The Real Weak Link in Europe
With some weeks now past since the event, the Brexit doom and gloom-mongers have taken a well deserved break from conjuring up the imminent demise of the U.K., the EU, and perhaps the world itself. This may be an appropriate opportunity to consider whether or not there might be an even better candidate for such end-of-times prognostications: Germany.
On the face of it, this is surely preposterous. Europe's largest economy, its most stable government, and the main if not only pillar of the EU and the euro is hardly a destabilizing factor, most would agree. Germany may indeed be all of that, but only in comparison to the rest of the EU, which has been stagnating economically for a decade and is beset by major political instability and terrorism. Since 2007, German labor productivity growth has been close to zero, while GDP growth has averaged a miserable 0.8% per annum, even as Germany's largest company, Volkswagen, is being prosecuted around the world for cheating, while its very symbol of stability, Deutsche Bank, has been called by the IMF "the biggest contributor to risk in global finance."
Serious as these are, much more disturbing are unmistakable trends that Germany may be going in directions hardly congenial to European and Western policies vis-à-vis Russia. A case in point is the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, designed to bring up to 80% of the Russian gas supply to Europe while bypassing Ukraine and Eastern Europe. A blatantly political ploy by Mr. Putin and Gazprom, it will guarantee that Moscow can blackmail Eastern Europe at will. Despite that, the project enjoys support not only among companies likely to profit from Nord Stream 2, but also by significant parts of the German establishment, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who quite disingenuously claims that it is just a commercial project.
To understand why this is now possible in Germany, one must note the rapid growth of pro-Russian, anti-Western, and anti-American sentiments in all segments of German society of late. These attitudes often run counter to the official policies of the Merkel government, which may actually make them even more significant. Mrs. Merkel, for instance, is known as a key supporter and architect of the sanctions regime against Russia following its aggression against Ukraine, yet her government coalition partner, the social-democratic party (SPD), argues ever more forcefully that the sanctions should be lifted or, at the very least, made less onerous. This not only undermines the authority of the Berlin government, but also makes the continuation of the sanctions when they expire at the end of the year unlikely. This will please Germany's export community, but only at the cost of outraging its partners in Eastern Europe.
Even more striking is the emerging anti-Western consensus among radical parties at both extremes of the political spectrum. The former communist party of East Germany now repackaged as "Die Linke" and the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) share essentially identical anti-Western and anti-American platforms that call for disbanding NATO and a new security alliance with Russia. These parties may be extreme, but they are not without influence. Die Linke is currently in power in one German state (Thuringia), while the AfD is supported by 12% of German voters according to the latest polls.
NATO is being undermined from yet another side, and that is the renewed EU discussions of the ostensible need for a European army independent of NATO. Both European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and French president François Hollande have publicly supported the idea, and so have German officials, who cite the limited German-Dutch armed forces integration as a model. The idea is, of course, complete nonsense if for no other reason than because no EU country is even contemplating, let alone seriously considering the massive amounts of money that would have to be spent to bring this about. It is nonetheless a dangerous bit of nonsense, since nothing will deny NATO's very raison d'être, and with it American commitment to the defense of Europe, faster than a standing European army outside the alliance command structures.
Finally, the most destabilizing German policy by far continues to be immigration policy. Despite signs that it is an abject failure, Mrs. Merkel insists on continuing on the same course, leading to even greater conflict with Eastern Europe and others (Brexit) that reject it wholesale. Poland has already announced that it will refuse to take any migrants, while Czech president Milos Zeman, a socialist, has called for a referendum on EU membership and even urged the Czechs to arm themselves for self-defense.
Merkel government officials have already proclaimed their migrant policies to be a success, but such claims should be taken with a large chunk of salt. Here are the available statistics. In 2015, 1.1 million migrants came to Germany after Merkel essentially invited them in on Sept. 4, 2015. Of those, 476,649 applied for political asylum. The rest neither applied nor left the country, and their whereabouts are not known. According to Eurostat, in the first quarter of 2016, 287,100 migrants, or nearly 100,000 more than in 2015 applied for asylum in the EU, which would mean that even if migrants to Germany have fallen off from the 2015 pace, the EU as a whole will get more than 1 million by the end of the year, and a similar number is expected in 2017.
More important than the sheer numbers is what this massive influx means for society. Even though German authorities try to suppress such information, there is overwhelming evidence that rape and sexual assault by migrants has reached epidemic proportions in all 16 federal states, as documented in this report by the Gatestone Institute. More troubling still is evidence that large numbers of terrorists and jihadists have used the migrant wave to organize "hit squads" in Germany. According to Bavarian intelligence official Manfred Hauser, "irrefutable evidence exists that there is an IS [Islamic State] command structure in place."
What all of this means for German and European security should not be difficult to foresee. German officials openly acknowledge that the police cannot handle this massive threat and are now openly discussing setting in place a 400,000-strong "national guard" type of organization. Before they do that, it might be useful to first consider changing Mrs. Merkel's failed policies.