Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dreams and illusions give way to a new realism in Germany.
This article for Fair Observer by Hans-Georg Betz dated 28.02.22 contains many surprising revelations which can be found at the bottom of page 2 where you can find a section headed “Mugged by Reality” which I have reproduced here. If you want to read the entire article in pdf, please click on the link below.
Mugged by Reality
On February 24, Germany got mugged by reality and was caught flat-footed. In the face of a Melian scenario, Germany is like the emperor with his new clothes. Over the recent days, a growing number of articles have appeared exposing the sorry state of the German military and lamenting its lack of preparedness. Some of the stories would make for great slapstick
The German soldiers stationed in Lithuania, for instance, not only lack warm jackets but even underwear, or so Germany’s defense ombudsperson has charged. At the same time, the commander of Germany’s army went public, stating that the military “stands more or less naked.”
His remarks led France’s center-left daily Liberation to claim that “the generals of the Bundeswehr were ready to lay down the arms at the first Russian attack.” Another French newspaper charged that the German military, because of “deficient gear and the lack of flexibility of its soldiers,” was not in a position to efficiently support its allies in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
None of this is new. It has all been known for years. In late 2018, for instance, Germany’s weekly Die Zeit raised alarm noting that only a third of the new tanks, fighter jets and helicopters the military had received were ready to use. Four years later, one of Germany’s major dailies, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, reported that the military continued to suffer from massive problems. The German navy, for instance, could count on less than 30% of its ships to be completely ready for action.
A few days before the Russian invasion on February 24, the Ukrainian government asked the Germans for anti-tank missile systems. Berlin declined. The reason is simple: Even if it had wanted to, Germany would not be in a position to supply the weapons — they were not available.
No matter the outcome of the war in Ukraine, Germany will be collateral damage. For too long, the Germans have believed that interdependence and constructive engagement would fundamentally change international relations. This view, however, is based on theoretical constructs that ignore some of the fundamentals informing international relations: the legacy of history and, closely linked to it, emotions. Europe’s history abounds with grievances and resentment, more often than not triggering intense passions. The Balkan wars of the 1990s should have served as a reminder. Instead, they were dismissed as a remnant of a bygone era.
There is another lesson to be drawn from this disaster. A few years ago, two American political scientists coined the phrase “weaponizing interdependence.” The authors used network theory to explain how “coercing actors could exploit interdependence and why targeted actors would find it difficult to evade coercion attempts.” Germany is a textbook case. For decades now, it has increased its dependence on Russian inputs, particularly natural gas and oil.
The controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline is only the latest example of this. Dependence on Russian commodities was once again informed by the same belief in the power of interdependence to engage the other side in a way beneficial to both. But, once again, the whole thing is in shambles, and Germany is caught in the trap largely of its own making.
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Hans-Georg Betz is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Zurich. Before coming to Zurich, he taught at various universities in North America, including Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, and York University in Toronto. He is the author of several books and numerous articles and book chapters on radical right-wing populism. He holds a PhD in Political Science from MIT.
Image: Berlin, Germany, 2/19/2022 © Pani Garmyder / Shutterstock