Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Happened to Germany?

Ever since the September 11, 2001 terror attack and especially since Russia invaded Ukraine, I've wondered what happened to Germany?

Once West Germany was a formidable military ally during the Cold War. Now united Germany has become a weak ally that avoids any heavy lifting in the defense area, markedly more so than our other European allies.

But I actually know very well what happened. Back when I taught an American history course in 1990-1991, I had sections on the growing gap between the British and the American colonies following the French and Indian War

From then to the Revolution, tensions increased with Britain who wanted to keep higher levels of forces in North America. But the colonists didn't feel they needed Britain for defense after defeating the French threat, and so didn't want to help pay for it. I told the class that in the manner of the American colonists, that the modern Europeans would pull away from America in the absence of a Soviet threat.

That Cold War threat had compelled Europeans to stand with America who was needed to defend Europe. And Germany built the best armored forces NATO had. But then the Soviet Union and empire in Eastern Europe collapsed.

And what happened to the American colonists happened to the Europeans, especially the Germans. They decided they didn't want to pay for a military when the military threat evaporated.

Of course, America drew down forces in Europe, too. And America never tried to compel allies to pay more for defense. So the friction between sovereign allies was way different than the 18th century break between colonies and the mother country that did try to compel payment.

Well, Britain and America are close allies now despite the unpleasantness in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Will the revival of the smaller Russian threat (smaller than the Soviet threat) lead Germany to be a reliable and formidable ally again?

UPDATE: To be clear, if I had a choice, I'd prefer no Russian threat and a weak Germany I could complain doesn't help the West abroad. That's way better than a strong Russian threat and a strong German military to oppose Russia, which would still mean Germany wouldn't help the West abroad.