PODCAST: Germany at Geopolitical Crossroads

Germany needs to decide if it wants to remain a partner with the US who provides security or Russia who has kept her warm during Germany's Cold winters. Germany’s post war evolution now stands at a geopolitical crossroads
22nd September 202218 min

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Adnan: For a long time, Germany was able to outsource its security to the US. This allowed Germany to pursue economic and industrial development not needing to invest in a large defense industry. With the full of the Berlin wall unified Germany found a reliable and stable supply of energy from Russia. And over the decades, Germany became reliant on Russian gas and energy. Whilst this threeway marriage worked for Germany, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia now means the Germans have to decide which partner matters. The partner that provides security and stability or the partner that kept her warm during Germany’s cold winters. Germany’s postwar evolution now stands at strategic dilemma here to discuss this with me today is Massihollah, who is our Europe analyst, who is based in Germany. How are you doing Massihollah.?

[00:00:59] Massi: Hey Adnan. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:01] Adnan: So I think Massihollah, let’s get right down to this, uh, discussion. It’s a very important discussion. very strategic discussion. And I think the best place to probably start would be the challenge germany actually finds itself in currently with Russian invasion of Ukraine and what impact this is having on Germany.

[00:01:20] Massi: So with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany had to make a very hard decision. Do they want to stand by the US and still have the political unity and leadership of the European union. Or they do they wanna provide cheap oil and gas for their own population? Uh, so Germany had to face, uh, political decision over in economic decision. And I think we know what kind of decision Germany chose. Germany chose to stand next to the US and to secure political leadership inside the European union and to prevent the fracture of the European union. So, very funny today, maybe we can elaborate why Germany had to make this hard decision because today Putin released the new foreign policy strategy based on Russian world doctrine in which Russia declares that they want to influence the, the Russian minorities in the European countries and Putin himself while giving press conference about this document, he declared that, um, Russia himself sees himself as the leader of the Slavic nations, which also include countries in Europe or inside the European union, like Poland the Czech Republic or Slovakia. So with Russia and invading Ukraine, they really showed the European union that they are ready to even use military force to achieve the aims and obviously it had a very big impact on Eastern European countries like Poland Czech republics, Slovakia, Bulgaria. So if Germany were had, or if Germany did decide to still stand by Russia, they it would have a direct result on the European union and lead to fracture of the European union. So, um, the leadership of the European union, which is Germany’s biggest foreign policy aim, they chose to still have this leadership, even though it meant for big price increases in, uh, the energy sector for its own population.

[00:04:04] Adnan: Okay, thanks for that Massihollah, so effectively, Russia is sorry. Germany actually is going up against its main supplier of energy. What’s the energy situation in Germany. Can you outline the reliance germany has on energy and what energy sources and why Russia plays such a big role in Germany’s energy situation.

[00:04:28] Massi: So Germany’s energy dependency to Russia is quite big. If you look at the chart from where Germany creates its energy, then you can see 20% of Germany’s energy production comes from coal. And, uh, this is brown coal, but if you take, uh, black coal in it as well, it’s 30%. So one third of its whole energy production comes from coal and 10% of its energy productions comes from gas. So 40% of Germany’s oil energy production comes from resources, which are mainly imported from Russia. So by sanctioning these main energy sectors and deciding not to import them from Russia anymore look for other partners like Qatar or Algeria, it obviously led to a big price rise in the energy sector. So for example, just to give you some numbers, if you look at the price for Petrol, so on the 20, 24th of February and the day on the invasion of Ukraine, the petrol price €176 and now we have a petrol price of one liter over €2. If you look at gas, gas per kilo per hour was at 12 cents and now it’s at 40 cents. So, uh, increase threefold increase, but the, the biggest was when it comes to electricity. If you look one year ago, how the price electricity was the electricity price rose by 330%. So, and everyone in Germany can see it. I mean, even my old energy bill it grows by €150 to €200 a month. So you can see the big dependency on Germany when it comes to its energy imports from Russia and what, uh, big impact it has.

[00:06:57] Adnan: So Massihollah I always wanted to ask why was nuclear energy phased out. If Germany continued building nuclear power plants, then its dependency on Russia would be very low. Um, why has nuclear energy effectively been removed from the energy mix for Germany?

[00:07:13] Massi: So even before that invasion of Ukraine, nuclear energy only counted for 13% of the whole energy production in Germany. So even before the invasion didn’t really had a very big impact on the energy production, but, uh, Germany always since the nineties had a very big support of, uh, moving away from nuclear energy. And after obviously, because of, uh, the chernobyl catastrophy which Germany was directly impacted from when it came to nuclear cloud, but what gave, what gave it another big impact was the Fukushima catastrophy so from the Fukushima catastrophy, Germany decided to shut them down. Because first of all, they didn’t really make up a big sector in the energy production, as I said, 30% only. And because of this whole global warming and fighters for future movement, the conservatives, which were led by Angela Merkal at that time, they, they really had to make decision to not lose. The the trust in, uh, its own policies. So, but we can see now that the, the green party, which is the coalition with the leading social party and the liberals, we can see that they turn back from that decision. So Germany right now have three nuclear reactors and one of them shut down completely. But the other two, they. On idle now. So the German economic minister today said that these nuclear reactors, they, they are on idle which means that in the, uh, cold days and winter, if the, um, energy production comes very low, Can turn them back on. So this is one part of the, so the other part is that, um, when it comes to gas and the coal, so Germany was to import gas and coal from Russia. For Germany it was always the, the cheapest option, the cheapest option produce energy. First of all, because Russian oil and gas is quite cheap, but the, the other part is that the, there already was a big infrastructure. When it comes to coal and gas. We can’t forget that, uh, Germany was part of the Soviet union and one of the strategies of the Soviet union to keep its satellite states always by their side was to make them dependent on energy. So there was already before the German reunification, a big infrastructure. Gas and, uh, coal into Eastern Germany. So when Germany reunited the best option obviously was to use the already existing energy infrastructure network and just build some pipelines, which extend the, uh, gas pipelines from east Germany to west Germany.

So for example, one of. Most important gas pipelines, which runs through Germany is the brotherhood pipeline. And the brotherhood pipeline was built in the 1970s. So from the 1970s on already have energy infrastructure. So why build terminals, which turn liquified gas back into gas where why not use the already existing infrastructure? So everything was already built. It was quite cheap. So for Germany, this was the best option just to use what is there instead of investing resources and to building nuclear power plants or, um, liquified gas terminals.

[00:11:45] Adnan: Okay. Massihollah looking at Germany’s relationship with the US why has Germany effectively outsourced defence and security to the US.

[00:11:55] Massi: So, first of all, it wasn’t Germany’s decision to outsource its defense and security to the US. Um, this decision was made up on Germany by the allied powers who won the second world war. After the allied powers won the second world war, they did two major things. One was the de-nazification, erase symbols, um, Nazi values and norms in the society and completely de erase this whole Nazi ideas and ideologically, the other thing was the de militarization. So the allied allies, they wanted to make sure that Germany never reaches the capabilities and the strength to start a new world. War and one of the best ways is to take the teeth out of it. If you take the teeth off and the claw of the lion, the lion is not really there. So what they did, they completely either they destroyed the German military war machine, or they, they transported it back to the US. For example, BMW. We all know the, the car producer BMW, but the symbol of BMW is, uh, a turbine. Why is it the turbine? Because it was producing turbines after the second world war, it wasn’t allowed to produce turbines anymore. So they built cars and I, myself, I was in the US I visited NASA and JPL, and even there, they showed a lot of planes and military aircraft, which they took from Germany and from where they developed their own engines. So this is why Germany didn’t really make themselves this decision. This decision was made up on them by the winning powers, but it also meant that Germany, which was completely destroyed didn’t need to invest huge sums until building up an army or a war machine. They could concentrate themself on building up. Uh, economy, which is based on heavy industry. And this also was one of the reasons or one of the aims of the US to build Germany as a capitalist role model, because nowhere in the world, uh, Cold war could be seen as directly as in Germany. There was a direct border between the Soviet union and the Western block, which is east ger, east and west Germany. So that was always like Cold war or a race between east and west Germany. Who has the better economy, the planning economy, or is it the free market economy? When when the, even, because the people from east Germany, they could directly see what capitalistic economy brings them and how they’re old economy. Um, they made huge efforts to show Germany as a country, which even though it got recently Bombed to the ashes, Got a huge development because of the capitalistic market system. So for every Eastern communist state who also wants to achieve this capitalist, this economic development, they admit that they had to join the the Western bloc the Soviet union. So these are the two main reasons. The US and the allied powers made sure that Germany doesn’t have a war industry, but also develops a, a heavy technology industry.

[00:15:58] Adnan: So Massihollah, whats the german public view on this relationship. Do do they see that they need to remain allies with the US or do the Germans feel they need to maintain their relationship with, uh, Russia because of energy? How, how does the public view the issue?

[00:16:14] Massi: So the public opinion in Germany, and I think it’s in, uh, most, uh, Western countries it’s dominated by the big TV medias and the big news, medias, TV, medias, they all share the opinion and try to establish the opinion within the German public that Germany has to rely on the US. Germany has to side with the US and even in the, in the big parties you can’t really find, uh, section within the big parties, even if it’s, it doesn’t matter if it’s the conservatives and socialists, the green or the liberals and all of these main parties, you can’t see, uh, not even a tiny section of people who, uh, believe that Germany should inside, uh, with Russia. This obviously has an impact on the population. So most the clear, uh, dominant opinion in the German population is to side with the US but also because of the history. So Germany witness, how bad the situation can be if you side with Russia, we, we know the times I’m speaking of the times of East Germany,. So we witnessed oppression. We witnessed the German wall. We witnessed the killings of people who tried to flee from east Germany into the Western wall. And these created very bad images within the German population where they, under no circumstances went to side with Russia, even within the first few days of the, uh, Russian invasion big support of German population when it came to taking refugees. And, uh, you even had people, uh, waiting at the airports, waiting at the main, uh, central train stations for Ukrainian refugees, taking care of them, doing all the paperwork for them, finding houses with them, even taking them home into their own house. There big theories in the newspapers where they interviewed Germans, how they took Ukrainian refugees inside. So, so far, um, the German, and even when you look at our old chancellor Gerhard Schröder, which came before Merkal and after Helmut Kohl, um, he is one of the biggest Putin allies, mainly even in the whole world right now. Maybe even the last Western Putin ally and even his opinions, even though he is a ex-bundes chancellor. So a person which should be respected in the media, which should be honored in the media. there doesn’t go one single day where the media doesn’t put him or doesn’t bash him for his opinions. And for him siding with Putin. And even there are you know, some insults, if a German guy just not even tries to defend Putin, but just tries to give his opinion of how it could be seen as well. And there’s a smear, word we call him, Putin friend or Putin understander. So these are actually quite insulting which are generally used in the public and the media. There’s someone fromright-wing party, alternative for Germany he only mentions some support from some support for Russia, then he is directly attacked as a Putin loyalist, the Putin friend or a Putin understander

[00:20:21] Adnan: Okay. So Massihollah if Germany wanted to become independent from Russia, how could she go about this? And is this even possible?

[00:20:31] Massi: So it’s not about becoming independent from Russia. It’s about becoming independent energy imports. It doesn’t matter if these energy imports come from Russia or come from Qatar or come from Algeria. So the main question is can Germany ever be independent from energy imports? And the question to that is no, they can’t. Uh, because Germany doesn’t have any natural resources. They have minor gas fields here and there, which are the only reason why they are not closed is that if they are closed, you have people who are unemployed. So just let it run so that people still work there. Now, now recently with, uh, fracking being established in Germany. Germany did some research about its own shale gas fields in Germany and the Institute of geology. They updated the numbers and they said that Germany has 1.3 trillion cubic metres of shale gas in Germany. Which could be used through fracking, but which is currently, uh, forbidden. So 1.3 trillion sounds, uh, very much, but, um, if you take into account that Germany. Uses 1000 billion of cubic meters, gas per year. And this 1.3 trillion cubic meter of gas will only last 13 years. So even this wouldn’t make it independent from energy imports. There is a huge huge effort to build up the alternative energy infrastructure. So we can see wind turbines setting up solar panels, setting up and everything, but there’s still big need for that to extend this energy infrastructure. So according to the last, uh, energy chart, Germany only produces so far 44% of its energy from alternative energy, but the main struggle here is the infrastructure. So how does this energy go into the companies. How does this go to the car producer VW or to the airplane producer? Uh, Boeing. So I think when it comes to dependency, the only way for Germany to become really independent is they did the second world war tried to extend and take these energy fields, all its own.

[00:23:35] Adnan: If Germany wanted to become independent from America, America’s security umbrella. Uh, how would Germany go about that?

[00:23:44] Massi: So obviously this would mean that Germany needs to go through a big rearmament, uh, policy. Um, so they they’ve done some actions which could in the future lead to that direction. So with the invasion of Ukraine, the German chancellorOlaf Scholz he and announced Germany adds an additional $100, a $100 billion inside the military budget, but there’s still a big. Well, that’s still a very long and very hard way for Germany to become independent from the US when it comes to its military. Um, but we, we, we, Germany has been in this situation once after first world war after first world, while Germany had to pay big payments to France and, uh, to England, to Russia. Economy or military technol economy was completely destroyed. And within a few years, Germany developed a big war machine, which while quite unique in whole Europe. So when it comes to the, the resources by this, I mean the, the, the know how, and the, the knowledge Germany has all the resources you need to build up a, a big war industry. But, um, what it lacks is the political will so far Germany doesn’t have the political will to build a big war industry. And, but once the political will is established, it’s not that hard to Germany to focus completely. On, uh, building up a war machine. So for example, companies like Airbus, they already produce warm machines. But, uh, so right now they’re building 60% of civil Aircrafts and 40% of military aircraft. We look at Boeing, Boeing builds 60% of military aircraft on only 40% of civil aircraft. So that’s what means for Germany to completely reshape its economy, which is now based on a civil economy, it has to be restructured completely into a war economy, a war industry, which means that companies like VW Audi, Mercedes, they, their main focus now should be, uh, war machines and not civil cars. Um, when it comes to nuclear weapons. Which is one of the main arguments to side with the US because they have the, uh, the nuclear weapons to protect Germany from an invasion. Germany already has the resources to build nuclear weapons. So we have right now, Germany has three nuclear power plants and the atomic waste these power plants produce, they actually could be used to develop nuclear weapons. So what Iran tries to achieve since 10 or more years, Germany already produces, then this, uh, is the hardest part of building an, uh, nuclear weapon. And because the Germany already has this atomic waste, which could be usefull to nuclear weapons, building nuclear weapons would be actually easier for Germany than restructuring its whole, um, civil economy into a war economy.

[00:27:45] Adnan: So Massihollah you mentioned it already that, um, Germany chose the path of expansion to survive in the past, which led to two world wars. So what if the likelihood Germany will start world war three?

[00:27:59] Massi: So to be very honest, the likelihood is quite huge because as I told you, in the beginning, there was a big campaign of taking Ukraine, refugees and of siding with Ukraine supporting Ukraine and everything, but because the prices got so high now, the atmospheres changing, uh, half a year ago in the newspaper, there were big articles of why we took every refugee and we would always do it again. Uh, yesterday I was reading a news paper quite a big one, uh, in Hamburg and the, the, the main article. Why we regret taking Ukraine refugees. So now we can see the atmosphere is changing and once the, the people raise up and, um, there’s like a small, not really a civil war, but the atmosphere changes because the, the people are unsatisfied. The only way for Germany to become independent on Germany, energy resources is to expand. There is no other way for Germany, uh, becoming independent of energy is, and even now, when they’re trying to do with building up this liquified gas terminals and everything, this does make them independence, energy imports, it only shifts the dependency away from Russia or Qatar or to Libya. So what really lacking, what is really lacking right now is the political will, but once Germany establishes the political will to expand its influence, it’s very like needed Germany will do everything to achieve this. Because the focus right now is shifted from, from Europe to the, to east Asia and mainly China and Russia. The, the atmosphere, and has to change drastically for, uh, Germany establishing this,

[00:30:11] Adnan: Okay. So Massihollah, my final question. How do you believe things will play out? What sort of Germany did you see in say 2050?

[00:30:19] Massi: Yeah, very good question. Um, you could ask this question 1918, 1919, shortly after world war. I, if you would’ve asked the Germans in that time in 30 years, you will start in 20 years another world war. You will kill, uh, millions of. People, I think everyone would’ve answered this question with no. Um, but it happened, so it’s a very difficult answer and you, uh, question and you can’t really give in straight answer, but there might be scenarios. What might happen to during really one of these scenarios is that, uh, Germany’s political influence vanishes um, Germany won’t be the European powerhouse anymore, but, uh, will be involved in conflicts with France with Britain and even the Eastern neighbors. This is one of the scenarios that germany might actually lose it’s power and the other scenario is that Germany stays as it is right now. Still pacifistic, still not sure about what to achieve in the world politics. Siding with US on its main policies, but also trying here and there to achieve one of its own policies. And the other scenario is that Germany again has a right wing government. Because right now, the third biggest country in Germany is a right wing party. So Germany could have a right wing party, try to gain way more influence, even militarily in Europe, and then aiming for the oil and gas fields in, in Russia, as it tried so many times in the past. So that’s, uh, quite difficult times for Germany, they still haven’t made up their mind what they want, what they don’t want to achieve. Even Angela Merkel, which was in power 16 years, the most reigning chancellor of Germany. And you look at this whole 16 years, what was her plan for Germany? What did she want to achieve for Germany mainly and was trying to maintain the status quo. So we might have one of this scenario. I, think the status quo will be this Germany will try to influence Europe still, but also side with the US and, uh, tries to achieve one of its own aim here and there.

[00:33:14] Adnan: So the Ukraine war and its shock waves are literally accelerating the course of history and the Germans are running out of time. Decisions must be made. Challenges must be faced and costs will have to be paid one way or another. So thank you for your time today massihollah. If you want to learn more about the issues raised today, please check our website, www.thegeopolity.com. All one word, you can also learn more on other issues by accessing our website where you will find comprehensive analysis. Articles and deep dives. Im Adnan thank you for listening.

 

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