Germany’s dilemma is that its security is dependent upon the US while its economy increasingly is not.
- In 2017, China was Germany’s principal trading partner for a second consecutive year. (Nienaber, Michael (2018). Reuters)
More so, the US is becoming increasingly less popular in Germany. Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany, seems to be spurred on by this very fact.
Some even refer to him as the ‘most undiplomatic diplomat in Berlin’.
Three issues strain the current German-American relationship:
- The Nord Stream 2 pipeline
- The nature of German-Iranian trade relations
- The development of 5G infrastructure by Huawei
Certain issues (such as the heightened energy dependence on Russia & the close relationship between Huawei and the Communist Party of China) rightly deserve attention.
However, what many people take issue with are:
- The blatant US foreign policy double standards
- Its dominion-esque top-down communication
- Its flagrant hypocrisy
Nord Stream 2:
The rationale against the pipeline-project is that Germany risks becoming too dependent upon Russian energy. In that line of thought, Germany would be exposed to Putin’s mood swings.
Yet unless Putin decides to go on a Kamikaze mission, it seems rather unlikely that Putin will decide to turn off the gas pipeline.
- Russia has become ever more reliant on the cash generated by oil and gas exports, which account for 44% of all government revenues. (Butler, Nick (2019). Financial Times)
It’s safe to assume that Putin knows about the linkage between the energy cash-flows and the stability of his regime – especially whilst monitoring what’s happening in Venezuela.
Yet what’s really behind the smoke and mirrors?
As the EU’s demand for gas continues to rise, its own supplies begin to run out. The EU is now faced with a bifurcation.
- Increasingly rely on Russian natural gas
- Lean towards liquified natural gas (LNG)
The US is (surprisingly) the biggest producer of the latter, and now keen to become the biggest exporter, too.
However, shipping LNG across the Atlantic is expensive and the required terminals to unload LNG in Europe are not in place yet, which makes option 1 (see above) more attractive.
One might sense economic interests masked behind security concerns.
But would the US really …?
German-Iranian trade relations:
Speaking about US concerns of using one’s leverage in one domain to exert power in another (i.e. Russia’s energy geopolitics), let’s travel 3000km south-eastward towards Teheran.
- Convinced of an existential threat from competitors, America is weaponizing the dollar to preserve its global economic and geopolitical position. (Das, Satyajit (2018). Bloomberg)
Foreign-policy and trade hawks in D.C. have discovered the power of the US’ global financial might (derived by the USD being the world’s reserve currency).
If that’s not enough, the US increasingly threatens traditionally close allies with secondary sanctions.
In this specific instance, the US intends to nudge Germany away from conducting business with Iran, and thereby providing funds to the ‘leading state sponsor of terror’.
Iran is by far not a saint. It supports militias in different places ranging from Lebanon to Syria. Its track-record on human rights issues is appalling.
Yet it is irritating to see how Iran is being demonised and bashed, while Saudi Arabia seems to get a blank cheque for close to anything (ignoring the fake US outcry about the Khashoggi murder).
US hawks, such as National Security Advisor John Bolton, openly advocate Iranian regime change for the sake of ‘liberating’ the Iranian society.
It seems like Mr. Bolton should attend a ‘History 101’ session on the Middle East. Wasn’t there a link between the overthrow of Mossadegh by the US in 1953 (‘Operation Ajax’) and the Iranian revolution in 1979 …?
Again, never mind.
At the same time, the US turns a blind eye on Saudi Arabia.
A country where women cannot leave their houses without their husband’s permission. A country where transgenders get tortured to death. A country where human-rights activists get locked up. A country that kills its own journalists abroad. A country that bombed Yemen, one of the poorest countries, to the brink of starvation.
While this doesn’t acquit Iran of any of its human-rights violations, it puts a lot of things about US foreign policy into perspective:
- Power Politics & Interests > Morality
Something the public fortunately increasingly acknowledges:
Huawei’s 5G infrastructure:
Last but not least, let’s turn to the latest friction point between Germany and the US:
- Huawei’s 5G infrastructure.
Last week, Mr. Grenell advised Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Minister of Economic Affairs, to cut ties with Huawei. If Germany were not to follow order, it would risk losing access to US intelligence.
An allied diplomat threatening a German minister. So much for the state of the transatlantic alliance.
The US’ recommendation is rooted in the fear that Huawei’s infrastructure could become a Trojan horse for the CCP’s spying activities.
There has neither been proof for the US suspicions (1) nor for the technical feasibility of the accusations (2).
More so, it’s a rather bold move by the US to warn about the dangers of spying – merely six years after the NSA’s spying excesses in Germany have been uncovered.
In reality, leading US public officials have realised that the 21st Century great power struggle will be decided within the realm of technology – especially A.I. and 5G.
Losing to a competitor, that embodies to some an alternative model, would fundamentally question the appeal of the US’ model.
Yet it seems that some on Capitol Hill are afraid about the competition of systems.
Meanwhile Germany got an amuse-gueule of what it will feel like to be caught up in this century’s great-power struggle.