New Chancellor Looks East

From the December 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

When Gerhard Schroeder deliberately declined to include the words “so help me God” when taking the oath of office as Germany’s new chancellor, this should have signaled his intention of changing the traditional post-war direction of his country.

Following the declared stance of President Roman Herzog, Schroeder has minced no words when declaring that his government will have a new attitude toward the past. Too young to remember the war, Schroeder obviously feels no compunction about letting Germany assert itself as a national power in its own right.

“‘What you have seen in the older generation is a great reluctance to assert German power, particularly in the name of Germany. It was always more in the name of Europe,’ says historian Brian Ladd, a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Now, Germany is firmly joined with Europe. And while Schroeder has taken pains to reassure the world he will continue Kohl’s foreign policies, Ladd suggests Schroeder may feel less anxiety about letting Germany stand alone as a confident power” (Associated Press, Sept. 29).

Schroeder was quick to respond to Richard Holbrooke’s request for German troop support in NATO’s Kosovo surveillance mission. Promising to place 350 Bundeswehr troops and 16 surveillance aircraft at NATO’s disposal, the Germans will operate from a base in Macedonia. If this situation is consolidated, it will mean that in only three years since Germany sent its first combat-ready troops to a foreign country (Bosnia), they will have a military involvement in virtually every ex-Yugoslavian federation state.

Essentially, what Germany could not achieve by blitzkrieg in World War II, they are achieving by the diplomacy of “peacemaking” missions in the areas of their push for Liebensraum (living room) east of their national borders.

Adding to the efforts of their military diplomacy, the center of the EU is shifting east as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech republic continue on track for EU membership.

Europe’s biggest construction site, Berlin, historical and future site of the German Reichstag (parliament), being close to the Polish border, gives further weight to the eastward focus of the EU. The reborn capital of Germany will lie at the center of the growing, increasingly prosperous Europe.

One can only assume that Schroeder will not only continue, but even accelerate the eastwards push by Germany instigated under Helmut Kohl. Under Kohl’s chancellorship, German civil and military intelligence trained and equipped the Kosovo Liberation Army with the primary aim of cementing German influence in the Balkans.