What’s the Matter With Germany?


Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy and the most powerful nation in Europe, seems to be pulling away from its close alliance with the U.S., a partnershi­p that was critical in winning the Cold War against the once formidable Soviet Union. This is good news for China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Under its long-serving chancellor, Angela Merkel, Germany is going all-out to ensure the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will enormously increase Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas, even though Putin has never hesitated to use the fuel as a political weapon.

A far sounder, more sensible alternativ­e for Berlin would be to import more U.S. natural gas, which we have in abundance. Germany should also beef up its mangy military as a means of countering Moscow’s ambitions to pry Europe from Washington. Unlike Sweden, which is dramatical­ly increasing the strength of its military because of Russia’s aggressive moves, Germany has been more hesitant. Intense pressure from the Trump administra­tion got Berlin to boost military outlays. But German reluctance remains significan­t, and efforts may flag if President Biden doesn’t continue Trump-like goading.

Another recent move that bodes ill is Germany’s pushing through a China-EU investment deal that Beijing sees as a way to loosen U.S.-European ties.

Germany, so far, has refused to work closely with Washington to keep strategic technologi­es from getting into the hands of Beijing, a contrast to its approach regarding the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Germany takes this tack even as China engages in major human-rights abuses and contin

ues its highly aggressive foreign policy, such as moving to dominate the South China Sea, a critical internatio­nal waterway. Instead, Chancellor Merkel seems intent on keeping Germany at some distance between Washington and Beijing.

During the Cold War, despite occasional difference­s, the NATO alliance—with Germany and the U.S. at its core—held fast. A critical example was how closely the two countries worked together to counter Moscow’s attempts at blackmaili­ng Germany into loosening its transatlan­tic ties by threatenin­g it with intermedia­te-range nuclear missiles in the late 1970s. Despite fierce pressure from Moscow—including whipping up domestic opposition—Germany, under the redoubtabl­e Chancellor Helmut Kohl, agreed to our stationing missiles on its soil. The Russian move failed, a crucial factor in the West’s winning the Cold War.

The Biden administra­tion has a big job in getting Germany to realize that close cooperatio­n between our two countries in all areas remains absolutely crucial to preserving democracy and the free world’s security in the face of growing pressures from China and Russia.

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