Russia wants to take away our allies
Putin and China are targeting Germany more and more
- According to the British security expert John Kampfner in a new study, Germany has become the “front” in a new Cold War between the West, Russia and China.
- Germany's great ally is making things worse, the author suggests. "The bad relations between Donald Trump and Merkel have reinforced Germany's feeling of being vulnerable to potential dangers from China and Russia."
- Using several examples, Kampfner traces how Russia and China would have already gained influence in Germany by bypassing the federal government.
It is a grim analysis presented by the renowned security expert John Kampfner from the British research institute “Royal United Services Institute”. According to this, Germany has become the “front” in a new Cold War between the West and Russia and China. Accordingly, Russia and China are trying massively to interfere in the country's politics and stir up instability in the region.
Both countries are said to be more and more often bypassing the German federal government and instead try to exert their influence more strongly on the state and local levels. While Russia is primarily active in the political field, China is mainly concentrating on economic fields.
In fact, Russia and China see Germany as the key to Europe. The Federal Republic not only has the strongest economy on the continent, but has also gained political weight as a result of the British Brexit and ongoing internal problems in France.
Trump is not a fan of NATO, the EU and Merkel
However, long-term Chancellor Angela Merkel has not made it easy for Russia and China in recent years. It was the driving force behind the sanctions that the European Union imposed on Russia as a result of the Crimean crisis. She also sees China's drive for power much more critically than heads of government in southern and southeastern Europe.
For a long time, Merkel also knew the USA was on her side. But since Donald Trump has been in the White House, Washington's backing has been such a thing. "The bad relations between Donald Trump and Merkel have reinforced Germany's feeling of being vulnerable to potential dangers from China and Russia," writes Kampfner.
Trump is not a fan of the western military alliance NATO. He's not a fan of the European Union. He's not a fan of Germany either. Rather, he believes the Federal Republic is exploiting his country economically (keyword trade surpluses) and militarily (keyword German failure to meet the two percent target). As early as the spring of 2017, Merkel said: “The times when we could rely on others are a long way off. We Europeans really have to take our fate into our own hands. "
Since then, the German-American relationship has tended to deteriorate. Trump is said to call Merkel a "fool" and a "loser" behind the scenes. He has also publicly announced that around a third of the US soldiers stationed in Germany will be withdrawn. CDU member of the Bundestag Peter Beyer, responsible in his parliamentary group for German-American relations, called this “completely unacceptable”. He said: "My transatlantic heart is bleeding."
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Even before Trump, Germany did not always dance to the tune of the USA, working with Russia in the energy sector, for example, as the debate about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in the Baltic Sea shows. In the Ukraine crisis, too, Merkel did not act as hard as her ally on the other side of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, Merkel's relations with Putin are considered frosty.
Putin is looking for politicians who are friendly to Russia - and he is finding them
This is probably one of the reasons why the Kremlin chief has long been looking for more Russia-friendly German politicians - and has found them. In the right-wing populist AfD as well as in the left-wing populist left. But also among East German Prime Ministers with CDU and SPD party books, who a year ago agreed to end the sanctions against Russia. For historical reasons, the economy in the former GDR area is more closely intertwined with Russia than that of the West.
Kampfner also refers to prominent ex-functionaries such as the former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), who spoke at the influential German-Russian Forum soon after leaving the federal government. Matthias Platzeck, former SPD leader and ex-Prime Minister of Brandenburg, is chairman of the forum.
Germany is a key partner for China
China seems further afield for Germany. Geographically this is unquestionably the case. Economically, however, this has long ceased to apply. While Russia is not even among the top 10 German trading partners in 2019, China was once again number one trading partner last year.
Politically, too, China will flex its muscles at the latest when the self-confident President Xi Jinping takes office and wants to replace the USA as the global leading power economically and politically by the middle of the century.
For China, Germany is a country with which the regime has so far wanted to deal as well as possible. Conversely, the German government is aware of the economic importance of China, which is probably one of the reasons why it is holding back, for example in the explosive conflict over the autonomous city of Hong Kong.
Kampfner identifies two German weaknesses that China wants to capitalize on. On the one hand, it is about innovative German technology companies that are being bought up by Chinese investors - with active help from Beijing. He names the Augsburg robot manufacturer Kuka, which came into possession of the Chinese company Midea in 2016. Since then, the German federal government has made it difficult for investors to take over from third countries.
Also read: New study fuels debate: Is China using Corona to grab the pearls of the German economy?
On the other hand, it is about Chinese investments in ailing German locations. Kampfner gives the example of Duisburg. The city had an unemployment rate more than twice as high as Germany as a whole, writes the author. Duisburg is strategically located at the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers. It has Europe's largest inland port and is only 20 minutes away from Düsseldorf Airport. China's project of the century, the “New Silk Road”, is set to end in Duisburg.
China is using Russia tactics
Like Russia, China also used local channels to gain influence in Germany by ignoring the critical eyes of national politicians, Kampfner outlines. Duisburg welcomed the Chinese investments. Including Duisburg's Lord Mayor.
As long as Merkel is Chancellor, Germany’s basic policy on Russia and China is unlikely to change. Kampfner has no doubt about that either. Even in the Trump era, Germany is much closer to the USA in political and economic fundamental questions than to the authoritarian regimes of China and Russia. The Federal Republic knows about the advantages of the Western alliance. But what comes after Merkel?
Read also: "New York Times" celebrates Merkel's course in the Corona crisis: "The big winner will probably be Germany"
Kampfner writes that three factors are likely to shape Germany’s politics: the US presidential election in November, the free choice of the CDU and CSU chancellor candidate by the beginning of 2021 at the latest be to say that the future of European and Western stability depends on all three [factors]. "
Here you can read the English-language study in full.
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