Germany in the New World Order

Image: Alexey Demidov
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By MICHAEL HUDSON*

The Crusades, the US rule-based order and the Broken promise of mutual gain between Germany and Russia

Germany has become an economic satellite of America's new cold war with Russia, China and the rest of Eurasia. Germany and other NATO countries have been instructed to impose trade and investment sanctions on themselves that will outlast today's proxy war in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden and his State Department spokesmen explained that Ukraine is just the opening arena of a much broader dynamic that is splitting the world into two opposing sets of economic alliances.

This global rift promises to be a ten or twenty year struggle to determine whether the world economy will be a US-centric unipolar dollarized economy, or a multipolar and multicurrency world centered in the Eurasian heartland with mixed public/private economies.

President Joe Biden has characterized this divide as one between democracies and autocracies. The terminology is typical Orwellian doublespeak. By “democracies” he means the US and allied Western financial oligarchies. Its aim is to transfer economic planning from the hands of elected governments to Wall Street and other financial centers under US control. US diplomats use the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to demand privatization of the world's infrastructure and reliance on US technology, oil and food exports.

By “autocracy”, Joe Biden means countries that resist this financialization and privatization. In practice, US rhetoric means promoting its own economic growth and living standards while maintaining finance and banking as public services. This is basically a question of whether economies will be planned by the banking centers to create financial wealth – privatizing basic infrastructure, public services and social services like health care, turning them all into monopolies – or raising the standard of living and prosperity of the people, keeping bank and money creation, public health, education, transportation, and communications in public hands.

The country that suffers the most “collateral damage” in this global rift is Germany. As Europe's most advanced industrial economy, Germany's steel, chemicals, machinery, automobiles and other consumer goods are the most dependent on imports of Russian gas, oil and metals – from aluminum to titanium and palladium. However, despite the two pipelines Nord Stream built to provide Germany with low-cost energy, the country was instructed to switch off Russian gas and deindustrialize. This implies the end of its economic pre-eminence. The key to GDP growth in Germany, as in other countries, is energy consumption per worker.

These anti-Russian sanctions make the current New Cold War inherently anti-German. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Germany should replace low-cost Russian pipeline gas with high-cost US LNG gas. To import that gas, Germany will have to spend more than $5 billion quickly to build port capacity to handle LNG tankers. The effect will be to make German industry uncompetitive. Bankruptcies will spread, unemployment will rise, and Germany's pro-NATO leaders will impose a chronic depression and falling living standards on the German population.

Most political theory assumes that nations should act in their own best interest. Otherwise, they are satellite countries that do not control their own destiny. Germany is subordinating its industry and living standards to the dictates of US diplomacy and the particular interest of the US oil and gas industry. And it does so voluntarily – not because of military force, but because of an ideological belief that the world economy should be run by American Cold War planners.

It is sometimes easier to understand the current dynamics of the world by stepping back from your own immediate situation to look at historical examples similar to the kind of political diplomacy we see dividing the world today. The closest parallel I can find is medieval Europe's struggle for the Roman papacy against the German kings – the Holy Roman Emperors – in the XNUMXth century. This conflict divided Europe along lines much like the ones we know today. A series of popes excommunicated Frederick II and other German kings and mobilized allies to fight against Germany and its control of southern Italy and Sicily.

Western antagonism against the East was incited by the Crusades (1095-1291), just as today's Cold War is a crusade against the economies that threaten US dominance in the world. The medieval war against Germany was about who should control Christian Europe: the papacy, with popes becoming worldly emperors, or secular rulers of individual kingdoms, claiming the power to morally legitimize and accept them.

Medieval Europe's analogue to America's New Cold War against China and Russia was the Great Schism in 1054. Demanding unipolar control over Christendom, Leo IX excommunicated the Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople and the entire Christian population belonging to she. A single bishopric, Rome, seceded from the entire Christian world at the time, including the ancient patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem.

Such a rupture created a political problem for Roman diplomacy: how to keep all the western European kingdoms under its control and claim the right to financial subsidy from them. This goal required subordinating secular kings to papal religious authority. In 1074,[I] Gregory VII (born Hildebrand), announced 27 Sayings of the Pope [dictatus papae] outlining Rome's administrative strategy for maintaining its power over Europe.

These papal demands are strikingly parallel to American diplomacy today. In both cases, military and worldly interests require a sublimation in the form of a spirit of ideological crusade to cement the feeling of solidarity that any system of imperial domination requires. Logic is timeless and universal.

The Sayings of the Pope were radical in two central ways. First, they elevated the bishop of Rome above all other bishoprics, creating the modern papacy. Clause 3 stated that only the pope had the investiture power to appoint bishops or depose or re-establish them. Reinforcing this, Clause 25 gave the pope the right to appoint (or depose) bishops, preventing local rulers from doing so. And Clause 12 gave the pope the right to depose emperors, following Clause 9, which required “all princes to kiss only the feet of the Pope” in order to be considered legitimate rulers.

Likewise, today, US diplomats claim the right to nominate who should be recognized as a nation's head of state. In 1953, they overthrew Iran's elected leader and replaced him with the Shah's military dictatorship. This principle gives US diplomats the right to sponsor “color revolutions” for regime change, such as sponsoring Latin American military dictatorships creating client oligarchies to serve US corporate and financial interests. The 2014 coup in Ukraine and the selection of new Ukrainian rulers is just the latest exercise of this US right to nominate and depose leaders.

More recently, US diplomats appointed Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's head of state rather than its president-elect, and handed over that country's gold reserves to him. President Joe Biden has insisted that Russia must overthrow Vladimir Putin and put a more pro-US leader in his place. This “right” to select heads of state has been a constant in US policy throughout its long history of political meddling in European affairs since World War II.

The second radical feature of the Pope's Sayings was their exclusion of all ideology and politics that diverged from papal authority. Clause 2 stated that only the Pope could be called “Universal”. Any disagreement was, by definition, heretical. Clause 17 declared that no chapter or book could be considered canonical without papal authority.

A demand similar to what is being made today by the US-sponsored ideology of financialized and privatized “free markets”, meaning deregulation of government power to shape economies of interests distinct from those of US-centric financial and corporate elites.

The demand for universality in today's New Cold War is wrapped in the language of "democracy". But the definition of democracy in today's new cold war is simply "pro-US", and specifically neoliberal privatization as the new US-sponsored economic religion. This ethics is considered “science”, as in the almost Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences. This is the modern euphemism for Chicago school neoliberal economics, IMF austerity programs and fiscal favoritism for the rich.

Papal edicts set out a strategy to block unipolar control over secular realms. They asserted papal precedence over worldly kings, especially over the Holy Roman Emperors. Clause 26 gave popes authority to excommunicate anyone "not at peace with the Roman Church". That principle implied the completion of Clause 27, allowing the pope to "absolve subjects of their allegiance to wicked men." This encouraged the medieval version of “color revolutions” to bring about regime change.

What united the countries in this solidarity was an antagonism to societies not subject to centralized papal control – the Muslim infidels who held Jerusalem, as well as the French Cathars.[ii] and anyone else deemed a heretic. Above all, there was hostility toward regions strong enough to resist papal demands for financial tribute.

The current counterpart of this ideological power to excommunicate heretics who resist the demands of obedience and tribute would be the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IMF dictating economic practices and establishing “conditionalities” for all member governments to follow, under penalty of sanctions from the USA – the modern version of excommunicating countries that do not accept US suzerainty. Clause 19 of the dictates determined that the pope could not be judged by anyone – just like today, the United States refuses to submit its actions to the decisions of the World Court. Likewise today, US dictates via NATO and other arms (such as the IMF and World Bank) are expected to be followed by US satellites without challenge. As Margaret Thatcher said of her neoliberal privatization that destroyed the British public sector, There Is No Alternatives (TINA).

My interest is to emphasize this analogy with US sanctions today against all countries that do not follow their own diplomatic requirements. Trade sanctions are a form of excommunication. They reverse the principle of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that made each country and its rulers independent from foreign meddling. President Biden characterizes US interference as guaranteeing his new antithesis between “democracy” and “autocracy”. By democracy, he means a client oligarchy under US control, creating financial wealth that lowers working standards of living, as opposed to mixed public/private economies that aim to promote living standards and social solidarity.

As I mentioned, by excommunicating the Constantinople-centered Orthodox Church and its Christian population, the Great Schism created the fateful religious dividing line that has divided "the West" from the East for the last millennium. So important was this division that Vladimir Putin cited it as part of his September 30, 2022 speech, describing today's break with US- and NATO-centric western economies.

The XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries saw Norman conquerors of England, France and other countries, along with German kings, repeatedly protest, repeatedly being excommunicated, but finally succumbing to papal demands. It took until the XNUMXth century for Martin Luther, Zwingli and Henry VIII to finally create a Protestant alternative to Rome, making Western Christianity multipolar.

Why did it take so long? The answer lies in the Crusades, which provided an organizing ideological gravity. That was the medieval analogy to today's New Cold War between East and West. The Crusades created a spiritual focus of “moral reform” by mobilizing hatred against “the other” – the Muslim East, and increasingly European Jews and Christians dissidents from Roman control. That was the medieval analogy to today's neoliberal “free market” doctrines of the American financial oligarchy and its hostility to China, Russia and other nations that do not follow this ideology. In the current new cold war, the neoliberal ideology of the West is mobilizing fear and hatred of the “other”, demonizing nations that follow an independent path as “autocratic regimes”. Outright racism is fomented against entire peoples, as is evident in the Russophobia and cancel culture currently sweeping the West.

Just as the multipolar transition from Western Christianity necessitated the Protestant alternative of the XNUMXth century, the heartbreak of Eurasia with the banking-centric West of NATO must be cemented by an alternative ideology about how to organize mixed public/private economies and their infrastructure. financial.

Medieval churches in the West were drained of their alms and endowments to contribute Peter's currency and other subsidies to the papacy for the wars it waged against rulers who resisted papal demands. England played the role of great victim that Germany plays today. Huge English taxes, ostensibly levied to finance the Crusades, were diverted to fight Frederick II, Conrad and Manfred in Sicily. This diversion was financed by papal bankers from northern Italy (Lombards and Cahorsins), and became royal debts transmitted throughout the economy. England's barons fought a civil war against Henry II in the 1260s, ending their complicity in sacrificing the economy to papal demands.

What ended the papacy's power over other countries was the end of its war against the East. When the Crusaders lost Acre, the capital of Jerusalem, in 1291, the papacy lost control over Christendom. There was no more "evil" to fight, and "good" had lost its center of gravity and coherence. In 1307, the French Philip IV ("the Beautiful") seized the great wealth of the church's military banking order, that of the Templars in the Temple of Paris. Other rulers also nationalized the Templars, and monetary systems were taken out of Church hands. Without a common enemy defined and mobilized by Rome, the papacy lost its unipolar ideological power over Western Europe.

The modern equivalent of rejecting the Templars and papal finance would be the withdrawal of New Cold War countries from the United States. They would reject the dollar standard and the US banking and financial system. This is happening as more and more countries see Russia and China not as adversaries, but as significant opportunities for mutual economic advantage.

 

The broken promise of mutual gain between Germany and Russia

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 promised the end of the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved, Germany was reunified and American diplomats promised the end of NATO, because a Soviet military threat no longer existed. Russian leaders relished the hope that, as President Putin expressed it, a new pan-European economy would be created from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Germany, in particular, was expected to take the lead in investing in Russia and restructuring its industry in more efficient ways. Russia would pay for this technology transfer by supplying gas and oil, along with nickel, aluminum, titanium and palladium.

There was no provision that NATO would expand to threaten a New Cold War, much less that it would support Ukraine, recognized as Europe's most corrupt kleptocracy, to be led by extremist parties that identify themselves by the German Nazi insignia.

How do we explain why the seemingly logical potential for mutual gain between Western Europe and the former Soviet economies turned into a patronage of oligarchic kleptocracies? The destruction of pipelines Nord Stream sums up the dynamic in a nutshell. For nearly a decade, a constant US demand has been that Germany shed its reliance on Russian energy. Such demands have been opposed by Gerhardt Schroeder, Angela Merkel and German business leaders. They pointed to the obvious economic logic of the mutual trade of German manufactures for Russian raw materials.

The US problem was how to stop Germany from certifying the pipeline Nord Stream 2. Victoria Nuland, President Biden and other US diplomats demonstrated that the way to do this was to incite hatred of Russia. The New Cold War was framed as a new Crusade. That's how George W. Bush described the US attack on Iraq to seize its oil wells. The US-sponsored 2014 coup created a Ukrainian puppet regime that spent eight years bombing Russian-speaking eastern provinces. NATO thus prompted a Russian military response. The incitement was successful, and the desired Russian response was duly labeled an unprovoked atrocity. Its protection of civilians has been portrayed in NATO-sponsored media as being so offensive that it merits the trade and investment sanctions that have been imposed since February. That's what a Crusade means.

The result is that the world is splitting into two camps: the US-centric NATO and the emerging Eurasian coalition. A by-product of this dynamic was to leave Germany unable to pursue the economic policy of mutually advantageous trade and investment relations with Russia (and perhaps China as well). German Chancellor Olaf Sholz is heading to China this week to demand that he dismantle the public sector and stop subsidizing his economy, or else Germany and Europe will impose sanctions on trade with China. There is no way China can meet this ridiculous demand, any more than the United States or any other industrial economy would stop subsidizing its own computer chips and other key sectors.[iii] The German Council on Foreign Relations is a neoliberal “libertarian” arm of NATO demanding German deindustrialization and dependence on the United States for its trade, not China, Russia or their allies. This promises to be the final nail in Germany's economic coffin.

Another by-product of America's New Cold War was the end of any international plan to curb global warming. A cornerstone of US economic diplomacy is for its oil companies and those of its NATO allies to control the world's supply of oil and gas – that is, reduce dependence on carbon-based fuels. This is what NATO's war in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine is all about. It is not as abstract as “Democracies versus Autocracies”. It is about the ability of the US to harm other countries by cutting off their access to energy and other basic needs.

Without the “good versus evil” narrative of the New Cold War, US sanctions will lose their raison d'être in this US attack on environmental protection and mutual trade between Western Europe and Russia and China. That is the context for today's struggle in Ukraine, which should be just the first step in America's anticipated twenty-year struggle to prevent the world from becoming multipolar. This process will leave Germany and Europe dependent on US LNG supplies.

The trick is trying to convince Germany that it depends on the United States for its military security. What Germany really needs protection from is the US war against China and Russia, which is marginalizing and “Ukrainizing” Europe.

There have been no calls from Western governments for a negotiated end to this war, as no war has been declared in Ukraine. The United States does not declare war anywhere, because that would require a declaration by Congress under the US Constitution. So the US and NATO armies bomb, organize color revolutions, meddle in domestic politics (making the Westphalia Accords of 1648 obsolete), and impose the sanctions that are separating Germany from its European neighbors.

How can negotiations “end” a war that has no declaration of war and is a long-term strategy of total unipolar world domination?

The answer is that no end can come until an alternative to the current US-centric set of international institutions is replaced. This requires the creation of new institutions that reflect an alternative to the bank-centric neoliberal view that economies should be privatized with central planning by financial centers. Rosa Luxemburg characterized the choice between socialism and barbarism. I have outlined the political dynamics of an alternative in my recent book, The Destiny of Civilization.

*michael hudson is a professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Author, among other books by Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of the American Empire (Island).

Translation: Ricardo Kobayaski.

Originally published on the website Brave New Europe.

Notes


[I] Translator's note: the most accepted date is 1075, although some historians argue that the decrees would have been dictated by the Pope in a later year.

[ii] Translator's note: The Cathars – also known as “Albigenses” after the French town of Albi, sometimes identified as their seat – were “dualists”, meaning they believed in two gods.

[iii] See Guntram Wolff, “Sholz must send an explicit message about his visit to Beijing”, Financial Times , October 31, 2022. Wolff is Director and EC of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

 

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