The “West” – a discontinued model?

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Great excitement in Germany: The United States wants to withdraw several thousand soldiers. America is saying goodbye to the “transatlantic community of values”, criticize politicians and the media – a comment

With the announced withdrawal of troops, US President Donald Trump once again demonstrates his displeasure with what he considers to be too little German armaments expenditure. This criticism is, to speak with him, “not fair”: After all, the Federal Government is willing to increase the military budget to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2024 and to the 2 percent required by the USA by 2031 at the latest (Defense Secretary Annegret said Kramp-Karrenbauer in her keynote address on November 7, 2019 in front of students of the Bundeswehr in Munich).

However, this is too slow for the Americans. Germany does not honor its “announcement” that it will increase spending by 2 percent by 2024. Richard Grenell, US Ambassador to Berlin until June, explained in connection with planned further sanctions against the “North Stream 2” natural gas pipeline: “Germany must stop feeding the beast while at the same time not paying enough for NATO.” By “beast” Grenell means Russia.

The United States has long been attacking the second gas tube through the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany. With entry bans and the freezing of assets of the companies involved in the pipeline construction, Washington has already managed to stop the completion. Because which international company can afford to be excluded from the American market? So the Swiss “Allseas” withdrew their lay ship for the last tubes.

Nevertheless, Germany, and with it the EU, wants to stick to the project. She indignantly rejects American sanctions as “interference in internal affairs”. When has this harsh diplomatic rejection ever been between NATO allies?

Apparently there is a huge crash between the leading world power and the European partners. But this is not entirely new: the nuclear agreement with Iran, the negotiations on the TTIP trade agreement, dealing with Russia in the “Ukraine conflict”, the US’s constant threats against Europe to impose tariffs on its exports are just a few of many Points where the “transatlantic partners” lay and lie crosswise.

Even before Trump there was a lot of material for dissent. And you shouldn’t be mistaken – the “Yes, we can!” a Barack Obama owes the same perspective on the world as Trump’s “America first!” Because every American government is concerned with asserting and expanding the world’s superpower, which is superior to all other states. It doesn’t matter whether the president is a republican or a democrat.

However, the views on the current situation differ. Trump and his Republicans see their United States deprived of many states. With Europe and China, two economic competitors have emerged that can actually outperform or even outperform the Americans in some areas.

The Europeans are therefore considered ungrateful: they were finally rebuilt after the Second World War and “protected” from the evil Russians (in fact they were equipped to open a European front against the “East”). And China is acting unfairly in the eyes of the Americans: the country has sneaked shares of the world market with unfair methods and copies at the expense of the United States! Then there is Russia, which is no longer real socialism but practices capitalism properly. But that, based on a still huge military apparatus including nuclear weapons, can and does not deny the United States’ claim to leadership – and not only in Syria.

From this point of view, a “Keep it up!” Rather, it is about showing “clear edges”. These then regularly include strong and completely undiplomatic ones Statements: “One would not necessarily think of the EU now, but they are an enemy.” Trump used the English word “foe” – which can mean enemy or opponent. The President referred to what he considered to be unfair European trade practices. And Germany is pouring millions into the coffers of those against whom the United States protects the Germans – a perennial accusation long before the Grenell quote.

The announced withdrawal of troops now fits into this framework. It doesn’t really weaken the NATO front against Russia. “Last year we saw that the United States actually increased its presence in Europe – with more troops, more exercises and more equipment,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explained. And the final decision has not yet been made. In addition, some units are to be relocated from Germany to Poland, linked to a bilateral defense cooperation agreement. Another affront: against the multi-state alliance NATO, which does not require agreements between individual states; and against Russia because more US troops would be deployed directly to its border.

The German public fluctuates between worries about the cohesion of the Western alliance, lack of understanding of American unilateralism and the hope that Joe Biden will be elected Trump’s successor at the end of the year – and then “normalcy” will return again. Politicians repeat mantra-like how important US troops are in Germany – for security in Europe, and also for the Americans themselves. Commentators fear the end of the “transatlantic community of values”, but also consider the whole thing as “election campaign maneuvers” of Trumps.

Only “The Left” risked a different view: “If the soldiers are withdrawn, they should take the US atomic bombs with them at the same time”, recommended Dietmar Bartsch, chairman of the parliamentary group. This left him alone among the politicians. There was also no new peace movement.

The gnashing of teeth of the German power holders cannot be ignored: there is nothing they can do about the actions of the United States. Once again, they and the EU demonstrate how dependent they are on the superior force of violence in the United States. It is only with him that successful business can be secured worldwide, Germany & Co. can advantageously shape and enforce their trade interests against other countries. It makes a difference whether Ms. Merkel negotiates with a NATO in the back or only with the Bundeswehr. And the decisive troop creator in the alliance is the United States.

Germany has benefited from “Western integration” for a long time, has become the “export world champion” and has opened up an excellent, exclusive business sphere with the European domestic market. They also went their own way diplomatically, for example in relation to Russia or China. You didn’t change the fronts, but you set your own “accents”, that is: tried to gain advantages for yourself through “special relationships”. This tour was also practiced by other European nations such as France, Italy or the EU in their common foreign policy.

This – from an American perspective – “free-riding” should be over now. This is not to be confused with a US retirement from NATO or a general withdrawal from world politics. That would also be against Trump’s hit “America first!” speak. Because in doing so he finally formulates the claim against the whole world that in this world American interests have to count above all others. So it is about a more radical definition of the claim to be superior all over the world – and to reap the fruits of it more pleasingly than before.

At the Munich Security Conference in early 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also denied saying goodbye to the international community: on the contrary, for the international community, no country is doing as much as the United States, according to Pompeo. Ukraine was armed and the Baltic countries strengthened against Russia. It has just been decided to invest a billion dollars in Eastern Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative “to protect free democracies”. The United States is committed to increasing the NATO budget to $ 400 billion. Pompeo said that over 80 states could be united to form a coalition against international terrorism and 59 against the Venezuelan regime. The United States also secured the Strait of Hormuz and the South China Sea. In summary: “The West wins, we win together.”

Countries like Germany have to be brought in line for joint victory. Especially when it comes to tackling the two main main enemies in the world: Russia and China. The USA misses a uniform front – especially since the economic interests towards these two competitors are also very different.

The EU, for example, does not follow the Americans’ trade restrictions against China. The Europeans would rather endeavor to maintain or even expand favorable business conditions for their companies, for example through an exclusive investment agreement with Beijing. Which can have a negative impact on the business opportunities of American capital, whose relations with China are made more difficult for political reasons by its own state.

So who is saying goodbye to the “transatlantic community of values”? Actually none: The United States want to bring this “community” closer in line, to make it much more responsible for its action against agreed opponents in the world. With unanimous complaints and unspoken actions, the Americans demonstrate their supreme power in what they can do autonomously anywhere in the world. This has nothing to do with “isolationism”. Trump simply redefines the conspiracy of states: it only has value for him if he chooses “America first!” can be clamped.

The leading members on the European side, Germany and France, understand this quite correctly. Nevertheless, they cannot do without the help of the United States in securing the world order that is so useful to them. And at the same time, they cannot and do not want the United States to dictate how they pursue their national interests in matters of foreign trade and foreign policy that are important to them. An unsightly situation for our European leaders! Your consequence at the moment: You are trying to somehow maintain the framework that has been so successful for you so far. It is in their own interest to have more armor, so increasing the armament budget is not so difficult for them – rather the question of which weapons should be purchased.

In addition, concessions to American claims in world politics are possible: Actions against elected, but from the US perspective, troublesome governments around the world (Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia) would not necessarily be your own option in some cases. But you can support this diplomatically or even participate to make the United States friendly. And at the same time try to somehow maintain your own profile – an egg dance in which you let cold blooded governments and peoples jump over the blade.

However, there is also a limit: the Germans, who otherwise mostly try to sweep away the opposition that the USA has opened up to them, do not want to bow to the demands from Washington on the sensitive question of their energy sovereignty. They hold onto “North Stream 2” despite the American resistance. No wonder that the western “community of values” is crumbling …
(Bjorn Hendrig)

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