“Economics doesn’t matter, only values”

By Tom Fowdy, Oxford University

It is worth remembering that in both World War I and World II one of the biggest long term factors contributing to Germany’s defeat was the fact that the country’s geographic, and by extension economic realities, are completely unfavourable. This will have consequences today too. Germany is located in Central Europe. Bar a small northern coastline, it is largely landlocked. In conjunction with that, it has minimal natural resources, yet otherwise has a very large population. This makes food and energy resources a critical strategic vulnerability. Because Germany in turn did not have the privileges of global maritime dominance in its Imperialism, unlike Britain and France, these geographic realities were what structured early 20th century German foreign policy to be predisposed towards extreme levels of aggression. Yet it failed. Germany’s defeats came from the reality that a sandwiched continental country is difficult to defend (with no maritime protection) but also the fact that once its food and energy resources are put under sustained pressure and limitations, it subsequently crumbles. In both occasions the British cut off Germany’s access to the Atlantic, whilst the French cut off the Mediterranean. Even if in both conflicts Germany held early advantages, they couldn’t keep up in such a war of attrition and of course, fight Russia too. What is the relevance of this today? Whilst Germany is not facing any embargos, nonetheless the Ukraine conflict is de-facto striking them again (and of course their neighbours too) in their two areas of strategic weakness, both food and energy. There is no scenario whereby Germany, in seeking external sources of energy, can secure cheaper, more local or abundant supplies than those of Russia. This might tell us the long term consequences of this war will be devastating for them, and worse than in Russia itself. Russia can take heavy losses, but history shows they are never going to be crippled because they always will have the fundamentals. Russia doesn’t lose wars of attrition, but Germany loses them every single time. One worries that an indirect outcome of this war may be to fundamentally upheave and undermine the foundations of Germany’s post-war consensus politics. Merkel faced that too, but she weathered the storm with prudence. The same can’t be said about the clowns in charge now. A contemporary German state which is completely strategically dependent on the US, but impoverished, is not going to be a politically stable one. This was possible when it was cut in two and booming during the cold war, but not now. Post-war Germany reconciled its strategic vulnerabilities through establishing and leading the medium of European compromise, integration and pooling resources, as well as a highly pragmatic foreign policy approach towards Russia and China. In other words, multilateralism. But now, all of that is being forcibly dismantled in the name of forcing the German state to blindly follow American interests, yet without any contemplation of the damage of which this will do to Germany’s fundamental interests. They are essentially told “economics doesn’t matter, only values”- but that is nonsense, because economics is the measure of practical human reality.

Categories: EU, History

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