By Conor Gallagher
While German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attempts the impossible of appeasing Washington while simultaneously salvaging his country’s economy, his foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is taking a much harder line – one that aligns perfectly with American interests.
As Michael Hudson has pointed out, one of the targets in the US war against Russia is actually Germany, and Baerbock is helping Washington accomplish its mission.
Due to the war with Russia and loss of cheap Russian energy, the German economy is in shambles and facing a future of deindustrialization. Yet, the German government refuses to stand up to the US and instead continues on with their disastrous Russia policies.
Despite all the damage the Russia conflict has done to her country’s economy, Baerbock (and other hawks in Germany) are eager to join with Washington against its next target: China.
For decades Germany pursued a foreign policy based on peaceful Wandel durch Handel (“transformation through trade”). It relied on cheap Russian gas imports and exports to its largest trading partner, China. That is all changing now and is being driven in large part by Baerbock and the Green Party.
On a trip to China, which is suddenly controversial in the West, Scholz tried to walk a fine line between Washington and Beijing. From the South China Morning Post:
Before leaving for Beijing, Scholz said he recognised that the EU had become too economically dependent on China but insisted that Germany should not decouple from China or heed “calls by some” to isolate the country.
In his meeting with Scholz on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to reaffirm that position, calling on Germany and the EU to not attach to “any third party” and to retain their strategic autonomy.
It’s pretty clear who the unnamed party is here. Washington wants to cut Europe off from China, and it’s being aided by Baerbock who has repeatedly criticized China, and before taking office in Dec. 2021, pledged a “return to a more active German foreign policy” which would be guided by “moral principles.”
Before Scholz’s visit Baerbock warned the chancellor that he had to make it clear to Beijing “that the question of fair conditions of competition, the question of human rights and the question of the recognition of international law is our basis for international cooperation.”
Comparing China to Russia, she added that Germany should “no longer be so fundamentally dependent on a country that does not share our values that we can be blackmailed in the end.”
Then, as Scholz was en route to Beijing, Germany’s foreign office released a photo op of a gathering of Baerbock and her G-7 counterparts. Baerbock sits at the head of the table next to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with Under Secretary of State Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland behind them. According to former India diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar:
Quintessentially, Baerbock has highlighted her discontent with Scholz’s China visit by assembling around her the like-minded G7 counterparts. Even by norms of coalition politics, this is an excessive gesture. When a country’s top leader is on a visit abroad, a display of dissonance undercuts the diplomacy.
Equally, Baerbock’s G7 counterparts chose not to wait for Scholz’s return home. Apparently, they have a closed mind and the tidings of Scholz’s discussions in Beijing will not change that.
First thing on Monday, Scholz should ask for Baerbeck’s resignation. Better still, [the] latter should submit her resignation.
Neither has happened, which is not surprising. It has been clear for some time that Baerbock is a hardline Atlanticist who wants Germany to pursue a much more aggressive foreign policy. Some examples:
- Ahead of Germany’s 2021 federal election, Baerbock was the only chancellor candidate to call the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia a mistake.
- In a January meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Baerbock called out China on human rights, drawing a request from Beijing that she avoid “megaphone diplomacy.”
- She carried out a lone boycott of the Beijing Olympics.
- In August Baerbock said Germany would “not accept when international law is broken and a larger neighbor attacks its smaller neighbor in violation of international law – and that of course also applies to China,” in a reference to Taiwan.
- In early October at a press conference with Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Baerbock proposed a UN role in the Kashmir issue, much to India’s surprise. The comments came at a time when the West is upset with India over its ties to Russia.
- She wants stronger defense ties with Japan to counter China.
- She has been a driving force for tougher European sanctions on Iran and outspoken on women’s rights there.
- Along with the US, she opposed Germany allowing China to obtain a controlling stake in a Hamburg port terminal. Scholz pushed a compromise, and Germany approved a sale of 24.9% of the terminal to Cosco. Baerbock continues to criticize the deal.
- Under pressure after the Hamburg port deal, the German government just blocked the sale of a chip factory to a Swedish subsidiary of a Chinese company.
- She’s formulating Germany’s first “China strategy,” which will be released early next year and is expected to argue that Berlin should join the US in its economic (for now) war on China.
Just to put Baerbock’s politics in perspective, Germany is now dependent on the import of expensive liquefied natural gas, which is destroying its industry. Berlin is spending €200 billion to temporarily soften the blow, but seeing as there is no end in sight to energy shortage, it will likely lead to a financial crisis, social spending cuts, and a major decline in living standards.
Following its break with Russia, a decoupling from China would essentially be like killing yourself twice. More than a million jobs are directly connected to China trade. In addition, China is a supplier of important raw materials such as rare earths. Here is the path Germany is on:
🇩🇪 💰 📉 The trade balance of Germany.
And Analena Baerbock thinks only about Ukraine… pic.twitter.com/7KKGcNpetZ
— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) November 3, 2022
Cui Hongjian, an Europe expert at the China Institute of International Studies, told the South China Morning Post: “On top of cutting off … imports of energy and resources [from Russia], cutting off the market [from China] would be economic suicide.”
And yet Baerbock seems as unconcerned about China as she does about Russia.
German FM: I will put Ukraine first “no matter what my German voters think” or how hard their life gets. pic.twitter.com/GwAqIZ2jL7
— Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil (@ivan_8848) August 31, 2022
While Scholz is a career corporatist politician who wants to preserve German businesses, Baerbock is a newcomer to politics and a perfect product from the transatlantic leader factory. Diana Johnstone, who was press secretary of the Green Group in the European Parliament from 1989 to 1996, writes:
Baerbock is 40 years old, just about a year younger than the Green Party itself. She is the mother of two small children, a former trampoline champion, who smiles even while speaking – a clean image of happy, innocent fitness. She learned fluent English in Florida in a high school exchange, studied international law at the London School of Economics, and advocates (surprise, surprise) a strong partnership with the Biden administration to save the climate and the world in general…
In between jumping up and down on the trampoline, her professional interest has always been international relations from an Anglo-American angle, including her masters degree in international law at the LSE in London.
Her initiation into transatlantic governance includes membership in the German Marshall Fund, the World Economic Forum’s Young Leaders Program and the Europe/Transatlantic Board of the Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation.
On that basis, she has risen rapidly to the leadership of the Green Party, with very little political and no administrative experience.
Baerbock nearly became chancellor, but her campaign was derailed by inaccuracies in her resume, e.g., stating that she had been a member of the German Marshall Fund when she had never been more than a supporter.
Her recent book, Jetzt: Wie wir unser Land erneuern (Now: How We Renew Our Country), also lifted from other publications. She denied any copyright infringement and plagiarism allegations.
“No one writes a book alone,” she said.
For insight into what Baerbock envisions for Germany, an August speech at the New School in New York should be read in full. She describes February 24 (the date Russia began its special military operation) as a date that changed the world and uses it to justify her plans for a rearmed Germany to take on a much more aggressive foreign policy as an equal partner to the US:
This new reality marks a stark turning Point. But I also believe – and that’s what I want to talk about today – that it marks something else: It marks a truly transatlantic moment!
… In 1989, U.S. President George Bush famously offered Germany a “partnership in leadership”. Back then, it did not materialize. The idea went too far for the situation at the time. In the early nineties, my country was so busy making reunification a reality for all its citizens. Working on anchoring a reunited Germany in the EU.
But today, in a world of a new era, this has fundamentally changed. We are seeing clearly: Now is the moment when we have to engage in partnership in leadership.
…As much as Europeans and Americans may differ in their personal history, and in their individual backgrounds: We share common values, how we live and how we want to live in the future. What defines us is freedom and democracy.
And for laughs:
Children are asking their parents now at breakfast: Mom, what exactly is a nuclear weapon? Others are saying: I really like NATO.
But here she lays out her vision for Germany:
Germany has set up a special fund of 100 billion euro to strengthen our military. We have reversed a decades-old arms export paradigm, with Germany now being one of Ukraine’s strongest military and financial backers. And we have expanded our contributions to NATO: We are leading the NATO battle group in Lithuania and are assigning a brigade with up to 800 troops which can be deployed there if required. We are helping to secure the airspace over the Baltic States with our fighter jets – and to protect Slovakia with Patriot air defense.
But we know that we cannot stop here: Our aim is to further strengthen the European pillar of NATO, because we want to have a leadership in European and US partnership. Europe matters – also security-wise, that’s what we saw after February 24th. If that premise is to hold, we have to prove it and see it through in the long term. That means building a more strategic European Union – a Union able to approach the United States at eye level: in a partnership in leadership…
China’s comments with regard to Taiwan raise serious questions. It cannot be in our interest if China is creating excessive economic dependencies in its region.
We are currently looking at this, and we are drafting, for the first time in my ministry, our own China strategy, which will be published next year, and which is very much in line with strategic thinking here in the U.S. In my view, one objective of this strategy should be to further align transatlantic positions on the challenges China poses to our rules‑based international order.
We’ll see if Baerbock gets her wish. Polls show the German public is still reluctant; a majority don’t consider Russia a military threat, oppose a military leadership role in Europe, and prefer a restrained foreign policy. It also remains to be seen how Germany will lead the European pillar of NATO as a poor, deindustrialized state.
In an interview with Black Agenda Report back before the German election Diana Johnstone had this to say about Baerbock and the Greens:
Frankly, I hope they don’t [win] because they are the most dangerous when it comes to foreign relations. … People who are really on the left in Germany consider [Baerbock] and the German Green Party extremely dangerous. They’re most likely to stumble us into a major war between world powers.
They didn’t end up winning the election, but Baerbock and the Greens seem determined to intensify that war nonetheless.