War economy

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By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

The new German project for the European Union

Four ghosts haunt Europe at the beginning of 2024: the economic crisis, social upheaval, the return of fascism and the war with Russia. The European Economic Commission is forecasting GDP growth of just 2024% for 0,9, and the Bank of England, after two years of stagnation, is forecasting British growth of 0,25%. And this is the expectation regarding almost all European countries, paralyzed by their high interest rates, inflation and unemployment.

As an almost direct consequence of this crisis, strikes and social protests are multiplying, from east to west, and from north to south of the continent, where far-right parties are advancing, and fascist movements are gaining ever greater electoral strength, threatening the very ideological and political foundations of the European unification project.

There is no doubt, however, that it was in Germany that the impacts of the Ukrainian War were felt in the most forceful and destructive way. The German economy fell by 0,4% in the last quarter of 2023, and is expected to contract even further by 0,1% in 2024. And, more serious than this, the Germans have suffered a great loss of competitiveness, and have been facing an accelerated deindustrialization process after suspending its import contracts for cheap energy from Russia – a strange way of punishing the Russians that is destroying the German economy itself.

The price of energy has risen by 41%, transport strikes are increasingly frequent and extensive, and protests by German farmers are almost permanent. On the other hand, opinion polls indicate that the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AFD), already has the support of 19% of voters, and is likely to become the second largest German party. And it is not impossible that he will be called upon to be part of the German government after the 2025 parliamentary elections, even though there is a strong presence of fascist or even Nazi sectors, who defend xenophobic, anti-Islamic positions, and in favor of German withdrawal from the European Union.

This story could have been different if the Europeans and Germany, in particular, had supported peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in early 2022. But that is not what happened. At first, Germany adopted a reticent position in the face of Anglo-American aggressiveness, but the most bellicose wing of its government ended up imposing itself, under the leadership of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerboch, and the Minister of Defense, Boris Pisterius, in close coordination with the President of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, who had been German Defense Minister between 2013 and 2019.

After this, the Social Democratic Prime Minister Olaf Scholz himself ended up declaring himself in favor of “total cooperation between Germany and the United States” and, in fact, during the two years that the war in Ukraine has been going on, Germany has transformed It is the second largest supplier of weapons used by Volodymyr Zelensky's government against Russian troops.

Once this position was defined alongside Ukraine and against Russia, the German government created an Emergency Fund of 100 billion euros for the immediate acquisition of state-of-the-art weapons. And, in November 2023, Defense Minister Boris Pisterius released the “New German Defense Policy Guidelines”, a 19-page document – ​​the Turning point – which defines the new strategic objective of the German Armed Forces as becoming the “backbone of deterrence and collective defense across Europe”.

Along with this, Boris Pisterius announced the increase in German military spending to 2% of the federal budget in 2024, and to 3 and 3,5%, in 2025 and 2026, calling on other European countries to do the same as Germany. In complete line with Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, who announced her candidacy for re-election as head of the European Commission, at the same time that she promised soon “a new defense strategy for Europe” that proposes “spending more, spending better and spend above all on weapons produced in Europe itself, using the experience in Ukraine, to surpass Russia”.

Finally, on February 12, 2024 – in an interview given to the Agency AFP – Prime Minister Olaf Scholz stated that his government's project is to overcome the economic crisis and assume military leadership in Europe. In this interview, Olaf Scholz called on Europeans to “mass-produce military material” and defended the need for Germany to “abandon its manufacturing industry to concentrate on large-scale weapons production” because “we are not living in a time of peace.”

These same ideas were taken to the Munich Strategic Conference, held from February 17th to 19th, and marked by the dissemination of “confidential” information attributed to Bundeswehr, and leaked by the German tabloid BILD, which announced a Russian invasion of NATO territory for the year 2025. The information was denied, but after having already caused widespread panic and mobilized the “Russophobic” feeling of the participants, placing Russia back in the position of the great “external enemy ” of Europeans, as had already happened with the unsuccessful French invasion of Russia in 1812, and with the failed German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

In short, everything indicates that, today, the common objective of Olaf Scholz's Germany and Ursula von der Leyde's European Commission is to create a “war economy” on European territory. A war economy led by Germany, which would give up its manufacturing industry to become the head of a military complex, integrated from Germany itself, involving the other European countries, according to the “comparative advantages” of each of them. By this path, it is obvious, the “Europe of citizens”, idealized by Konrad Adenauer, or even the “Europe of merchants”, criticized by François Mitterand, would be replaced by a new “Europe of soldiers and cannons”, as in the old times of Europe itself.

The new German project for the European Union has the support of the United States and, if successful, will confirm France's decline and loss of protagonism, even within Europe. And it would be compensation for the destruction of the Baltic gas pipelines, the Nord Stream 1 and 2, which would have been fundamental to the success of the German economy. This new configuration of forces within Europe should be confirmed by the choice of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the position of Secretary General of NATO, in place of the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg, with the support of the United States, England and Germany.

Mark Rutte is a member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, of the Dutch extreme right, militarist, xenophobic and anti-Islamic, but very close to the warmongering and “Russophobic” positions of Mrs Von der Leyden, and German Defense Minister Boris Pisterius . In this sense, the likely choice of Mark Rutte to command NATO should favor the process of redefinition and centralization of power that is underway within Europe, and which points in the direction of Berlin.

If everything goes as planned, in another five or ten years, Germany will add to its economic ascendancy and its financial tutelage of Europe, its new military pre-eminence, including its influence over NATO, through Mark Rutte, finally achieving hegemony. within the Old Continent that it has been seeking unsuccessfully – through various paths – since the 19th century.

This strategy has been designed together with the Joe Biden government, but should be maintained even in the event of Donald Trump's victory. If Trump wins, it is possible that Germany will resort to a new Munich Agreement, to ensure atomic coverage from England, in the case of a German nuclear initiative that did not have atomic coverage from the United States. In any case, Germany's objective at this moment is not to go to war with Russia; is to set up and command a European “war economy”, but even so this project will require at least a five-year “shortage”, hence the German need for the Ukrainian War to be prolonged in the form of a “war of attrition” that don't be victorious.

But as the history of the First World War teaches, when Europeans return to arms, they can also return to war, even without wanting to: all it takes is a miscalculation, provoked by bravado like that used by President Emmanuel Macron, or the leak of a conspiracy by German generals to attack the Crimean bridge in Russia, as just happened, and all this careful assembly could end in another major European war.

The difference is that now it would be a NATO war against Russia and, in this case, as former Russian president Daniil Mevedev recently said, it would be an “asymmetric war”, which would force the Russians to immediately use their nuclear weapons. This means, ultimately, that if the new German project for Europe is successful, it would end 80 years of unilateral and explicit military occupation of German territory by American troops. But, at the same time, it would put the Old Continent back on the brink of the abyss.

* Jose Luis Fiori He is professor emeritus at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3RgUPN3]

Originally published in the magazine International Observatory of the XNUMXst Century, no. 4.


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