How Germany Solves Problems
History demonstrates that it has been crises, often of the nation’s own making, that have spurred the German people into action to impose very Germanic solutions to those crises.
Our friends at German-Foreign-Policy.com highlighted a recent classic case of this approach to crisis. It involved a couple of high-profile industrial agreements between France and Germany, the two nations that many have touted as underpinning true European unity.
For some time, France had limited Germany’s effort in producing warships by stifling plans for a joint Franco-German effort to create a common European shipbuilding enterprise. The typical (and no doubt strategically motivated) French defiance over this deal led to a crisis. This spurred one of the German companies involved, ThyssenKrupp, to “renounce civilian ship production to concentrate its dockyards solely on arms production. It is entering a ‘strategic partnership’ with the Abu Dhabi Mar Co. from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Their deal seals the military alliance between Germany and the Emirates, possibly creating the opportunity for circumventing German arms exports regulations and ending efforts aimed at forging a German/French ship production …” (Oct. 26, 2009; emphasis mine throughout). As German-Foreign-Policy.com observed, this just goes to show that “If a German-dominated ‘European solution’ cannot be accomplished, Berlin will do without ‘Europe’ and go it alone.”
There you are! That’s solving the crisis not the “European” way, but the German way! “According to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, this means that the project of a common European maritime shipbuilding industry is ‘as dead as a doornail.’ As a matter of fact, the arms cooperation with the Gulf state was already cleared with the representatives of the Berlin government: ‘We have sounded out all of the ministries and received a very positive prevailing sentiment,’ ThyssenKrupp declared. Cooperation with the Emirates is ‘far more sustainable than a European maritime company,’ according to the German press, which usually never tires of praising ‘Europe’ and ‘European solutions’—of course, only when German predominance in the ‘European’ project can be assured” (ibid.).
Yet another similar instance of Berlin’s “my way or the highway” approach was its support of another German corporation caught in yet another Franco-German crisis. “Siemens recently terminated its nuclear cooperation with France, because Paris refused to give in to German demands for more influence in the nuclear sector, and began cooperation with Russia” (ibid.). Shades of the 1920s?
Both these reactions to similar crises depict Berlin’s reversion to a well-tried strategy. The trend we are seeing in Berlin’s reaction to any crisis facing the EU project is simply to impose the “German solution.”
This reaction has historic overtones. It’s a strategy enacted in cooperation with Berlin’s traditional supporters, the German industrialists. A closer look at the ThyssenKrupp example bears this out.
Back in the War Business
ThyssenKrupp found itself suffering seriously because of the global economic crisis. Its response (having resulted in a €2 billion loss) was to consolidate its shipbuilding enterprises into one centralized operation, converting its whole operation to a war footing.
Berlin has been directly involved in supporting the ThyssenKrupp/Emirates deal. “The political ties between Berlin and the Arab feudal states are also being consolidated by the Gulf states’ investments in the German economy” (ibid.). Financial Times Deutschland reported that, “Most recently, with a large financial transfusion, the Emirate of Qatar bought into Volkswagen, while the Aabar Investment Society of Abu Dhabi bought into the Daimler car producer. Just last June, ThyssenKrupp’s partner, the Abu Dhabi Mar Consortium, bought majority shares in the Nobiskrug Shipyard, which specializes in luxury ships, in Rendsburg, Germany” (ibid.).
This is Germany’s more traditional approach to crisis: imposing the German solution. In each case, the solution has brought Germany closer, much closer, to militarizing its economy—something Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has called for.
Berlin’s cooperation with the
“Abu Dhabi’s joining the German maritime shipbuilding industry signals Berlin’s fundamental change of strategy in its long-term efforts to help bring the German arms industry to a position of predominance in Europe” (ibid.).
Germany is reverting to its historical militarized role in global politics. As Baron Guttenberg has declared, the time has come for Germany once again to merge economic policy with military policy. The result of this increasing pace in the militarization of the German economy will pale into stark insignificance the previous two occasions when Berlin adopted such a strategy.