdown of the old family of European states. What form of reparation could be better than to contribute now to restoring that European family, to play an essential part in the process of European unification and, by abandoning national rights of sovereignty, overcome the past, construct a new European architecture and contribute to the progress and development of the whole Continent?”
In order to ensure that these plans would go forward, Strauss suggested Germany make certain concessions. It is important to note, however, that the concessions he suggests were not long term.
“I am perfectly prepared to accept that the prime minister, the foreign minister and the defense minister of a European government should not during the initial period be Germans. I make this suggestion as a contribution to the credibility of the joint effort, so that Germany should not appear to be the determining influence in foreign and defense policies.” Strauss clearly realized that Germany could not be seen in a military position until its reputation for aggression was no longer an issue; it could not appear to affect policy.
Of course, not appearing to affect policy and not affecting it are two different things. After all, much of the plan for European unity is outlined in his book! He knew that, regardless of appearance, the German nation would continue to have a profound effect on the development of Europe. At that point, Germany was already beginning to influence European politics again. The first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, was a strong supporter of the Schumann Plan, which launched the European Coal and Steel community in 1951. This formed the platform on which the EU evolved.
Strauss also recognized the role that Eastern Europe would play in the union. The May 2002 Trumpet pointed out Strauss’s insistence that, in Ron Fraser’s words, “No definition of Europe should be held to exclude Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the other Eastern countries. When we talk of a European federation, Russia must accept that these countries are included.” Initially, Strauss conceded that these nations must act as buffer states between the union and Russia. But ultimately, they must be included.
In 2004, all of these countries will be admitted to the European Union.
A Strong Man Is Rising
Over three decades ago, Plain Truth Editor in Chief Herbert Armstrong wrote, “The world appears bereft of ‘great men.’ But a world-recognized ‘Strong Man’ in all probability will now very soon appear. … There will be 10 [kings], ruling 10 nations or groups of nations in the area of the once-great Holy Roman Empire. But there will be one super-king over the 10” (Plain Truth, May 1969).
Concerning that super-king, Mr. Armstrong wrote that Europe was “waiting for the confidence-inspiring leader—an international all-European Hitler, and it is on the way. That man is there somewhere” (Plain Truth, November/December 1954).
Mr. Armstrong was right! Though conditions weren’t quite ready for such a “strong man” to emerge then, the stage is set for his appearance today. That man is out there somewhere. Mr. Armstrong felt Franz Josef Strauss might be that leader. Though Mr. Strauss has since passed, his political dreams have not.
When Strauss first published his ideas, he knew he might not live to see his dreams carried out. “… I am under no illusions about the length of time it will take to set this sequence of events in train,” he wrote. “It might take a generation. … If the process is to take time, then it must be time put to good use.”
Unlike most politicians, Strauss hand-picked a successor who would carry on his work: Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber. To date, Stoiber has been following loyally in the footsteps of his political father.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder does not appear to be the man to lead Germany toward the future. Certainly Stoiber agrees: “All he wants is power—Schröder has no vision for Germany” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Feb. 13, 2002). Edmund Stoiber, however, has such a vision. As premier of the economically successful state of Bavaria, his public remarks about his vision are not isolated to Bavarian or even German politics. He has a vision for all of Europe, the primary ideas of which are rooted in the philosophy of his mentor, Franz Joseph Strauss.
The Grand Design Today
In fulfilling his vision of a German-led Europe, Stoiber does not face the same set of challenges Mr. Strauss did. The grand design has progressed to a point where Germany no longer “needs Europe” to the extent it did in Strauss’s time. The stigma Germany faced after World War ii is gone, largely because of its place within the EU—just as Strauss desired. The public perception of Germany has changed: Distrust of the German nation has nearly disappeared. Germany can now afford to be bolder.
Many of the reasons Franz Josef Strauss outlined for the necessity of a united Europe have been fulfilled: Germany is reunited; the Eastern European states are about to join the Union; and monetarily, the whole of Europe is closer to a complete union every day. Nevertheless, Stoiber recognizes that Germany still does need Europe. If there is any doubt as to whether he supports a united Europe, let him put it to rest: “Europe has an historic opportunity to overcome the artificial division of our continent for once and for all and to make the European Union into a truly pan-European community,” he said in a Berlin speech two years ago. “That is what we want, without any concessions.”
Stoiber deeply believes, as did Strauss, that the economic and political union of the EU must be strong—in large part as a counterbalance to the U.S. Stoiber also very much supports a strong European military: “There is a gross imbalance between the economic and foreign-policy weight of Europe,” he said in a June 2002 speech. “That can be seen—along with many other things—in the minor way in which Europe has been able to influence the Middle East conflict for example. Europe must assume greater responsibility for peace, freedom, law and justice in the world—politically in the first instance, but also militarily within a UN, nato and EU framework if necessary.”
It is clear that the realization of Franz Josef Strauss’s grand design is Stoiber’s goal as well.
The Prophesied Leader
Bernard Connolly, in The Rotten Heart of Europe, said the European Union was only a “cloak for German ambitions.” Since we know that Germany (Assyria in Bible terminology) will be the driving force behind the end-time punishment of America and Britain (Isa. 10:5-6), we should carefully watch for a “king of fierce countenance” (Dan. 8:23), who rises to power “by flatteries” (Dan. 11:21), to appear in Germany. The future of Europe is tied to this man.
Strauss was once called the “Strongman of Europe.” Will his disciple, Edmund Stoiber, one day attain this title as well? Will Stoiber wield enough political strength to bring about Germany’s “grand design”? Simply put, we don’t know yet. But this we do know: At this time, no one else fits the bill more perfectly than he does. There is no doubt Stoiber is one of the most outspoken and visible men in Germany right now and its most successful state premier. He is also the political successor of the man who laid the groundwork for many of the plans that have brought the EU to fruition.
In this age of volatile world conditions, Germany—and Europe as a whole—is searching for a leader who can be a powerful voice in a world of escalating change, confusion, terrorism and impending cataclysm. Europeans want a man who can bring about security from such violence, provide them with economic and social peace of mind, and offer long-range stability.
A “king of fierce countenance” is rising somewhere in Europe, and time is rapidly running out! Though Franz Josef Strauss is dead, his vision for Europe is not—and soon a leader will arise to bring it to fruition.