The Germans Will Never Learn

German foreign minister Heiko Maas of the German Social Democratic Party believes that Europe must unite to form a "counterweight" to the United States when it "crosses the line" in its dealings with Germany.  Maas believes that Germany and France should forge a stronger bond in order to diminish American freedom of action – whether it be in imposing sanctions on Iran (which would harm European business interests) or in forcibly renegotiating longstanding (bad) deals with Europe (specifically, Germany) on trade and mutual defense.

But the idea that Germany, France, or any other European country could strengthen the fraying unity within the European Union – in order to "balance" against the United States, no less – is an absurdity that only a European liberal like Maas could countenance.  Europe is not a united entity, and it will never act as a counterweight to the United States (at least not by itself).  This is especially true of the European Union.

Such sentiments are hardly new.  Throughout the 1990s, various German leaders expressed similar attitudes on the need to distance their country (and Europe) from the United States since the Cold War was over.  Infamously, former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party led the charge against the United States in the run-up to the Iraq War of 2003.  He was joined in that feckless crusade (to stop another hapless campaign – George W. Bush's war of choice in Iraq itself) by French President Jacques Chirac and, naturally, Russian president Vladimir Putin.


Since the 1990s, German elites – particularly those on the left – have called for a multipolar world order in which the United States is but one of many powerful actors alongside the European Union.  Postmodern German leaders deluded themselves into believing that the E.U. could be anything other than a paean to Europe's traditional love of big government.  But, as years of European politics in the post-Cold War era have shown, the E.U. is a paper tiger on its way out.

Don't take my word for it.  Just read the words of George Soros, the doyen of European integration, who argued earlier this year that the E.U. is experiencing an "existential crisis."  Soros went on to predict that unless drastic actions were taken (which, given the nature of the divisions within Europe, such actions will not be taken), the European project would soon collapse.  In today's world, where there are challenges to the E.U.'s legitimacy both from within Europe and from without, the European response to these threats has been haphazard.  In Soros's own words, the E.U. morphed away from what it was meant to be – a voluntary coalition of equal partners – and into a "relationship between creditors and debtors" that is "neither voluntary nor equal."

As I said, such a union cannot act as a counterweight to the United States.

Never Forget: Germany Needs the U.S.

With nationalism and populism on the rise in much of Europe today, and with the E.U. apparently unable to break its corrosive structure, Heiko Maas's plan for Germany to strengthen the E.U. is laughable.  I suspect that even Heiko Maas and his fellow left-leaning German elites know this to be true.  After all, Maas's ode to European integration is couched in the rhetoric of nationalism.

As Maas writes:

"Europe United" means this: We act with sovereignty at those points where nation-states alone cannot muster the level of power a united Europe can. We are not circling the wagons and keeping the rest of the world out. We are not demanding allegiance. Europe is building on the rule of law, respect for the weaker, and our experiences that show that international cooperation is not a zero-sum game.

Further, Maas's calls for a closer alliance between the economically dynamic Germany with the militarily powerful France (by continental standards, at least) implies that even Maas recognizes the limits of relying on a "Europe United."  This gets us back to the Russo-Franco-German strategic triangle that has been building since the dark days of the Iraq War of 2003.  Such an alliance is historically feasible; however, as history has proven, this precise alliance will not last for very long.  It cannot.  Despite their agreement on such things as the need for a multipolar world or their close trade over energy, there are broader cultural and political disagreements that will – over time – destroy whatever alliance may exist among Moscow, Berlin, and Paris.

For her part, outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel of the right-of-center Christian Democratic Party, has all but shot down Maas's article.  But, given the fact that Maas was likely writing on behalf of a larger swathe of German of elites who are tired of what they view as American priggishness over issues such as trade and mutual defense – as well as Germany's need to do business with neighboring Russia or Iran – Maas's view will likely hold out.

Let Maas's new world order of multipolarity and balance ring out.  It'd save America much money and many lives, being able to hand off some responsibilities to capable allies.  Unfortunately, though, the Germans are kidding themselves if they believe they'll be able to achieve this in Europe – not without a great power backing their play (and that great power is not France).  They will be forced to choose between the United States and Russia.  I suspect that Berlin will ultimately end up in the United States' camp.

History is returning to Europe.  And history is doomed to repeat itself...something that the Germans are incapable of learning.  The U.S. must continue protecting its own interests, always reminding Berlin that we stand ready to receive them as long as they pay their fair share.

Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report: World News Done Right and is a contributor at The American Spectator, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness.  His writings on national security and Congress have appeared at Real Clear PoliticsSpace News, and  He has been featured on CBS News.comthe BBC, and the Christian Science Monitor.  Brandon is a former congressional staffer who holds an M.A. in statecraft and national security affairs from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. and is currently working on his doctorate in international relations.

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