Leaving the West Behind – Germany Looks East

By Hans Kundnani

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was a strategic shock for Germany. Suddenly, Russian aggression threatened the European security order that Germany had taken for granted since the end of the Cold War. Berlin had spent two decades trying to strengthen political and economic ties with Moscow, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine suggested that the Kremlin was no longer interested in a partnership with Europe. Despite Germany’s dependence on Russian gas and Russia’s importance to German exporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ultimately agreed to impose sanctions on Russia and helped persuade other EU member states to do likewise.

Nevertheless, the Ukraine crisis has reopened old questions about Germany’s relationship to the rest of the West. In April, when the German public-service broadcaster ARD asked Germans what role their country should play in the crisis, just 45 percent wanted Germany to side with its partners and allies in the EU and NATO; 49 percent wanted Germany to mediate between Russia and the West. These results led the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, in an editorial published last May, to warn Germany against turning away from the West.

Germany’s response to the Ukraine crisis can be understood against the backdrop of a long-term weakening of the so-called Westbindung, the country’s postwar integration into the West. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the enlargement of the EU freed the country from its reliance on the United States for protection against a powerful Soviet Union. At the same time, Germany’s export-dependent economy has become increasingly reliant on demand from emerging markets such as China. Although Germany remains committed to European integration, these factors have made it possible to imagine a post-Western German foreign policy. Such a shift comes with high stakes. Given Germany’s increased power within the EU, the country’s relationship to the rest of the world will, to a large extent, determine that of Europe.

THE GERMAN PARADOX

Germany has produced 
the most radical challenge to the West from within.

Germany has always had a complex relationship with the West. On the one hand, many of the political and philosophical ideas that became central to the West originated in Germany with Enlightenment thinkers such as Immanuel Kant. On the other hand, German intellectual history has included darker strains that have threatened Western norms—such as the current of nationalism that emerged in the early nineteenth century. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, German nationalists increasingly sought to define Germany’s identity in opposition to the liberal, rationalistic principles of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. This version of German nationalism culminated in Nazism, which the German historian Heinrich August Winkler has called “the climax of the German rejection of the Western world.” Germany, therefore, was a paradox: it was part of the West yet produced the most radical challenge to it from within.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
Learn more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142492/hans-kundnani%E2%80%A8/leaving-the-west-behind

2 thoughts on “Leaving the West Behind – Germany Looks East”

  1. Winkler is a BRD historian. For him, the BRD is the ultimate goal of german history, but that*s not true.
    Germany always was part of the west, and the imperial Germany of Wilhelm II was as democratic as the Victorian Britain, with the greatest socialist party of Europe.
    Nationalism was invented in France, a child of the revolution. The germans learnt nationalism of the conquering french armies, and they learnd greatness from conquering napoleonic armies. The germans learnt imperialism from their imperalistic neighbors, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Britain, Russia, because, Germans are mostly pacifists, and they ever where.
    But, germans are great warriors, when necessary, they fight hard.
    National Sozialism is a mixture of socialism and the common imperial racism of all the imperialistic powers at that time. Even eugenetics are not original german. They where common opinion at that time.
    Nazism was not the rejection of the western world, but the culmination of common thinking in developed countries at that time. You know, massmurder didn’t stop, after the nazi-defeat, think of the expulsion of german population in the east, Maos China or Pol Pot. The attitude of the americans to the japanese was mostly racistic.
    As long as possible, Germany will guide the smaller nations of Europe, will consolidate Europe and so will obstruct the great powers, to divide and impire Europe. That’s an nice task. The poles will be thankful.

    Carl Jung

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