Russia recently declared that Germany, along with China, is going to become a superpower. The story, which you can read here and was reported on by Reuters, puts forth an interesting proposition- what is the future of the world power balance?
We know that “nothing lasts forever” in this world, for good or for bad. Empires come and go, and there is no exception to this rule, as empires are made of people and as people change, the natures of said ruling structures also change. In the case of the US and Europe, I shall not consider the massive migration shifts from Central America to the US, and Africa or Central Asia to Europe that are fundamentally redefining and reshaping life in those areas. Indeed, this is a subject of discussion into itself for another time. Rather, I want to take the simpler approach of asking what is the nature of alliances?
The US and Russian positions vis-a-vis each other are explicitly clear. The two nations do not like each other, have never really liked each other, and have correctly seen each other as mutual competitors on a global scale. This is nothing new and has been going on for centuries, as the US is just the extension of the British Empire and Russia today and during the Soviet years- something which Putin has openly lauded and is in no uncertain terms trying to revive -was extensions of Russia during the Tsarist times. There have been no changes in this sense, with the most serious being the damage caused to Russia by the Bolsheviks, which enervated the nation and in spite of efforts by Russia in the current times to fix them, has not been able to undo the systemic economic and social problems cause and which largely define Russian life and in spite of the constant positive language, trolling as an advertising campaign, and outright lies by the “Vatnik”-inclined, the practical fact is that Russia endures the continual decline of her people and will for the future.
This is where Russia’s attempts to assert herself in the world are so important, and also so dangerous, because like a cornered and wounded animal dying of her injuries, she is lashing out and fighting as hard as she can to survive. Make no mistake, Russia is a strong nation and has survived much, but at a great cost that is still being paid. I do not wish to get into the specifics that I have alluded to above (you can read more in the Shoebat archives), but rather all factors point to that Russia is about to undergo a major change, much more so than the US. While people in the US speak of the changing “racial” makeup through demographic shifts that is leading to major political and cultural changes, Russia is having the same issue, except that in the US, it is not threatening the physical continuity of the nation, while in the case of Russia, demographic migrations combined with historical trends of regional nationalism and economic chaos could realistically cleave parts of Russia from the larger national body, and potentially relegate her to an impotent power west of the Urals while her power base, which lies in the heart of Siberia and Central Asia that Mackinder identified in his geopolitical theory, could break away into a series of separate nations.
Russia is in big trouble, and in true Russian style, she feigns strength while knowing but never admitting her complete weakness, similar to a bodybuilder with giant muscles who looks tough but cannot stand up to a small man who is also strong but well trained yet will talk tough in public.
What Russia needs desperately are allies, and for practical purposes she does not have any because after a century of Communism, scarcely a nation that was near or under the Soviet bloc of influence wants anything to do with her because of the open, unrepentant, and cruel abuse those people were forced to endure for reasons of power. If Russia treated the Baltic nations, Poland, Ukraine, the Caucasus nations, and many other places in eastern Europe well, why would they want so much to ally with NATO instead of Russia? It is not because of just “hatred”, but lived experience and a fear to subject themselves to the same mistreatment again.
So who does Russia turn to? Surrounded by Germany in the west, Japan in the east (who conquered and held half of Russia until 1920 under military occupation following the Russo-Japanese war of 1905), a ravenous, resource-hungry China in the southeast coupled with a historical enemy and Germanic ally in Turkey in the southwest, things don’t look good for her. She is surrounded respectively by the tenth, sixth, third, and ninth most powerful militaries in the world, and with the exception of China (due to the nominal alliance she holds with the Chinese), when one adds in the US, Russia has a problem.
So what does Russia do? Historically she retreats into herself with an autarchal approach as well as attempts to use the cold Russian weather to her advantage, but with modern technology, these approaches do not work as well as they traditionally do, and she knows they may not work this time. This fear was confirmed at Stalingrad in 1942, when Russia won an almost pyrrhic victory over Germany and noting that the Germany army came within sixty miles of Moscow. She cannot risk a situation like this again. What Russia has to do is to try to “pry off” one or more of these enemies, and while she is at it, this can also include China, for Russia and China are nominal allies but not in a practical sense, since Russia fears a Chinese population move into Siberia and thus annex it by presence without her being able to effectively respond, and the size of China makes her from a manpower viewpoint unstoppable without starting a major war, of which the US would obviously use to her advantage.
Enter Germany into this situation, because while Russia fights with Germany in a historical sense, she also has a history of friendship with her, and peace with Germany means likely a tenuous peace with Turkey, thus taking out two possible problems at one time, and helps her to concentrate on other matters. In order to facilitate this, Russia is, quite reasonably, using her massive gas supply lines in Siberia and other parts of the nation to offer cheap gas to Germany. She does this currently with China, but from a strategic perspective, Germany is the more valuable asset because of the danger. Japan, while a threat, is not as much of an immediate issue since in the event of the outbreak of a global conflict and amid concern over a rising China, Russia could simply claim self-defense measures as a reason to cut the gas lines to China and then renegotiate transfer of cheap gas to Japan. In a European context, Germany needs gas lines to support herself desperately because she has no real gas fields, especially to run a military empire. This is also why Germany in both world wars headed straight for the Caucasus region, to seize the oil sands of Baku in Azerbaijan, and was also why the worst battle of the Second World War and the place where the conflict was decided was at Stalingrad, since that conflict awarded Soviet control of the oil sands to the USSR and thus forcing Germany to shut down her war machine by way of lacking the necessary oil to run it.
This is why the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running from Vyborg to Greifswald is such an issue of contention with the US and Germany, and why the US has violently threatened sanctions against Germany over it. That pipeline is not a sign of “Russian goodwill” as much as the American concern over it is not of “American goodwill”. It is a fight for power over who asserts influence- not control, since Germany wants to ‘rise’ again as a world power -over the future of the Germanic lands, and the stakes are high for both the US and Russia. The former means that she maintains what has been almost a century of work in securing an alliance with the nation she defeated in the Second World War and with that the arguable continuity of American power in the world and over her spheres of influence, that even if it is reduced, will remain generally constant with few disruptions, as well as potentially forcing Russia into a state of terminal decline and eventually her breakup as a nation. From the Russian viewpoint, a revived “Molotov-Ribbentrop” type of arrangement will not defeat the US, but will prevent the US from taking any serious role in a European conflict and make her largely sit out, for whoever gets Germany also gets Turkey.
But make no mistake, Russia is also scared of Germany in spite of their proclamations of support for her economic needs. She has a very long history with Germany, and while Russia is nominally stronger than Germany in terms of military power and population, Germany is overall a lot stronger than Russia in terms of her economy and ability to translate power into action, as Germany- with only 83 million people -is the fourth strongest economy in the world while Russia is the eleventh strongest. Plus, Germany is overall much cleaner, healthier, better managed, freer, and liveable than Russia. People seek to come to Germany from all over the world, while save for the miserable dictatorships that are in Central Asia where poverty is at sub-Saharan Africa tier levels and anything is an improvement, many people who live in Russia seek to leave and not return, and it is not because they “hate Russia”, but just like in many poor, rural areas in the American south and west, there is not much future for a man with care and ambition.
In the film The Godfather, the famous Corleone family hitman Luca Brazi is portrayed as one of the Don’s most loyal soldiers. This is also true in the novel, but the novel portrays a much more disturbing character, as in the written story Luca had a violent temper who murdered his own infant son conceived through a prostitute by throwing the newborn alive into a furnace. The Don is actually scared of Luca in the story, but he keeps him because Luca is on ‘his side’ and is very loyal to him. A similar analogy- with much less loyalty attributed -can be made with the Russia-Germany relationship, as Russia wants Germany on ‘her side’ but knows her tendencies, history, and abilities, and wants to keep her as a close friend but also at a distance as well.
Germany wants to remilitarize. The Asia Times did an excellent story about this, and points out that:
To illustrate the change sweeping over the German ideology, in an interview with the weekly magazine Die Zeit in July, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (who is also the acting chairwoman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union party) stressed that it was “high time” to discuss “how Germany must position itself in the world in the future.”
She said Germany is “expected to show leadership, not only as an economic power,” but it also concerns “collective defense, it concerns international missions, it concerns a strategic view of the world, and ultimately it concerns the question of whether we want to actively shape the global order.” Plainly put, the German voice is no longer the voice of pacifism.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said “the claim of the current Russian leadership” to advocate their interests “very aggressively” must be “confronted with a clear position: We are well fortified and in case of doubt, ready to defend ourselves. We see what Russia is doing and we will not let the Russian leadership get away with it.… If you look at who is within range of Russian missiles in Europe, then it’s just the Central and Eastern European states and us.” (source)
If this is not a threat from Germany, then what is? Likewise, one may remember that while Russia at least presents an image of supporting Germany (and also too one may remember that Russia is a master of bluffing), and Germany may support her, Germany also remembers that it was the US who not only rebuilt West Germany and West Berlin while the USSR allowed East Germany and East Berlin to languish in absolute misery, but that it was the US who supported German unification while Russia was against it.
Now the choice of whether or not Germany wants to back the US or Russia is ultimately their decision. However, since the US is physically distant from Germany in her own sphere and has been a major driving force in recreating Germany as national entity since the end of the previous war, and given how Russia is forced into the proximity of Germany by her geographic position as well as has openly mistreated Germanic lands (something that is considered very precious to many Germans) and then opposed the German reunification process, and knowing that Germany also has a very long memory too, this does not bode well for Russia.
Germany is ultimately going to act in her interests, and the US will likely lose influence in Europe, but from the US perspective, it is a matter of how the influence can be distributed instead of lost. Germany has a historic tendency to rise, which the US surely knows. Rather, from the US view, it is more strategic to allow a natural rise with a natural US reshifting of power in so far as the two can remain allies and even some friendship with in general what are mostly shared business and political interests united against Russia in the east as opposed to losing influence to a recreation of a German-Russian alliance which, historically speaking, results in the domination and rape (culturally and physically) of the other Slavic peoples before Germany and Russia start fighting with each other and break their alliance.
The American play in this “game” of geopolitical cards is the most historically significant factor, and all of the Eastern European nations know this. It is why Poland has taken so much US support, not because Poland loves the US, but because the US is a wedge against Russia that historically she is attempting to use to her advantage.
But even America knows that she has to be careful. It is not as though the US has ‘free reign’ in what she can and can’t do because while past relations are the best indicator of future trends, it is not a guarantee of anything, for ‘all is fair in love and war.’ Hence the “US withdrawal” strategy from Europe and allowing Germany to take more control over European affairs, not just for Germany, but because the American Empire is crumbling and needs repair.
The question of whether or not the future of the American empire will be maintained is not a question. Rather, the question is how to best maintain it in the cyclical structure of historical patterns. With Germany wanting to rise and seeking those who support her, the US is, from a strictly strategic point of view, giving her ‘free space’ and hoping that with select pressure in key areas that are meticulously chosen- such as against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline -the US can keep Germany in good graces and thus against Russia. Defense News alludes to this in a recent piece, but perhaps the best articulation comes from an editorial in Bloomberg, which states that Germany is seeking a new version of “Ostpolitik”, except perhaps this time with more anti-Russian and less anti-American attitudes while carefully balancing relationships between the two positions, arguing that the concept of ‘western values’ is an old Cold War adage that has run its historical course and is going to be supplanted by a new paradigm.
Who else will stand up for Western values if the U.S., Germany and their friends won’t?
She freely acknowledges that the U.S. will henceforth be more interested in the Pacific than the Atlantic. She even nods to the genuine, bipartisan American criticism of Germany for shirking its duty to build a strong army.
So here’s her deal: Once the silly season in the U.S. is over, let’s push the reset button. Instead of threatening each other with tariffs, let’s talk again about a free-trade area for the whole West. In return, Kramp-Karrenbauer promises that Germany will invest in its military and, when diplomacy fails, use it to maintain order in its neighborhood — from the Baltic to the Balkans, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.
This she calls “a new German realism.” In effect, she’s saying Germany could relieve the U.S. of the burdens of being regional cop, so America can better allocate its power and effort globally.
Such a proposal, coming from a German, is remarkable. It represents a clear rejection of the vision peddled by the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron, who see Europe as agnostic about the major world powers and striving only to become geopolitically “autonomous” and “sovereign.” Second, she also spurns the remnants of Ostpolitik and what she calls its “romantic fixation on Russia,” which is often combined with a large helping of anti-Americanism.
The allusion to an “emphasis on the pacific” is interesting as well since the Pacific is also the domain of Japan, another major competitor to the US that while the US is building her up again, may again turn against her. Likewise, she accepts the US giving her more ‘free room’ to rebuild, and seems to be taking this as a gift to the revival of the GErmanic conception of power and its projection across the continent.
For years, Russia has spoken of a “multipolar world”, but this is been presented in the concept of “other than America”. A popular example of this was the BRICS, saying that Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa could replace the US in the world balance of power.
However, could the opposite be happening right now instead?
The article mentioned above openly mentions China as “dangerous”, and while China has many weaknesses, the Chinese have openly expressed a violent authoritarianism with no regard at all for human life that has shocked the world. One does not need to humiliate China, for she does that well enough on her own by her disregard for human kindness shown in too many examples not just in major examples such as the genocide taking place against the Uyghurs, the abuse of “social credit” for her own people, but just in how people are treated in daily life, where no one cares for others publicly suffering and instead pass by as though things are completely normal. It is not just the US, Russia, Germany, or Japan disgusted by this, but all of Asia, who sees China as a madman aspiring to power but without the will or desire to control themselves, similar to a monkey holding a loaded gun and hopping about the streets, firing at will.
But what is one to say of Russia? Russia is indeed a major power aspiring to revive herself, but from the way things look, their attempts to “lock” the US down by the concept of a ‘multipolar’ world may be coming back on them, with instead Russia being progressively locked out and desperately trying to prevent this from happening. It is why Russia has so aggressively promoted the “Belt-and-Road” initiative, because the reality is that the US and Europe have been building massive railways all throughout the Middle East and central-south Asia, physically circumventing Russia and carving out a new Silk Road along the ancient lanes used centuries ago. This has the effect of not just increasing economic gain, but also isolating Russia further than what she already is, thus rendering moot her traditional autarchic approach to self-preservation by withering away what economic pull she has left, for even the sale of raw materials can only pull a nation so far in her economy, and especially on ehte size of Russia.
So what does the future hold, especially for the US? While the US may think that she can “control” Germany, this is a classic American ‘error’ endemic to the society that she makes over and over again. One can recall when Commodore Perry went to Japan and forcibly opened her up and allied the US to her, and proceeded to turn Japan from the isolated island nation back into a major power that she could ‘control’ her, but sure enough, the Japanese Shih-Tsu turned out to become a Godzilla that the US could not control and had to go to war against her.
The same warning bears close with GErmany, for remember, it has not even been a hundred years since the last major war between her and the US. This is a very short time in historical memory, and for the Germans, the American memory being even shorter, it serves to benefit the revival of a new reich, for indeed, there is a strong possibility that the ‘perfect ally’ created by the US might be what the US thinks is an obedient Germany Shepherd who turns around to bite the master who trained her.
What all can say from this is that Germany is both the wild card and the wild dog in this game of geopolitics, and unfortunately, while all sides will try to make use of her for their own benefit, ultimately there is no winner, as it is more likely that the three will eventually be forced into conflict with each other that results it the consumption of all by the fires of war.