Germany: From Mideast to Latin America
Given that German politics are in particular disarray at the moment, it is interesting to observe that the nation’s foreign-policy technocrats are as busy as ever stretching Germany’s influence far beyond the continent of Europe.
Two items caught our attention recently, both from the excellent German intelligence service German-Foreign-Policy.com. They involve German engagement in the Middle East and at America’s back door in Latin America.
Recognizing that Damascus has for some time been the most significant Arabian partner of Tehran, Germany, in consortium with Brussels-based EU agencies, has sought to influence Syrian leadership to move away from its joined-at-the-hip relationship with chief sponsor of international terror, Iran. Berlin has also worked in association with Washington to try to force regime change within Syria, seeking to replace the Assad regime with a more Western-friendly leadership.
Having in mind the need to strengthen relationships both with oil-rich Middle East nations as well as those strategically located at key access points to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, during February this year Peter Ramsauer, Germany’s transport minister, visited Damascus lobbying for the construction of a railroad connection from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria. This would enable the shipping of goods from the Persian Gulf to Hamburg.
According to German-Foreign-Policy.com, “With this German-Syrian economic venture, contacts between the two countries would be systematically strengthened. So-called development aid projects offered by Berlin to Syria have the same goal in mind. The real background for the putsch efforts as well as these attempts at the integration of national interests of each country is Germany’s effort to attain advantages in the Middle Eastern fight against Iran’s hegemony” (May 2; translation ours throughout).
This all goes a long way toward explaining why Germany has, till recently, exerted strong influence on its EU partners to resist sanctions on Syria. Apparent EU reluctance to impose sanctions on that country in the light of its inhumane crackdown on Syrian dissidents has aroused much criticism internationally.
Now, frustrated in their diplomatic efforts to effect regime change and garner greater cooperation from Syria in pursuit of its hegemonic goals, Berlin has changed its approach and is applying pressure to the European Union to finally invoke sanctions against the Assad government.
Meanwhile, concerned at China’s aggressive moves into Latin America, Germany’s president has been traveling on a goodwill mission throughout Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil. This is in support of Berlin’s foreign-policy initiative adopted last summer with the intention of strengthening Germany’s influence in the region immediately to America’s south.
Germany has a particularly strong position in Mexico. As German-Foreign-Policy.com explains, “The country is not only a low-labor-cost location but is also bound to a free commercial agreement to the U.S. and is used by German enterprises as a low-cost production site for goods delivered to the U.S. market. Yesterday President Wulff [visited] the Mexican subsidiary of the German car supplier Schaeffler …” (May 4). The same source could not resist reminding its subscribers that Schaeffler is a clone of a wartime German enterprise that “in the 1940s used hair from Auschwitz’s murdered Jews for manufacturing.”
During his visit to Mexico, “Wulff spoke also about German support for the Mexican repression organs in its war against the drug mafia” (ibid.). It will be interesting to see if Germany strengthens its president’s words of support to include, in the future, similar actions to those that have been part of its Middle Eastern strategy—the provision of crowd-control armaments and police training in the face of increased security risks in Mexico. Such German support was recently put to significant effect in stemming insurrection in Egypt and Bahrain.