Germany Securing Eastern Front


At an annual meeting of foreign ambassadors in Berlin in early September, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared that relations with Russia will be a top priority when Germany takes on the six-month rotating EU presidency in January 2007.

Germany intends to use its EU presidency to implement the new “eastern policy” paper it has drafted for the European Union. Due to be released later this year, the policy paper provides evidence that the German government seeks to shackle the Russian bear to Europe by aggressively pushing for a deeper strategic partnership between the two. “The goal must be to make the political, economic and cultural ties between the EU and Russia—its anchor to a wider Europe—irreversible,” the policy paper states (United Press International, September 1; emphasis ours throughout).

This German drive to incorporate Russia into a “wider Europe” goes beyond a normal spirit of cooperation between nations: Germany sees it as an essential step to securing its objectives beyond the Continent. “A complete European peace regime and the resolution of important security and political problems from the Balkans to the Middle East can only be attained with Russia and not without it,” the paper states.

To understand Germany’s preoccupation with its eastern neighbor, one must appreciate its geographic position. Germany is at the crossroads of Europe, which stretches from the Iberian Peninsula to the Russian Ural mountains. On its west and east, Germany is bordered by flat terrain—the kind of terrain tanks roll right across. The same feature that made it so easy for Hitler to invade France and Poland also exposes Germany to invasion. Germany realized in World War i, and was painfully reminded in World War ii, that it simply cannot fight a war on two fronts.

Thus, having already secured its western front by shackling Europe to itself through the EU, Germany seeks to bind Russia to the EU to secure its eastern front.

The method for achieving this goal is more than 200 years old. Whenever Germany exercised its dominance as a global power, normally through war, it always signed a pact with Russia. The Three Emperor’s League in 1872 and the non-aggression pact with Stalin in 1939 are two prime examples of Germany allying with Russia before going to war.

In light of these historical precedents, Germany’s effort to forge closer, “irreversible” ties with Russia should serve as a warning of Germany’s expansionist goals.