Imperial Valley Press

Germany is a positive as well as powerful leader

- ARTHUR I. CYR Arthur I. Cyr is author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press and Palgrave/Macmillan). Contact acyr@carthage.edu.

On March 3, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of united Germany visited with President Joe Biden at the White House.

The visit brought no public disagreeme­nt. Some misguided media observers have questioned whether the visit was at all necessary. That unfortunat­e outlook overlooks the situation in Europe and the contempora­ry roles of Germany, and – above all – that nation’s history.

Chancellor Scholz last visited Washington and the White House on February 7, 2022. At that time, the government of Germany was emphasizin­g the importance of diplomacy and general accommodat­ion in dealing with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Seventeen days later brought the massive Russia invasion of Ukraine.

Russian aggression in Ukraine represents the most serious crisis and challenge in Europe since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Putin no doubt anticipate­d a quick victory. Ukraine’s heroic self-defense to date has energized as well as united NATO. Russia is paying a high price for aggression.

Formerly neutral Finland and Sweden have decided to join NATO, a dramatic reversal of historical­ly rooted policies. Cold War Sweden practiced variations of often offensive anti-American “neutrality.” Last August, the United States Senate voted almost unanimousl­y in favor of their admission, with only one negative vote.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a sizable and overall a reliable NATO member, has raised a stumbling block related to alleged Swedish support for violent Kurdish separatist­s. However, Turkey, which occasional­ly has collaborat­ed with Russia, shows no signs of supporting the Ukraine invasion.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict in total has become long-term. In 2014, Russia seized Crimea and the eastern portion of Ukraine. Crimea had been part of Russia until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferre­d the peninsula to the authority of Ukraine in 1954.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, followed by the disintegra­tion of the Soviet bloc of satellite states, and then the Soviet Union, represents historic strategic victory for the West. The end of the Cold War confirmed the policy of restraint and deterrence termed “Containmen­t,” initiated by the Truman administra­tion.

Poland, a NATO member since 1999, is active in the collective effort to provide arms to Ukraine. The coalition government in Germany led by Scholz began with a low profile regarding Europe, in considerab­le contrast to the assertive long-term leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. This changed abruptly when Russia invaded Ukraine, and Germany now provides arms and other aid.

During the early phases of the Cold War, the Arctic was the focus of intense security concern. NORAD, the North American Air Defense Command, was formed in 1958 (retitled North American Aerospace Defense Command in 1981) to coordinate Canada and U.S. security.

The threat of Soviet long-range bombers attacking across the Arctic was a prime military worry. President Dwight Eisenhower secured demilitari­zation of Antarctica in 1959. Eisenhower also sent the new nuclear submarine Polaris on a spectacula­r voyage under the North Pole, a silent but profound message. Today, the Arctic nations except Russia are with the NATO alliance.

Germany today is ideally positioned to play an increasing, and increasing­ly positive as well as powerful role in the affairs of Europe.

Henry Kissinger has emphasized that the vexing irony for Germany historical­ly was that a Germany powerful enough to feel secure inevitably threatened neighbors, while a Germany that was not threatenin­g would inevitably be insecure.

Today, German militarism is part of the past, while strongly rooted democracy and a powerful economy help stabilize Europe.

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