The German Question

Yes, the German Question has returned to the European stage with bigger implications than ever. And like always, the Germans aren’t quite sure how to handle it. Enormous economic strength, coupled with a weak geopolitical presence and location makes the Germans a most insecure Great Power. But then, that is the question. Does Germany really want to be a Great Power? And are they willing to pay the price for that status?

The answer is yes, and maybe.

The Germans unhesitatingly want to be a Great Power again, to be respected and listened to for their ability and their economic power. The current EU which subordinates all members to German markets at the expense of their own economies is a clear example. If Germany wanted to play the whole equality and cooperation game they could have by using their influence in the EU to support existing production in non-Northern countries. But they don’t. Instead they seem to derive a kind of sadistic pleasure from raping Southern European markets and flooding it with their own superbly manufactured goods. Economically speaking, Germany already has Great Power status.

But a strong economy alone does not a Great Power make, or we’d all be quivering fear of Japan in the East. Great Power status comes with diplomatic and foreign policy requirements as well, requirements that are arguably more important than economic strength. This is why Russia, with an economy far inferior to that of Germany’s or Japan’s, remains a far stronger, far nobler power, having embraced its role as a Eurasian Great Power firmly with both hands. With this came the responsibility to use its power and influence swiftly and decisively which we have seen frequently with the Putin government.

Germany, in contrast, is still afraid of broaching any kind of military mission openly. Hell, they’re afraid of using their diplomatic and economic power openly too. All in all, Germany is a cowardly giant, and it possesses all the diplomatic power of the gentle fat kid in a high school class. Sure, he’ll steal your lunch, but deep down everybody knows he can’t take a hit.

This leads us to the arguably more important question: Is Germany willing to pay the price?

I think the answer is no. Germany has become comfortable. Their military, which is a joke, is a symbol of the strength of the determination of the country. I highly doubt they will be willing to take the enormous economic burden and continuing struggle with the West that turning against America will entail. There are certainly few signs that is the direction Merkel will take. Merkel’s foreign policy can be characterized by subservience and, despite increasing dissatisfaction, the German state continues to make every effort to align their foreign policy in the Ukraine and in Asia with that of the USA. Sure, the stars seemed as close as they’ll ever be to aligned for a German break from American dominance but we simply aren’t seeing those signals at present, Der Spiegel article on Breedlove be damned.

But Merkel may not have a choice. Public pressure is growing. If another European were to break the Germans might have to face a partition of the EU. This is where Greece comes in. Both Greece and Cyprus are taking explicit pro-Russian measures, with even talk of removing Greece, and Greece alone, from the Russian agricultural counter sanctions list. Greece could, by threatening to bring down the Euro house of cards, shove a reluctant German elite into Russian arms. It’s where they want to go anyway, at least in that ideal world where Germany reclaims its diplomatic authority without paying the corresponding geopolitical price.

The Greeks are hardly the only countries shifting East. Hungary, Serbia, Finland, Italy, and Spain have all made overtures of one kind or another, including visits by various ministers and heads of state during a time or supposed economic hostility. Anti-Russian sentiment, evidently, will not be last. And that’s simply not within the power of Germany to control.

As much as Germany would like to control Europe, they simply do not. They don’t have the political might, not at present, and as the Euro slips their ability to pull economic strings lessen. Furthermore an increasingly weak Europe is an increasingly desperate Europe, and the EU, being so phenomenally large, will inevitably find itself at the mercy of one increasingly desperate country or another. Greece is one. Cyprus another. But even little Portugal or Ireland could lose patience under the right circumstances and initiate events that would push Germany East.

There is a final factor: The USA. America is becoming more and more extreme in its demands of its vassals. Compliance, once covert and suspected, is not over and shameless. But the American state does not know when to stop. They will continue to push Europe, and Germany in particular, into increasingly costly situations for their own foreign policy benefits. Eventually the cost may be too high and the Germans may attempt a run for policy freedom. But the longer they wait to do that the higher the economic costs will be, so time is the enemy.

I think it will be a combination of the above factors, especially the Greek-Russo alignment and increasing American pressure, that will push Germany successfully from West to East. But I also think that the Germans will continue pandering for some time making this eventual shift all the more painful. One way or another though, the German Question will be resolved. For good this time.

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  1. I don’t know. There’s undeniably some good insights in this piece, but assuming that Russia is in a position to offer Germany to “reclaim its diplomatic authority without paying the corresponding geopolitical price” seems at best highly speculative to me. Russia is overrated. Putin, albeit bold, is crippled by an overreliance on oil that has consequences both internally and externally, and his Ukrainian adventure does not leave him with a lot of options on the geopolitical field. With European googles, it’s not that obvious that the scattered remains of a collapsed Eurozone would try and escape the US influence only to cower under the Russian umbrella. Anti-Russian sentiment is still strong in Europe, although Moscow remains popular among nationalists.
    So this makes some sense from a chessboard perspective, but there is much at stake here and it’s getting difficult to plan any further than 3-5 years ahead. Let’s see how the Eurozone behaves and what the likely upcoming war in the Middle East will change in the game.

    1. lolzer, these are good insights also. This article is good but makes the case from a geo-political perspective. There is also the historical factors at play. Europe and America are first cousins in this sense, and breaking that bond would take a really surprising turn of events.

      1. Mitchell Laurel April 8, 2015 at 11:47 pm

        I’ve restrained myself from approaching the Ukrainian Crisis here since I’ve written about it in abundance over at A House With No Child, but I simply don’t agree. Russia is not only not overrated, it’s the worlds main diplomatic challenger to American hegemony. They’ve solidified their role further by allying themselves completely with the Chinese. One cannot understand modern Geopolitics without having a firm estimate of the collective powers of each nation. And the new Russia possesses enormous diplomatic strength. This is to say nothing of their other assets. They are the only country in the world who can offer Germany a way out. After all, only they have everything Germany wants and needs.

        As for history, America and Russia also have a historically close connection. Russian diplomacy has always been present in dealings with the early USA, although its not widely known. That and the American elite despise Germans. I think the ‘cousin’ factor is very, very weak, and we’re going to see it in practice.
        The last 50 years have turned all powerful states into serious game theory proponents, after all.

  2. Russia was never known as a lenient master. From the frying pan onto the fire, in short.

    1. Mitchell Laurel April 12, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      The hard facts of geopolitics never seems to change.

      Not that I suppose Russia would be master of Germany in any regard. They simply don’t have the weight for that.

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