By Patrick Brogan
Germany is physically at the centre of Europe, but also politically and economically. This central location is key to understanding the German mindset. However, even they are considering a post-EU Europe.
While the south of the country is protected by the Alps, the northern part is completely open to invading forces. France to the West, Sweden to the North, Poland-Lithuania and, more importantly, Russia to the East.
Germany was only formed as a country in 1871. Before then, each region developed separately as small kingdoms, city-states or duchies. They often had to compete against each other and sometimes cooperated. To this day, the country is still a decentralised federation. The flat land and numerous waterways encouraged trade. The area lacked many natural resources, so the people turned to innovation. This is part of the reason Germany became a technological leader.
All of these factors allied and the aftermath of two barbaric world wars meant Germany sought a united Europe and was best placed to lead it. However, while the EU prevented wars between its members, the illusion of peace in Europe has been under threat on multiple fronts.
Strategic Perspective 2040
Even Germany, the poster-child for European unity, is considering the break-up of the EU. And some even worse scenarios. The Strategic Perspective was drawn up in 2014 by the Bundeswehr, the office of united German armed forces, and it came up with six scenarios which may happen prior to 2040 and it makes for grim reading.
In the first three scenarios, the EU survives but in the third, EU-US relations are heavily strained due to rising nationalism. In the next three, the EU collapses. In number four, China and Europe struggle economically leading to the German economy suffering. The US creaks under the strain of trying to keep the world economy going. In the fifth, two blocs, the US-lead Western and the Eastern, dominated by Russia and China, create tension, but trade interests prevail and there is no open conflict. Much of Eastern Europe sides with the Eastern bloc due to energy concerns. In the last scenario, relations between the US and Europe breakdown and this could easily lead to all-out war. Individual threats to Germany include weakened national loyalties, disease epidemics and chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.
This was written shortly after the German elite watched on in shock at Russia’s annexation of Crimea. While Germany previously thought that all issues could be solved diplomatically or economically, they realised Russia still viewed the military as a viable option.
Since then, Donald Trump has been elected President of the US and threatened numerous trade wars, Britain voted to leave the EU and there has been a immigration crisis stoking up nationalist sentiments. These guys might have been onto something. All the issues picked up speed after the economic crisis of 2008.
While the Bundeswehr offers no prognosis, it does believe all these scenarios are possibilities. While it is common for the British and US armed forces to conduct such reports, it is the first time since World War II Germany has done so. If the Germans are worried about the collapse of the European Union, the rest of us have to take notice. The real question is, if it does disintegrate, will it lead to a more harmonious Europe or the end of the things we as Europeans hold dear?
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