With Germany economically dependent on the natural gas provisions from Russia, it is hard to expect any strong German support for NATO activities on the eastern flank. This is proven by the German reaction to the joint NATO war games, Anaconda 16, that are taking place in Eastern Europe. A NATO member, as it is, Germany denied the right of border passage to the allied troops on their way to the games. It also referred to them as “saber-rattling and warmongering.” The centers of power in Europe are shifting and Washington needs to choose its allies carefully. When we look at the map of Europe, it is quite clear that the new rampart of NATO is no longer Germany but Poland and the Baltic States.
By Maria Juczewska | June 27, 2016
Great Britain is going to leave the European Union. In Thursday’s referendum on Brexit, 52% of Britons voted for Brexit. This radically changes the balance of power in Europe and poses new challenges to the United States at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.
The European Union has long been perceived as a stabilizing factor on the European continent. With NATO being only a military alliance, the EU was expected to further strengthen the order in Europe and possibly lead to the sustainability of Europe in terms of security. The United Kingdom, by virtue of common language, history and insular location, has always been the strongest American ally on the European continent in both organizations. In the European Union itself, it was also the second largest economy whose voice Germany, the largest economy in the EU, could not ignore. With the UK out of the picture, Germany gains political leverage that should certainly worry the U.S.
In 2015, a number of anti-democratic practices were used in Germany to push pro-immigration policy of the German government. German Chancellor Merkel was encouraging massive immigration from the Middle East with her speeches, while the European Union had no possibility to efficiently vet or control massive waves of immigrants. The information about the acts of violence committed by the newcomers against the German populace was heavily censored. What is more, Germany was also trying to force other countries of the European Union to accept the sudden influx of thousands of predominantly male, Muslim immigrants. Especially vocal on that matter was Martin Schulz, the German President of the European Parliament, a politician who – in theory – should represent not only the interests of Germany but the whole European Union. This heavy-handed approach suggests what kind of diplomacy we are likely to experience when the largest country balancing the power of Germany has left the European Union.
Another issue that suddenly gains prominence is Russian-German rapprochement that has been taking place for the last several years. Only two days ago the news of Nord Stream 2 going ahead with procurement was announced. With Germany economically dependent on the natural gas provisions from Russia, it is hard to expect any strong German support for NATO activities on the eastern flank. This is proven by the German reaction to the joint NATO war games, Anaconda 16, that are taking place in Eastern Europe. A NATO member, as it is, Germany denied the right of border passage to the allied troops on their way to the games. What is more, German foreign affairs minister, Frank-Walter Steinmayer, has just referred to those games as “saber-rattling and warmongering” – the words and rhetoric more appropriate not to a member but to an opponent of NATO.
Those words and deeds become even more meaningful before the NATO summit that is to be held in Warsaw on the 8th and 9th of July. The centers of power in Europe are shifting and Washington needs to choose its allies carefully. When we look at the map of Europe, it is quite clear that the new rampart of NATO is no longer Germany but Poland and the Baltic States. Traditionally staunchly pro-American, the post-Soviet part of Europe is more likely to provide undivided support to America on European soil. What is more, those countries are still culturally uniform and free of internal ethnic tensions. Poles may disagree on how much they like their new government, but they still have the same language, history, and religion, which can be no longer said about Germany.
For years, the main priority of NATO was “to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.” This task may become increasingly more difficult. The strongest natural ally of America in Europe has just decided to leave the EU. This makes Germany the most powerful member of the EU that is likely to keep opening its back door to Russia. To be able to keep the Germans down and the Russians out, America needs to reevaluate its political strategy in Europe. The NATO summit in Warsaw offers an excellent diplomatic opportunity to initiate that strategy.
Maria Juczewska is an MA candidate in International Affairs at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC where she is a research assistant to the the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies. Ms. Juczewska is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.