If Conflict Breaks Out In The Balkans Again, Expect The Germans To Return To Militarism

Main roads in Kosovo have been blocked by Serbian protestors angered by the fact that Pristina has sent hundreds of officers into the Serbian region of Mitohija and because a former Serb policeman was arrested. Police exchanged fire with gunmen after the Serb officer’s arrest. The EU’S police force in charge of keeping peace in Kosovo, EULEX, reported that a stun grenade was thrown onto one of their armored vehicles. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, warned that attack’s on the EU’s police force will not be tolerated:

“#EU will not tolerate attacks on @EULEXKosovo or use of violent, criminal acts in the north. Barricades must be removed immediately by groups of Kosovo Serbs. Calm must be restored,”

So the question lies: what will happen if violence gets bad enough in Kosovo? Remember what happened back in the 1990s. It was Germany who armed and trained the terrorist group, Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to fight against the Serbs (horrendous atrocities were also committed by this very KLA), and it was Germany who exhorted the United States to bomb Serbia. Germany was not in the position to be bombing countries for the obvious reason that memories of World War Two were still very fresh and the Germans were not permitted to be an openly warring nation. But today we are living in different times (this goes without saying), wherein Germany is expected and encouraged to become a powerful nation again, and wherein Germany was praised for having its Zeitenwende — “turning point — in which it shot up its defense spending to a 100 billion euros as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This is a time when the Americans want the Germans to bring back its warring strength so that the United States no longer needs to be the bulwark of Europe. So, now that we are in a time that has shifted from the world after the Second World War — in which Germany is more and more being loosened by the shackled of its past guilts — how then will the German hammer be held back in the midst of violence in the Balkans, at a time when the Americans have grown more weary of guarding Europe and are bequeathing the task to Germany? If Germany is going to be the keeper of the peace in Europe, will it not show its muscle if violence has boiled over in the Balkans? If the violence in the Balkans continues to worsen, and becomes a torrent of blood that grabs the eyes of the world, and the Americans want to rely more on the Europeans, the Germans will take the helm as the defender of Europe, the stabilizer, and this would mean the showing the strength, the return of the Germans to militarism. Looking back at the storm of blood that happened in the Balkans in the 1990s, one can see how Germany — albeit held back by postwar policy — was trying then to advance its hegemony. In a 2012 interview with Davor Dzalto, Noam Chomsky explained Germany’s plan to expand her hegemony in the Balkans as a simple continuation of trying to control countries that she historically ruled:

“The proclaimed independence of Croatia was immediately backed by Germany, which also raised war memories — the Nazis and the Croatian fascists were very closely linked. And Germany was plainly just trying to expand its influence over the areas where it had traditionally dominated.” (Noam Chomsky interviewed by Davor Dzalto, January 6, 2012, Cambridge, MA, in Dzalto & Chomsky, Yugoslavia, p. 64).

Did Nazi Germany not control the Balkans, alongside its bloodthirsty auxiliaries, the Croatian Ustasha and the Bosnians and Albanians who joined the SS? And even after the Second World World War, when the weight of Nazi crimes suffocated the world with shock and horror, the Germans did not give up on their geopolitical interests of controlling the Balkan. In the 1990s the Germans trained and armed Albanian rebels in Kosovo who were proud of their families’ membership in the SS, to form the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in order to destabilize and disintegrate Yugoslavia. The purpose of this policy was to expand German hegemony in the Balkans. In a 1998 European report, it says: “German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area.”

In the situation occurring today, we have something similar to the condition in Ukraine prior to Russia’s Special Operation. In eastern Ukraine there was a Russian minority who was being oppressed by Kiev, and the Russians responded with an invasion. In northern Kosovo you have a Serbian minority that is prejudiced against by Pristina, and the Serbian government wants to send in a thousand soldiers into Kosovo as a response, although it can (legally) only do this with NATO approval. If war in Ukraine was the green light for Germany’s “turning point” (boosting up its military spending), then an outbreak of war in the Balkans — which is much closer to Germany (Austria just standing between Germany and Slovenia) — would give room for a much larger precedent, one that would be considered unheard of in the postwar world. Germany would take up a much bigger position for itself as the defender of Europe. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz stated:

“After the turning point that Putin’s attack means, nothing is as it was. And that’s why things can’t stay the way they are! But just the determination of a turning point is not a program. From the turning point comes a mandate to act – for our country, for Europe, for the international community. We must make Germany more secure and resilient, the European Union more sovereign and the international order more sustainable.”

He also said: “Germany is ready to assume leading responsibility for the security of our continent”. So, if violence breaks out in the Balkans again, we can imagine how the rhetoric of the Germans will intensify, from being about general security to one of militarism.

Germany, in its desire to advance its hegemony, has grand aspirations to expand its current bloc — the European Union — eastward, desiring to include Ukraine in its fold. “I am committed to the enlargement of the EU. That the EU continues to grow eastward is a win-win for all of us,” said Olaf Scholz, the Chancellor of Germany. Scholz also wants to make a more militarily strong Europe: “In the future, Europe will need a coordinated increase in capabilities… We must confidently and jointly advance European defense.” But, when Germany talks about bettering Europe’s defense, what this entails is making Germany the biggest military force in Europe. As Chancellor Scholz said in September of 2022, Germany must become the “best equipped armed force” in Europe. “At the same time, we are showing clearly and credibly that Germany is ready to assume leading responsibility for the security of our continent,” Scholz said.

A focal point for this aspiration is the ideology of Germany being at the center of Europe, in that since Germany is in the middle of Europe, it must be the strongest country to keep everything else together. Olaf Scholz stated this: “As the most populous nation with the greatest economic power and a country in the centre of the continent, our army must become the cornerstone of conventional defense in Europe, the best-equipped force”. The Dutch political writer, Luuk van Middelaar, has explained that the Ukrainian conflict has revived the pursuit to embedding Ukraine into the European Union.

This expansion to the east will make Germany appear more at the center of Europe, while making France look closer to the edge. France is replaceable to Germany, while the French would not be able to bypass a German power. This idea that Germany is at the center and thus must be the most powerful echoes with the old ideology of Mitteleuropa, an idea that goes back to the 19th century and teaches that Germany’s position is to have an empire over Europe, especially in Eastern Europe.

Such an envisage would be impossible without a strong military, and this requires a dramatic shift from a non-aggressive policy to one where militarization is seen as normal. Lars Klingbeil, co-leader of the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Ukraine) stated: “For me, peace policy means also seeing military force as a legitimate political tool.” Christine Lambrecht, Germany Defense Minister, spoke of a need for greater willpower in Europe when it comes to military buildup, since America is focusing more on China as opposed to Europe and thus the Europeans must act more on their own.

She said that Europeans “must make a greater contribution to our security themselves,” and demanded that Europe “develop forces and skills that will make us stronger and more credible”. Of course, the German defense minister made it clear that Germany is a focal point in her worldview: “A sustainable turning point requires more money,” to “reinvest in the combat power and operational capability of the Bundeswehr”. The Bundeswehr is the Armed Forces of Germany, and it wants to become the leading military of Europe. This is an agenda that is within the German government.

In October of 2022, the Federal Academy for Security Policy organized a “Workshop on the National Security Strategy for the Bundeswehr and Society in the Light of the Changing Era”. In this conference, the Federal Ministry of Defense said:

“In the war of narratives, security policy communication is also a means of resistance. It is about coordinated external communication, also among partners and allies. Germany’s leading role in Europe must be communicated even more than before”.

Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has had to trust in the guard of the US (and NATO) for protection, but the Germans want to send a new message: that America should rely on Germany for the protection of Europe in a world where America is not the only one that reigns. On November 2nd of 2022, Bärbel Bas, the president of the German parliament (Bundestag) declared this idea at the annual reception of the military commissioners:

“Germany has long benefited from NATO protection. It is now up to us to show that our partners in the alliance can also rely on us. Germany takes its duty of assistance to its allies very seriously. Our commitment to securing the alliance’s eastern flank shows this clearly. I was in Warsaw in May. In all the talks I had there, I felt how imminent the Russian threat was felt in our neighboring countries and in the Baltic States. Our engagement in the eastern NATO countries, especially in Rukla, is very much appreciated there. Ladies and Gentlemen the world has changed since the Cold War. We live in a multipolar and dynamic world. China’s power and the US’ stronger focus on the Indo-Pacific region make us aware that we Europeans have to take on more responsibility. We need to take our security more into our own hands.”

The thing about her words is that they are true. The world is transitioning from having a single pole of power — America — to one with numerous poles. America wants Germany to be the protector of Europe so that the US could spend more of its focus against China in the Indo-Pacific. This would involve Japan being spurred to boost up its own military strength so that it could be the bulwark against China. Turkey is also being seen by the US as the arm against Russia in the Middle East. So here we have three regional powers, Germany, Japan and Turkey rising up as strongholds against Russia in the midst of an America shutting itself in. The multipolar world is indeed being shaped, and part of this is the revival of German power.