Is Germany a reliable American ally? Nein
As Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine looms, most Western allies are moving to support Kiev and reassure vulnerable members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Germany takes a different approach, putting Russian interests ahead of those of the West.
Berlin reveals a grave reality: in the face of the two most significant security threats to America and to the post-World War II democratic international order – China and Russia – Germany is no longer an ally credible. For Germany, cheap gasoline, car exports to China and keeping Mr Putin calm appear to be more important than Allied democratic solidarity. The fate of Ukraine will place a heavy responsibility on Germany.
Berlin refuses to supply arms to Ukraine and actively prevents Estonia from doing so. In recent days, Britain has airlifted anti-tank weapons to Ukraine and conducted intelligence-gathering flights related to Ukraine. But while intelligence flights transited through German airspace – the most direct route between Britain and Ukraine – weapons flights were take detours around Germany. The UK Ministry of Defense played down the detours, confirming that it had not requested overflight clearance. But that’s the point: Britain didn’t ask because that would have forced Germany to accept or reject the request. Britain thought the decision would be difficult for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new government.
Another illustration is Berlin’s approach to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will bring gas to Europe from Russia. German regulators say the pipeline cannot start operating until it meets company compliance standards. This pissed off Mr. Putin, who wants it pumping now. In turn, the Russian President’s puppet company Gazprom reversed gas flows through the existing Yamal-Europe pipeline for more than four weeks. Russia has also cut off thermal coal supplies to Ukraine for more than three months. Putin’s message is clear: Ukraine better move on and Germany better approve Nord Stream 2.
The energy blackmail underscores why Republicans, and until this month Democrats, had backed sanctions against Nord Stream 2. They knew Mr Putin would use the pipeline to gain political allegiance in return for supplies of heating during the cold european winter. They feared he was using Nord Stream 2 to offset gas supplies – and billions of dollars in transit fees – currently flowing through Ukraine. But because of German pressure on the Biden administration and Senate Democrats, Nord Stream 2 and Mr. Putin have gained a lifeline. Last week, a majority of Democrats rejected a bill by Sen. Ted Cruz to reimpose sanctions on the pipeline, denying him the 60 votes he needed to pass. Germany scored a major victory at the expense of the United States. Given the covenant’s principle of reciprocity, it’s unclear what President Biden received in return.
Democrats say sanctions against Nord Stream 2 are unnecessary because Germany will not operate the pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. But Germany is not on the same page. Asked about the suspension of Nord Stream 2, Mr. Scholz’s Minister of Defense replied: “You don’t have to drag [Nord Stream 2] in this conflict. The General Secretary of the ruling Social Democratic Party admitted that “everything in me resist the idea conflicts brought up just to bury a controversial project. Annalena Baerbock, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Germany has also abandoned NATO’s defense spending target of 2% of gross domestic product, spending only 1.5% of GDP, and is allowing Russian chemical weapons research on its soil. Such research supports assassination campaigns like the one that targeted Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and a former British agent. Mr. Scholz has also pledged to seek observer status in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and only vaguely to support NATO’s nuclear deterrent. This concession has long been sought by Mr. Putin.
Then there is Germany’s position on China. Shortly before taking office, the Biden administration asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to delay a trade deal between the European Union and China. She responded by speeding up negotiations to reach a deal before Mr Biden took office. It was rude but not surprising. The Chinese Communist Party’s affection for Ms Merkel was so great that her departure saw party propagandists engineer a digital tapestry in tribute. Mr. Scholz seems determined to earn a similar honor.
When recently asked if he would support a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, Mr. Scholz ponders, “We believe it is important to do all you can to keep the world working together internationally, and any actions you take in each case should be carefully weighed.”
“No” would have been a simpler answer.
Mr. Scholz appears determined to preserve German exports of $150 billion a year to China at all costs. This was made clear recently to Lithuania, which is suffering from a Chinese trade war for letting Taiwan open a representative office. German companies, rather than supporting their Democratic neighbor, are warning Lithuania to give in to China’s demands or see German investments suspended. This lack of democratic solidarity comes from the Federal Chancellery. This is an area where Volkswagen exports talk and the Uyghur genocide, the destruction of Hong Kong democracy and military imperialism walk.
Even when Germany claims it cares about the democratic international order, its real lack of interest quickly becomes apparent. Germany recently deployed a warship to the South China Sea, which China claims as its own private pool. Simultaneously, however, Berlin pleaded with Beijing to let its ship call at Shanghai. China denied the request. Compare Germany’s experience in the South China Sea with that of France, which sent nuclear attack submarines train with US Navy counterparts for battle with an advanced adversary.
Mr Biden suggests that Germany is one of America’s most important allies. Given Berlin’s policy toward the country’s two main adversaries, it’s hard to see how Mr Biden’s claim holds up.
Mr. Rogan is a national security writer for the Washington Examiner.
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