aNewDomain — What two World Wars failed to achieve for Germany will now transpire without a single shot being fired in anger. In winning Brexit and destroying their own country, 14 million peevish British voters have ensured the ultimate ironic outcome. Now that the UK is out, Germany wins Europe.
And the Bundeswehr never had to leave its barracks. You’d never believe it if a movie delivered such a plot on screen, but there you have it. Germany is no longer just Europe’s largest economy. Now it’s in charge. As a result, and if it plays its cards right, it’s poised to become the world’s third superpower.
What else can you say at a time like this, but: “Deutschland uber Alles.”
“There’s no way around it: Today is a watershed for Europe and the European unity process,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today as the news hit home. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economics minister, was more blunt still, tweeting, “Damn! A bad day for Europe.”
But Herr Gabriel, it’s a very bright day for Germany.
As the dust from the Brexit explosion settles, Germans will inevitably realize that they have been handed a gift from the British. And Germany wins no matter what. Regardless of whether the EU survives or is blown to a million pieces, it will now be the dominant European country.
It is already the Europe’s largest economy and has the largest population in the EU.
There’s an enduring urban legend that the EU is a project originally organized by Adolf Hitler. In the words of the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the EU just gets no respect.
Hitler’s foreign minister Von Ribbentrop infamously drew up plans for a European confederation led by Germany and bound by a single currency, but German soldiers ended up conquering the member states involuntarily drawing them in. The Nazis themselves never even attempted to realize Von Ribbentrop’s vision but the idea of Germany dominating Europe has been embedded in the German consciousness since the days of Count von Bismark in the 19th century and it was destined to forever remain so.
Now the dream has been realized.
If Germans would only hone their diplomatic skills, they’d achieve a miracle, the same miracle that force of arms denied them in the 150 years since German unification in 1871.
If Kaiser Wilhelm had not be so found of his army, as historians love to say, he’d have realized German industry was on the verge of achieving what his army would never be able to achieve.
It is in Germany’s interest not let the EU die. Shoring it up is a far greater prize. But if it does waste away or even suddenly shatter, rest assured that Germany will do just fine.
As for hanging on to its reins of power, Germany’s position is secure. It has no competition to speak of. France is comparably weak, and so exhausted. Now that the tired British lion has quit the field and gone home to its little island, drawn up the bridge, and tossed away the key, the way is clear.
One more thing: Don’t be surprised if the Eurotunnel isn’t cemented over in a few years.
Not since Julius Ceasar divided the Germanic tribes at Alesia in 54BC have the Germanic people landed so cozily in the cat bird seat.
Germany took the reins of European and EU leadership nearly a decade ago when the UK effectively quit, following the end of the Blair years and the defeat of the EU constitution.
And then, Germany has led the solutions to four international crises: the financial crisis of 2008, the Greek rescue, the Ukrainian crisis, and the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war.
German diplomats didn’t botch these responses but other EU members might not have been ready for German leadership.
So Germany’s first obstacle is creating a sense among the governments remaining in the EU that Germany is their equal partner and no more demanding than befitting of its size and industrial power. Germany’s economy exceeds France’s economy by a $1 trillion/year and Italy’s by $2 trillion/year. No other economies in the EU are measured in the trillions.
Its first leadership challenge will come in negotiating the departure of Britain from the EU. Germany will need to trace a fine line between being too tough and being too soft. The Germans may wish to use other EU members to break the British spirit while taking the high ground themselves. (Anyone in Britain who thinks divorcing the EU will be little more than signing some papers at a farewell party is deluded. This will be a nasty divorce.)
France and Germany have found common ground between themselves for more than 30 years, as shown in the iconic photograph from the 1980s of then French President Francois Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl holding hands as they listen to their respective national anthems.
Their loose partnership over the years has spanned multiple political parties in each country. Germany can further develop this alliance in its quest for greater control over the European continent. France has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The UK wasn’t the only place in Europe barraged with a constant news stream about overweening EU bureaucrats. Rules and regulations relating to cucumbers, bananas, and salad oil dispensers makes for news you can gripe about all over Europe.
Euroskepticism wasn’t just a tool for British conservative politicians to use against their more Euro-friendly political rivals. All across Europe political parties have lined up along pro and anti EU lines.
Britain isn’t the only country that finds EU bureaucrats as irritating as they are un-elected.
The next task for German diplomats is to make the EU relevant to the remaining weak sisters in the European Union – namely, the Netherlands and Denmark. Some special assistance may be needed in France to help the major political parties defeat Marine Le Pen’s National Front party.
Meanwhile, the Germans will need to show that they can defend Europe against an encroaching Russia. If a future Pres. Trump decides to dismantle NATO, as promised, this may speed Germany toward European domination. Germany together with nuclear-equipped France are the only two countries in Europe capable of organizing a continental defense. Of course, they couldn’t do it alone.
Oh, and thanks to Brexit, Scotland may soon be an independent country and Northern Ireland may rejoin the Irish Republic with the Welsh possibly also struggling for independence. If these events happen, then the UK will be gone, and England will turn further inward.
The Scots have historically tilted toward the French, which adds an eager junior partner to the Germano-Frankish alliance.
No matter what happens Germany is poised for victory.
For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.
Cover image: Angela Merkel at the Brandenburg Gate, All Rights Reserved.
Inside image of Surrender of Vercingetrix by Lionel Royer: Public Domain image. Image of French President Francois Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl holding hands as they listen to their respective national anthems in 1984: AFP, All Rights Reserved.