German politics and options were obviously at the center of the analyzes at the time of the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, largely complacent and biased as little was seen and discussed on the subject: what could Germany and the United States, the main actors and free hitters, do to restrain Putin, and with what inevitable concessions, given the lack of solidity and the will to fight?
Leaving aside, for a second moment, the analysis on the United States, and in particular the absurdity, improvisation and certainly not collective interests of the Biden administration, we limit ourselves to framing the military action in the light of the economic scenario / hegemonic / strategic outlined above.
The military action prevailed, due to a lack of negotiations and economic / diplomatic restraints, by the two free hitters, the USA and Germany, as well as by a Russia that believed itself to be on the ropes.
The United States, for the eternal prevalence of domestic politics when an administration is weak, has certainly allowed the military option to prevail if not fomented, perhaps assuming that it would have geographically limited effects and certainly given the distances involved on one side it would not have touched them. and on the other hand it would have favored them, both as an image and as transatlantic relations.
The NATO reaction and its revitalization (which in retrospect all claim as their own) had not been taken into account, either on one side or the other.
The most displaced was and is Germany, caught among other things in a difficult moment of transition.
What is your role, what are your interests, starting with relations with Russia?
A difficult question whose answer presupposes the end of the Merkel era, an era that is part of the reasons for the current crises and conflict.
With courage (or perhaps for political timeliness even before pragmatism) Olaf Scholz, in the wake of Vladimir Putin's war of aggression, threw years of caution, reluctance and comfortable ambiguity in foreign policy to the winds, just when suddenly a doubt grips the Village.
Wasn't it all gold that seemed to glitter in the sixteen years of the eternal chancellor and her one-sided decisions?
Even the most conformists, in the German house, are beginning to ask themselves whether the responsibility for a negative change in the course of European history is all to be charged only to Putin, a call in progress that also concerns Merkel, her work and his legacy (and certainly does not leave Biden unharmed, although the subject of another discussion).
Before it concerned (and it was) a small group of skeptics against the trend (precisely those who were and are profoundly pro-European and not Eurosceptics), but today even the Germans are looking around, wondering if perhaps something was wrong in Angela Merkel's sales pitch, as an unstoppable guardian of "Germanism".
The Ukrainian crisis was a hard awakening for Germany, but also a sharp watershed from which we begin to glimpse the dark sides of everything that represented the excessive duration of an era of uncontrollable power: energy dependence. , the hasty exit from atomic energy, the meager defense budget, European sovereignty, even the pandemic.
Choices and judgments that have not withstood even the first breath of wind, let alone time.
It could be said that a ghost is wandering around Germany, embarrassing the current government, and perhaps forcing it to make more (and truly) pro-European choices if it wants to keep the traditional distance and distinguish from the stars and stripes embrace.
Certainly we must go back to the precedents, to the conditioning, starting with a German constitution conceived in a penalizing form to exorcise German expansionism and the errors / horrors of a dictatorship, with dictates that formally limit the use of the FFAA and impose a ban on sending weapons. in no way to countries involved in a conflict.
Olaf Scholz's double move must be placed in this formally limiting context, trying to understand its meaning.
For the first step, is the confirmation of the extraordinary allocation and the maintenance of the 2% share of the federal budget really such an important upheaval? Would it be the symptom of a new awareness?
The first move is an old commitment that the German government (like others, including the Italian one) has never honored, and it is probably also the recognition of the misuse of the last of the poor budget for defense and the quantitative and quantitative decay. quality of the German FFAAs, with the Bundeswher at a minimum.
An awakening, a brusque reminder of the politics from the long sleep towards the defense in which everyone has been lulled for so long, with inappropriate delegations and the silence of the experts.
The second move, making it weigh as an indigestible and painful violation of the constitution, is a captivating message not to NATO and the Europeans but to the Americans, of alignment with US military policy to maintain a sort of primacy and privilege over others in favor of Germany. allies; in essence it is a game of the three tablets, a clever trick: the weapons will be sent not directly, but, in accordance with the current constitution, to a third country (the Netherlands or Poland or perhaps Estonia, if it agrees to expose itself) and from here to Ukraine .
Clean work, dirty work and risks to passing “intermediaries”
No change, up to this point, indeed even a negative confirmation of a German policy unable to want and be able to choose in an adequate measure for the role it claims to maintain.
As in the case of trafficking finance, it is about maximizing the few facts, not paying the costs, possibly reaping the fruits of reconstruction and repositioning in the moment of peace.
A game that is convenient, and is supported in the immediacy (sharing of emptiness, weaknesses and responsibilities) by the current American administration, which needs to demonstrate credibility and a hegemonic role to its electorate: a game between two cronies, but it will hold up. only up to a certain point.
Further confirmation that Germany does not want to overturn its own inaction (bordering on opportunism) is the same speech with which the sending of weapons is announced, that is the inevitable and indispensable response to the "threat of our entire post-war order".
A shipment of weapons that is inscribed, at least officially (but with further meanings that we will see below), in the context of a conservation of the existing and the relative power relations.
The underlining of the existing order is a message that the Germans send to Washington, since the order in question is that of an American domination of Europe, sanctioned by the victory in 1945 and intended to annihilate any resurgence of German power in the continent (as well as to remove Moscow at the onset of the Cold War).
A subtle game, which escapes public opinion and current affairs journalism, also made up of transversal messages, one of which is the motivation and continuity of the Franco-German axis (also useful for the de facto leadership and veto of the EU) .
When it was opportune, and convenient for the politics of the moment, Germany did not hesitate to participate in military missions (not least in the Sahel) but it is convenient to present and insist that any act or contribution that is required of Germany is in contradiction to its constitution, always giving the German government room for maneuver and discretion in relations with allies and partners: everything is done not only by pointing out its harmless nature, but even presenting it as a defense of the status quo, even of submission to unfair rules that still weigh on the Germany, a country that therefore acts only "for the maintenance of the established order" ... a convenient interpretation surpassed even by Japan, which by the peace treaty had been even more penalized than Germany.
A subtle game that Germany has consistently played since the birth of the European Union: an expression of this is the so-called Franco-German axis.
As other analysts have opportunely noted, it is only an exchange, almost of low politics, with advantages and broad geopolitical prominence for France, a "winning" country, a permanent member in the fora that arose after the 2nd GM and with Leonine rules: France, always in search of grandeur and its recognition, has obtained thanks to Germany the weight and the bargaining power that it would not have; Germany, on the other hand, unable by the post-war context to assume a recognized leadership, fearful of reactions if it were to move alone, obtains from this axis recognition of European, not exclusively German, actions and interests, a position that often recalls that of the shark and the pilot fish, and a tool abused, especially in the past, to legitimize any one's move.
The umpteenth reference to the Franco-German axis, with the contemporaneity of the announcements on the occasion of the Ukrainian crisis, is an ambiguous message to the United States, and to the stringent and therefore permissive needs of Biden, but precisely his ambiguity is the recognition towards of Washington of the lack of real autonomy, and above all of not having ambitions in this regard.
Opening a parenthesis, however necessary, in terms of ambiguity, not even France, in the picture just outlined, is free from forms or interests
France is among the countries that have the least chance of action in this Ukrainian conflict, and therefore has every interest in making German aid officially European, while at the same time preventing Germany from registering the support given by other connected countries. to the German system.
A comfortable passage and availability for the USA, to limit the German weight, which reciprocate the help received from France with a solidarity that serves to demonstrate that a resurgence of German power linked to the Russian one is not feasible if not impossible.
A reassurance - which translated into linear terms could be defined as "participation in American control over the current structures but also over Germany" - which in this way is extended to the "minor" countries of Central Europe, those that have moved together in recent decades to Germany (and nothing else they could not do).
A US reassurance for an alternative to their participation (submission) to a resurgent German sphere, after that German-Russian axis which would seem to have now faded.
History and fears have cycles, they repeat themselves after eighty years that seemed to have spread a mantle of peace over Europe (which grew perhaps too rapidly under the economic aspect and too little under the political aspect: the weapons of the past, of a fragmented Europe, the value of money in the last decades of supposed prosperity, the shadow of arms today… sphere of influence tomorrow?
What are the fears of today, strong in minor countries, extreme in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, Poland in the first place?
The main perceived fear at the present time is Russia, but to be sure the union must be strong and solid, clarity is needed, and everyone, USA and neighboring European countries, not only want a stronger and above all more agile and more NATO. dynamic, but they also want to push Germany to define itself, to the point of having to deal with Russia.
On the contrary, Scholz, in repeatedly condemning the intervention against Ukraine, has often reiterated that it is Putin's war, not the Russians, against Kiev.
How to say ... without him, will Germany resume getting closer to Russia?
This is certainly no reason for reassurance
Neither NATO nor the EU are questioned, but the behavior of one of the main factors and actors, and the weight that is given to it (or taken on) by weak and otherwise committed and otherwise too dependent partners. from bilateral relations.
By asking for clarity, pushing the two countries to clash after decades of dangerous complacencies (and Merkel - Putin sympathies), an American domination is favored which is by its nature anti-German, and therefore functional to the border countries.
Taking one last consideration, if we arrived, also through the conflict in Ukraine, at a certain stable, shared and recognized redefinition of the Russian borders in Eastern Europe, which in some way calms the strategic insecurities of Moscow, and in doing so we would also consolidate German membership in the American camp, eroding its relations with Russia, Washington, in the process of the real challenge with China, which will be increasingly heavy, would have a further advantage in the decisive game of the future.
The United States is perhaps already obtaining results by propitiating a Russian-German gap, usefully widened, all to be seen instead on the future of the borders with Russia.
The reiterated German submission, however, has a price that the Americans will raise in the future, also for German and EU commitments in the global chessboard.
Common European defense?
For the moment an ethereal aspiration that has no paternity but basically an interested mother, France, with Germany obligatorily in tow, but a common European Defense it has no meaning without political and not just economic union (the EU).
Only mirages if new founding fathers are not found, and there is the risk of remaining once again under the protective US umbrella, variable, at times solid, imposing and conditioning, too often wavering and in disengagement ...
Gian Carlo Poddighe (CESMAR)