There are two ways to break up a relationship: walk away, or get the other party to walk away. Is Trump trying to break up NATO by getting the other parties to walk away? From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:
While we are no closer to knowing whether this is indeed Trump’s strategy or an unintended consequence of his behaviour, it is clear that the “Gordian knot of U.S. imperial entanglements” is under great strain.
German-American relations provide an observation point. There are four demands the Trump Administration makes of its allies – Huawei, Iran, Nord Stream 2 and defence spending – and all four converge on Germany. Germany is one of the most important American allies; it is probably the second-most important NATO member; it is the economic engine of the European Union. Should it truly defy Washington on these issues, there would be fundamental damage to the U.S. imperium. (And, if George Friedman is correct in stating that preventing a Germany-Russia coalition is the “primordial interest” of the USA, the damage could be greater still.) And yet that is what we are looking at: on several issues Berlin is defying Washington.
Questions keep cropping up about the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny. From the Strategic Culture Editorial Board at strategic-culture.org:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has all but accused the Russian government of attempted murder in the strange case of Alexei Navalny, the dissident figure who reportedly remains comatose in a Berlin hospital.
Merkel spoke after a German military laboratory announced earlier this week it had “unequivocal proof” that Navalny had been poisoned with “Novichok”, a Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent.
“It raises serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer,” Merkel told media reporters. The chancellor’s assertions were immediately reinforced by the United States, Britain and the head of NATO, each demanding Moscow to be held to account.
The Russian government rejected the accusations, saying they were being made improperly. It noted that the German authorities did not inform Moscow of its claims directly, but rather communicated first with its Western allies. There is more than a suggestion that the Western response is being coordinated to railroad accusations against Russia without Moscow being afforded due process. There is a presumption of guilt which violates due process and diplomatic protocol. And, of course, this is not for the first time when it comes to Western contemptuous relations with Russia.
Contrary to Western assertions about Russia having to answer questions about the Navalny case, the onus is very much on the German authorities to explain their “findings” and to back them up with verifiable evidence. Otherwise it amounts to hearsay and innuendo.
Never underestimate the power of five questions. From Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi at anti-empire.com:
A medical expert with integrity asks the German Chancellor five devastating questions about her mindless coronavirus lockdown
Editor’s note: Dr. Bhakdi released a now-viral video in which he calmly explained why nationwide lockdowns are “collective suicide”. Now he has written an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and it is fantastic
An Open Letter from Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to the German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. Professor Bhakdi calls for an urgent reassessment of the response to Covid-19 and asks the Chancellor five crucial questions. The letter is dated March 26. This is an inofficial translation; see the original letter in German as a PDF.
As Emeritus of the Johannes-Gutenberg-University in Mainz and longtime director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology, I feel obliged to critically question the far-reaching restrictions on public life that we are currently taking on ourselves in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
It is expressly not my intention to play down the dangers of the virus or to spread a political message. However, I feel it is my duty to make a scientific contribution to putting the current data and facts into perspective – and, in addition, to ask questions that are in danger of being lost in the heated debate.
The reason for my concern lies above all in the truly unforeseeable socio-economic consequences of the drastic containment measures which are currently being applied in large parts of Europe and which are also already being practiced on a large scale in Germany.
My wish is to discuss critically – and with the necessary foresight – the advantages and disadvantages of restricting public life and the resulting long-term effects.
To this end, I am confronted with five questions which have not been answered sufficiently so far, but which are indispensable for a balanced analysis.
I would like to ask you to comment quickly and, at the same time, appeal to the Federal Government to develop strategies that effectively protect risk groups without restricting public life across the board and sow the seeds for an even more intensive polarization of society than is already taking place.
The coronavirus may be the undoing of the EU. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
I think it’s safe to say the new crisis just killed the Schengen Treaty. That ridiculous document which guaranteed freedom of movement across the European Union finally hit something it couldn’t bully, COVID-19.
Regardless of whether you believe the pandemic is real or not, the reaction to it is real and is having real consequence far beyond the latest print of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The lockdown of Italy isn’t a temporary thing. Oh, the suspension of free movement is temporary, but it portends something far bigger.
It’s the beginning of the real political balkanization that’s coming to the European Union over the next few years. Old enmities and prejudices have not been stamped out under the boot heel of oppressive legislation coming from a bunch of disconnected technocrats in Brussels.
They have only been suppressed.
Because when there are existential threats there’s no time or desire to virtue signal about how we’re all one big happy dysfunctional family.
For decades Germany refused to lighten up on its fiscal inflexibility believing, rightly, that it shouldn’t subsidize profligacy in places like Italy, Spain and Greece if it didn’t want to.
The old order is melting away in Germany. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Last week I outlined why Thuringia was ground zero for seismic shifts in German politics. The fallout from the bombshell dropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel continues this week.
First Merkel had to remove hand-picked successor Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer from leading the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) because she is inept.
Now, the head of the CDU state party in Thuringia, Mike Mohring, has stepped down, another casualty of Merkel’s iron-fisted policies to deny parties outside of her purview from entering the German political mainstream.
Mohring understood that there was no coalition in Thuringia without the CDU climbing down off its high horse and making a deal with either euroskeptic parties which dominated the polls there — Die Linke or Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The remarkably stable consensus politics that have ruled Germany for many decades are falling apart. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the election results last weekend in Thuringia. The complete collapse of the two centrist parties there, Angela Merkel’s CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD), is looking like a harbinger of what comes next in German politics.
A majority in Thuringia, ruled by the CDU since the early 1990’s until 2014 when Die Linke took over with the Social Democrats and the Greens, just voted against the centrist, Merkelist, grand coalition of standing for nothing but globalism and tighter EU integration.
Die Linke and Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured more than 54% of the total vote. Die Linke, the remnant of the East German Communist Party, and AfD, the new face of anti-immigration and fiscally responsible Germans, took first and second place ahead of Merkel’s CDU.
The influential economic commentator on Europe, Ambrose Pritchard Evans, writes:
“German industry is in the deepest slump since the global financial crisis, and threatens to push Europe’s powerhouse economy into full-blown recession. The darkening outlook is forcing the European Central Bank to contemplate ever more perilous measures.
“The influential Ifo Institute in Munich said its business climate indicator for manufacturing went into “free fall” in July, as the delayed damage from global trade conflict takes its toll and confidence wilts. It goes far beyond the woes of the car industry. More than 80pc of Germany’s factories are in outright contraction.”
Why? What is going on here? It seems that, though other European member-states used to be Germany’s largest market, Germany’s first and third largest export destinations are now the US and China, respectively. Together, they account for more than 15% of all outbound German trade activity. More than 18% of Germany’s export goods ended up somewhere in Asia. Therefore, Germany’s industrial struggles in 2019 point the finger in the direction of its external focus, which means the US, China, and Asia – i.e. its largest marginal trade partners. And the principal assailants in today’s trade and tech wars.
Clemens Fuest, the Ifo president, says: “All the problems are coming together: It’s China, it’s increasing protectionism across the board, it’s disruption to global supply chains”.
But if Germany’s manufacturing woes were not sufficient in and of themselves, then combined with the threat of trade war with Trump, the prospect indeed is bleak for Europe: And the likelihood is that any of that ECB stimulus – promised for this autumn, as Mario Draghi warns that the European picture is getting “worse and worse” – will be very likely to meet with an angry response from Trump – castigated as blatant currency manipulation by the EU and its ECB. EU Relations with Washington seem set to sour (in more ways than one).
The EU will try to prevent its own demise by becoming more centralized and powerful. That may, however, result in its demise. Germany will be the key. From J. Hawk, Daniel Deiss, and Edwin Watson at southfront.org:
While the European Union is theoretically the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether in the future it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States or China or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.
United Europe or Fourth Reich?
The greatest obstacle toward further European integration is the dominant position of Germany within the Union, and it remains to be seen whether a unified German state is compatible with a united Europe. The most recent two attempts to establish a pan-European empire were done by the dominant European actors at the time, namely France in the early 19th century and Germany in the early 20th, and failed because the imposition of rules beneficial to the hegemon provoked resistance—though going to war with Russia in both cases proved to be the fatal mistake.
Today, Germany once again dominates the continent, though it does so using a velvet glove of the Eurozone and the European Central Bank rather than the iron fist of the Wehrmacht. While the German media are full of self-serving praise of their country’s economic prowess, it is unlikely in the extreme German economy would be enjoying export successes had its key trading partners, namely other European countries, not been prevented from engaging in self-defensive economic measures such as devaluations by the existence of the single currency. Consequently there is a strong anti-German sentiment within the EU which provides much of the fuel to the Euroskeptics. After all, many of the unpopular EU policies, starting with fiscal austerity, are backed by Germany whose economy benefits from a strong, low-inflation Euro.
Moreover, the current crop of German leaders, starting with Angela Merkel herself, view themselves as Germans first and Europeans second. Angela Merkel is an “alumna” of the German Democratic Republic where she never experienced European integration, and where revanchist nationalist sentiments re-emerged after reunification. Her political success had a lot to do with her desire to quietly promote “Germany First” policies under the guise of European integration. But what is good for a German is lethal to a European. If European integration is to have a future, it will have to start with an attitude change in Berlin. Fortunately, there are a number of factors encouraging Germany’s leaders to do so.
The battle over Nordstream 2 is yet another indication that the US empire is splintering. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
The Nordstream 2 pipeline represents the last stand of U.S. influence over the internal affairs of Europe.
Once finished it will stand as a testament to the fundamental split between the European Union and the United States.
Europe will this as its first successful defense of its newly-declared independence. And the U.S. will have to come to terms with no longer having control overseas.
This is a theme repeating itself all around the world right now.
Your view of Nordstream 2 depends on who you are.
If you are the U.S. it is a massive rebuke of the post-WWII institutional order mostly paid for by the U.S. to rebuild Europe and protecting it from the scourge of the U.S.S.R.
From Europe’s perspective it’s, “Job well done and all that but Russia isn’t a threat anymore and it is time for us to come out from underneath the U.S.’s shadow.”
And if you are Russia Nordtream 2 is the wedge driving these two adversaries apart while improving national security on your western border.
Europe has imperial ambitions of its own and Nordstream 2 is a very important part of that. Those ambitions, however, are not in line with those in the U.S., particularly under the “leadership” of Donald Trump.
Is Angela Merkel pulling Theresa May’s strings on Brexit? From John Petley at politicalite.com:
With contributions from Dr Niall McCrae, John Ashworth, Ariane Loening and Lawyers for Britain.
Cast your mind back to summer last year. The Cabinet gathered at the Prime Minister’s country retreat of Chequers, on the sylvan Chiltern downs. There was very important business: Theresa May, flanked by senior civil servant Olly Robbins, presented the draft agreement for Britain’s departure from the EU. For the first time, ministers (including Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson) saw the proposed terms – and the extent to which May would abide by her pledge of ‘Brexit means Brexit’. The chief whip instructed that nobody could leave without consenting to the Withdrawal Agreement, unless they resigned – and must then find their way home without ministerial transport.
For Leavers in the Cabinet, it was a shocker. Scarcely anything appropriate for a renewed sovereign nation could be found in this document, which seemed an abject surrender to Messrs Barnier and Juncker. For Brexit voters, it was hard to believe that their government would consider such punitive clauses; their faith in Theresa May, until then buoyant, was shattered. And this document, we were told, was only the initial negotiating stance – it could get worse. In the morass since the referendum on 23rd June 2016, this has been the most significant subsequent event to date.
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