Buying an Empire
Losing the First World War brought great shame upon Germany. Many Germans agreed with Adolf Hitler, that the Allied nations greatly mistreated them with the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. From this defeat came the determination to rise from the ruins of the Great War and to permanently dominate the peoples of Europe and beyond, within a German kingdom, or reich.
Nazi leaders dreamed of an empire where the victor nations of the First World War would someday serve their Germanic conquerors. Beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler signaled his intention to make that vision a reality.
Yet by 1945, the Germans faced their second consecutive defeat at the hands of Britain and the United States.
In each conflict involving Germany and America, “Germany always wanted everything and the United States always gained everything,” according to Werner Meyer-Larsen, author of Germany, Inc. (emphasis mine throughout).
An imposing German military power made the enormous task of conquering Europe incredibly attainable in both world wars. Once a military conquest was complete, Germany then took control of all militaries, economies and industries within the subjugated nation. This was the plan: military domination first, economic control second. This dynamic strategy, implemented with Teutonic energy, lacked the deep roots of commitment and trust of the conquered so needed to successfully consolidate and maintain a hold on foreign industries within occupied territories while politically dominating that captive nation. The result was the eventual loss of two world wars for Germany.
Historically, Germany has built its empires first and foremost on a foundation of military strength. Other nations, such as Britain, the Netherlands and Portugal, created their empires through trade. Following two great military defeats, Germany learned a lesson. Today, the German strategy for conquest has been reversed: economic control first, military control second.
Can the framework of a world-ruling power be formed purely by economic strength? “Simply, the often discussed ‘new world order’ is going to be created by the business community” (ibid.).
Ready to Lead Again
Post-World War ii America and Britain feared the enduring character of the German people and that a revival of German power would result in a Fourth Reich. Washington and London pledged to the world that Germany would never be a military terror to the nations again. This would be guaranteed by rigorous control of German industry.
Initially, it appeared that the U.S. would make good on this promise. A U.S. military training film, “Your Job in Germany,” made for the soldiers who were to serve in post-war overseas positions, dramatically and brashly exposed Germany’s warlike ways throughout the previous two centuries and warned the soldiers not to fall prey to the Germans’ false repentant attitude.
Yet, the U.S.’s warning message and plan of a new and safe world soon faded away. Within a few years, Germany was allowed to regain control of its economic future. Its industry was regenerated via the Marshall Plan, with many Nazi sympathizers who supported Hitler’s war effort functioning as corporate heads.
Most fail to realize that losing World War ii had no lasting effect on the ardent followers of Hitler. Their deep and twisted faith in the Nazi cause remained intact!
Boasting the world’s third-largest national economy, Germany has now surpassed its former enemy and overlord, England, in the economic arena. “The British will have to stop patting themselves on the back, as their old rivals recover from a brief illness,” warned the June 1998 New Statesman. When Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, purchased America’s Bankers Trust in December 1998, Newsweek declared the seriousness of the acquisition: “It shows just how profoundly Europe’s biggest economy is changing—and why well-fed Americans might want to take note.”
In January 2000, Jack Ewing, Business Week’s Frankfurt bureau chief, verified Germany’s economic strategy, but also naively mocked the Germany of old: “It’s no secret that German companies are expanding abroad. But what, exactly, are they up to? Is this another grab at world domination …?”
In August 1959, Plain Truth Editor in Chief Herbert Armstrong reminded his readers that at the end of the war, it was he who had first warned that the Allies would fail to keep Germany powerless. He stated that Germany was prophesied to lead a European union of ten nations in the last days, and that this could not be accomplished without the rebuilding of Germany from its total devastation: “German industry and the German will to work and produce and organize was the very heart and lifeblood of all Europe …. [T]he prostrate body of Europe could not come back without the leadership of a revived and a vigorous Germany!”
Protectionist Fervor in Europe
Most of Germany’s leading companies today—including Allianz, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Hoechst, Krupp/ Thyssen and Siemens—have existed for over two centuries. After suffering several major wars, German industry has demonstrated remarkable staying power; it continues to lead a rejuvenated global expansion effort!
These same companies that once fueled Germany’s grandiose war efforts are still at the pinnacle of leadership and influence, ever steering the nation toward its long-sought dream of having an enduring empire.
Werner Meyer-Larsen, former U.S. correspondent for the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, indicates that there are numerous German corporations craving to settle in America. He wrote, “Listing them here would be like trying to put together an encyclopedia.” That fact is corroborated by the head of a foreign branch of Mannesmann. “Every month I get a list of several dozen companies we have purchased,” he says, “and most of them are in the United States” (op. cit.).
Mannesmann was one of the new champions of German entrepreneurship. So when a British company, Vodafone, acquired Mannesmann in a hostile takeover bid last year, it caused a public outcry in Germany. This resulted in the German government implementing a law protectingGerman companies from hostile takeover bids.
Protectionist fervor has since spread all over Europe. “There’s a growing feeling that the untrammeled American free-market formula isn’t the right way for Europe,” said Peter Alexiadis, an antitrust expert based in Brussels, Belgium (BusinessWeek, July 23). This feeling was demonstrated on July 4, when the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, effectively killed a proposed law that would have made it easier to execute cross-border corporate takeovers.
“The German government fears that the takeover directive would leave German companies vulnerable to hostile bids because it outlaws defensive action by the management of a target company without consulting its shareholders” (Financial Times, July 3). From Strasbourg—a former German territory—the Germans led a campaign to scuttle the EU corporate takeover law, which was 12 years in the making and would have loosened the shackles of the protective European business culture. “It is a quite blatant national manipulation of the European Parliament,” said an unidentified EU diplomat (ibid.).
Germany’s own business protection law is supported by a majority of unions and industrial companies like Volkswagen AG. Amendments added to the law—which, according to one official, the German chancellery and Finance Ministry haven’t objected to—will grant even more power to management to thwart unwanted takeover attempts (www.thedeal.com, Nov. 12).
The Power in Brussels
Specific conflicts of interest between America and Europe have weakened their post-war transatlantic relationship. “There are concerns in Washington that the EU has a hidden anti-U.S. agenda” (Times, July 2).
The seriousness of the matter emerged when the European Commission blocked a proposed $42 billion acquisition of Honeywell International by General Electric (GE). The ruling stunned the economic world—it signalled the European Commission’s crossing new territory since it began exercising jurisdiction in such matters in 1990.
This was especially disturbing because only U.S. companies would have been affected by the deal. “Never before have EU regulators overruled an internal U.S. merger approved by Washington. The U.S. Justice Department fears it is only the beginning …” (Telegraph, July 5). Both Honeywell and GE must comply with the European Commission’s ruling, if only for financial reasons; the severity of the penalties that would be placed on their European interests for ignoring the ruling would be unthinkable.
The Electronic Telegraph defined the astonishing supremacy of the role of Mario Monti, the European Competition Commissioner: “Unlike U.S. regulators, he does not have to justify his merger rulings in a court of law. He is judge, jury and prosecutor, deciding the fate of the world’s biggest companies in secrecy” (ibid.).
Former GE ceo Jack Welch thought the proposed merger with Honeywell was the perfect fit. Yet the EU Commission released a 155-page report stating its objections to the planned merger. GE lawyers complained that competing companies, including 15 airlines, had six months to work with the Commission—giving evidence in secret. And after receiving only two weeks to review the Commission’s objections, one GE lawyer replied, “It’s very much an ambush … but that’s the way it often is. The process is deeply flawed” (Time, July 16). Only one airline, the German company Lufthansa, was brave enough to face GE at the hearings.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill harshly condemned EU regulators, accusing them of seeking only to protect European businesses from foreign competition. He also acknowledged that a system which allows un-elected EU officials to rule in such matters is inherently flawed, with the absence of any recourse in such rulings.
Welch was asked by Time if a European power should be able to deny the merger of two American companies. “That’s the law,” replied Welch. “That really is just the way the world works.” Thus, Time concluded, “We’d all better get used to it.”
After much arm-twisting by the U.S. president’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card and other U.S. government officials, Mario Monti sternly replied, “We remain … distinctly unimpressed by any political pressure” (ibid.).
A Question of National Security?
President Bush angered EU officials last June when he launched a six-month investigation to confirm the EU’s over-exporting of steel. Record foreign steel imports since 1998 have wounded the American domestic steel industry. Over 20 American steel companies have filed for bankruptcy protection since then. Bethlehem Steel is the most recent casualty, filing for Chapter 11 in October.
Existing for 97 years, Bethlehem has provided steel for American icons of progress such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the U.S. Supreme Court building, and a large portion of New York City’s skyline. During World War ii, it employed over 300,000 people—producing a peak capacity of 12.9 tons of steel in 1941. It also supplied America and its Allies with a total of 1121 ships, equaling one ship per day throughout the war! Today, Bethlehem Steel is the third-largest steel producer in America.
Might such a company be a crucial link in avoiding—or surviving—a possible future national emergency?
“One thing is clear, our national security and our economy depend upon a sound and productive American steel industry,” said Robert S. Miller, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Bethlehem Steel (PRNewswire, Oct. 15).
Strategically significant American and British companies, including electric, gas, power and water utility, aircraft, automotive, aviation, banking, chemical, communication, computer and various other industrial businesses, continue to be the main targets for German companies in this economic war.
The most recent successful target was the New Jersey-based American Water Works, the largest publicly traded water company in the nation, acquired for $4.6 billion by the German utility company rwe.
Deutsche Bank came into possession of the largest private international airport in America when it acquired the courier business Airborne Express. This is a prime example of a strategically significant American company now in the hands of a German company! Deutsche Bank also acquired another U.S. courier, dhl Worldwide Express, this year. How healthy is this for our national security?
When Deutsche Telekom bought the American cellular communications company, VoiceStream, U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings expressed great concern over the national security issue of a foreign company—partly owned by the former enemy nation of Germany—now having access to an American national communications network: “It’s lunacy to think we’re going to sit back here and give away America’s telecommunications to the foreigners. We can’t depend on the German government to always be friendly” (Washington Post, July 13, 2000). Lunacy won over as VoiceStream was sold to Deutsche Telekom on June 1 of this year.
When a German bank offered to buy the fixed-line network of British Telecommunications last August, British unions protested. “There are huge security implications in letting the network fall into foreign hands,” said Jeannie Drake, deputy general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (www.telecompaper.com, Oct. 29).
Though that particular bid was rejected, the warning went unheeded. The German company e.on ag is on track to acquire the UK’s Powergen in the spring of 2002. Powergen distributes and supplies power in the UK, the U.S. and other countries. Without much fanfare, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already approved the sale. State regulators in Kentucky and Virginia had earlier approved the deal. Expected approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and from the European Commission, is all that Ulrich Hartmann, chairman and chief executive of e.on ag, is waiting for. Hartmann claims that the deal is good for Americans and British alike.
Railtrack, the company that owns Britain’s railway infrastructure, including stations, tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts and level crossing, is also under attack. “German bank WestLB has already confirmed it is working with other companies on a proposal to buy the Railtrack assets, which include the track network and stations” (www.thedeal.com, Nov. 11).
Last month, a court-approved decision placed Ernst & Young in control of Railtrack after the government rejected the company’s plea for financial assistance. The chairman of Railtrack, John Robinson, called the government’s decisions “unethical if not immoral” (AP, Nov. 11). And now, the British government is seriously considering an offer from the German state-owned bank WestLB, for Railtrack’s 23,000 miles of track and 2,500 stations, including its newest project, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
“The government has told the bbc it would not rule out a ‘realistic offer’ for Railtrack” (bbc News, Oct. 11). To think the British government would allow a foreign-owned company to control such an important network of travel and trade just because they are willing to pay the right price is hard to believe.
Is Germany truly a different nation today with a new vision for its future? Or will strategically significant, German-controlled American and British companies one day be used as weapons in a prophesied future war?
Germany’s Natural Twin—Its Past
Recently, Chancellor Schröder was given a photograph he had never seen before. The clear-eyed handsome man pictured in the photograph was his father, dressed in a Wehrmacht soldier’s uniform, his helmet displaying a Nazi swastika. Fascinated by the similarities between himself and his father, he said: “It’s exactly the same, without the steel helmet and uniform, naturally, as if it were a twin brother. That makes you think” (New York Times, July 2).
It should make you think; because whether German leaders like Schröder admit it or not, today’s Germany is “exactly the same”—a nation that believes Germany should rule over all: Deutschland über alles! The only difference today is Germany’s approach to this quest for power. Germany is first buying an empire with acquisitions in every conceivable industry; and this has wrought enormous growth in global power for the German-led EU. Later, when they have bought a sufficient quantity to consolidate their global economic power, their infamous military will strike like lightning blitzkrieg to “destroy wonderfully” (Dan. 8:24).
It was primarily America’s great industrial and military power that twice denied a lasting world-ruling empire, and this is why America will be Germany’s prime military target in the years ahead, as it is now in the business arena. History should serve as a clear and sober warning that the German temperament has not changed. They don’t like to be second to anyone, and that expressly includes their former enemy, occupier, protector and benefactor, the United States of America.