How German Foreign Minister’s Cancelled Trip Due to Plane Problems Is Symbolic of Country’s Decline 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was forced last week to cancel her one-week trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji after the plane had problems with one of its landing flaps.

After a stopover to refuel in Abu Dhabi on Monday, the flight was forced to dump fuel and turn around. After repairs, the crew thought the problem was fixed, but a second attempt to resume the trip on Tuesday ran into the same issue, and Baerbock returned to Berlin on an Emirates flight.

It was the latest in a series of plane problems for the declining industrial power. As Politico EU describes:

Cracked windows, faulty radios and cables chewed by rats — the German government’s track record of sending its top officials on diplomatic trips by plane is, at best, patchy.

The article describes several recent incidents, including:

  • The state secretary at the defense ministry was unable to return home from Niger in June on a plane because of a windshield with cracks, likely due to heat. The delegation had to fly home on a commercial flight.
  • The hydraulics of a plane breaking in 2019 in Mali. The German Air Force had to be dispatched to retrieve the former foreign minister.
  • A wheel exploded prior to takeoff on a plane carrying Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in 2019.
  • Now-chancellor Olaf Scholz was forced in 2018 to fly commercial back from Indonesia after rats chewed some of his plane’s cables.
  • And more.

The European Conservative thought Baerbock’s plane issues were symbolic for her Green Party’s environmental policies:

Instead of ending up in Fiji to discuss environmentalism, the German foreign minister spent 50 hours getting from Berlin to Berlin, dumping 160 tons of jet fuel into the atmosphere in the meantime.

The European Conservative doesn’t mention the current government giving up Russian gas and shutting down its nuclear plants in order to burn more coal and import more LNG, but that’s certainly a contender too, and there are plenty of them. Here are a few.

The Recent U-turn on the Zeitenwende.

That would be German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s big plan to boost German military spending. From Politico:

The German government on Wednesday stepped back at the last minute from making a legal commitment to meeting NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense on an annual basis, according to Reuters and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

A government official told the news agency that a clause pledging to meet the target was deleted at short notice from Finance Minister Christian Lindner’s draft of a new budget financing law, just before the Cabinet passed it to the parliament.

Instead, the government pledges to meet the 2 percent target on average over a five-year period, as already set out in the recently published National Security Strategy.

That’s certainly no surprise considering the economy is taking on so much water due to the severing of energy links to cheap Russian gas. So the problem with Baerbock’s plane (and all the others) could also be representative of option number two.

 Deindustrialization Due to Energy Policy

For some of the latest issues on that front, we can turn to OilPrice:

Winter is once again on the way, as far as it may seem in August. This means there’s a spike in demand for LNG on the horizon. And a spike in demand means a spike in prices, inevitably.

“The crisis is not over yet,” the chief executive of E.ON, one of Germany’s biggest utilities, said earlier this month. “We must continue to work on the issue of austerity. This is the best way to ensure affordability for customers and also to achieve competitiveness of our society and our economy.”

If the CEO of E.ON is talking about austerity—not exactly a popular idea among regular electricity consumers—then the situation must be serious. It suggests there is no great chance of abundant LNG supply and weak competition from Asia that would make the commodity cheaper. That leaves limiting demand as the only choice.

Indeed, austerity is already in place. The exorbitant prices last year made it a natural choice to curb consumption. Indeed, Reuters reported last month that since last year, Europe’s gas consumption has fallen by between 10% and 15% compared to the previous decade. The decline is particularly marked among industrial consumers.

Consumption remained lower even as gas prices calmed down. That’s no wonder since even calmer prices have been 35% higher this year than the average for 2018 to 2021. These higher prices have hit especially hard industries that make the backbone of the EU’s manufacturing sector, including steel and cement making, fertilizers, and petrochemicals.

Berlin also just had to pony up 10 billion euros in order to get Intel to commit to a chip-making facility in the country. That’s roughly a third of the total cost of the operation. Berlin followed that up with nearly seven billion euros for an 11-billion-euro TSMC plant. One reason cited by the companies on why they needed so much money in order to locate there is the high cost of construction and energy.

Even The Economist is baffled at the German decision making:

Every country has bumbling officialdom. But Germany’s has an exceptional fondness for sabotaging itself. The cost of the battle between autobahns and windmills, for example, is not just economic but strategic. Last year’s abrupt halting of Russian fuel imports sent the country scrambling for power, preferably local and renewable. Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, says Germany needs to build three or four new wind turbines daily to reach its emissions-reduction targets. The current rate is just over one per day.

Other examples of German own goals abound. The government’s decision, in the midst of the energy crisis, to mothball its last three nuclear power plants has benefited neither the country’s energy consumers nor its citizens’ health, as dirty coal plants had to be fired up temporarily to meet demand. Local governments, meanwhile, have often held up permits for solar and wind installations, or the building of transmission lines to distribute power between the country’s windier north and sunnier south.

Germany’s shutting down its last nuclear plants to burn more coal and import more LNG is becoming increasingly unpopular among the general population – except of course the Greens:

How about on the politics front?

Symbolism Option Three: The Nosediving Prospects of the Parties That Currently Make Up the Government’s Ruling Traffic Light Coalition

The Greens have sunk to 14 percent. The center-left Social Democrats and neoliberal Free Democrats – the other two parties in the traffic light coalition – have fallen to 18 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the anti-EU Alternative for Germany (Afd) continues to rise in the polls – so much so that the idea to ban the party is again being floated. Afd is now up to 21 percent, which is second only to the centre-right Christian democratic political alliance at 26 percent.

Scrutiny of Afd continues to increase. According to Deutsche Welle, On Friday, a court in Munich convicted a politician from the party for comparing the Covid19 vaccination campaign to “Nazi-era anti-Jewish pogroms.” Last year, German courts ruled that the Afd could be surveilled by the country’s intelligence agency in order to “monitor extremism.” It’s safe to assume that the German Blob will only continue to turn up the heat on the party – largely because of positions like the following, as reported by  Deutsche Welle:

The AfD has positioned itself in opposition to the German government’s critical policy toward China. Berlin’s China Strategy, published in mid-July, for example, was denounced by Bystron, the AfD’s foreign policy spokesperson, as the “attempt to implement green-woke ideology and US geopolitical interests under the guise of a strategy for German foreign policy.”

The description of China in the strategy as a rival — as well as a partner and competitor — was for Bystron “the consequence of the US’ confrontational course toward China. This confrontation and division are not in the interests of Germany as an export nation,” he said.

For political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder from the University of Kassel, the AfD’s foreign policy positions demonstrate an attempt to set itself apart from the other German political parties. Geopolitically, said Schroeder, the AfD sees the traditional Western ties with the United States, which it regards as hegemonic, as having past their use-by date.

“The AfD considers Washington to be more part of the problem than part of the solution to the challenges facing Germany,” he told DW. “That’s because the AfD considers the US an imperial actor whose vested interests cannot be reconciled with those of Germany.”

Germany acting in its own self interest? It would seem those days have passed, which brings us to another aspect of the plane-trouble symbolism.

The Government’s Foreign Policy Is in Disarray

Let’s take just the two examples of India and China. Beijing was originally treated as an afterthought in the Scholz government’s aforementioned Zeitenwende. Scholz’s party seemingly had no interest in shooting Germany in the foot a second time following the “de-risking” from Russia. But dragged along by the Greens, pressure from the US and other anti-China forces across Europe, Berlin has started down such a path with its largest trading partner.

This has been an abrupt detour or permanent change in course from the decades-long 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.

As for relations with India, the two countries have long been trying to finalize a trade deal, but German politicians can’t seem to get out of their own way. German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck went off on a three-day visit to India last month, and on the very first day he began criticizing New Delhi for neither condemning “Russia’s war in Ukraine” nor cutting ties with Moscow.

And there’s the fact that Berlin seems uninterested in getting to the bottom of just who blew up those Nord Stream pipelines. Flying around in damaged planes and getting stranded seems awfully symbolic of continuing to march lockstep with “allies” that sabotage your economy.

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  1. SpatialFix

    Do ordinary Germans discuss how the US/Ukraine screwed over their country by sabotaging Nord Stream? Or do they still cling to the fiction that it was Russia?

    How do the nationalists feel about being done in by their ‘ally’? None too pleased, I would have thought…

    1. ZenBean

      Do ordinary Germans discuss how the US/Ukraine screwed over their country by sabotaging Nord Stream?

      There is a significant amount of sublimal anger about this. Support for this war is strongest within culturally liberal, more affluent urbanites. But even those people tend to avoid discussing the affair (because it’s a little bit to obvious). If they talk about it, it’s along the line “US/Ukr didn’t do it, but they were justified to do it”

      How do the nationalists feel about being done in by their ‘ally’?

      Nationalists are furious. But there aren’t that many nationalists in Germany. Mainstream conservatives, centrists and liberal-progressives (Greens and rump Linkspartei) are fully in favor of continued submission to Washington. Even parts of the AfD think this way. It remains to be seen wether nationalism will re-enter Germany’s political scene.

      1. Colonel Mustard

        The fanatical devotion to implementing the Morgenthau and Kalergi schemes for complete national erasure is really extrorinary to behold. Social engineers see this and UK and assume it can be done in the US also

  2. ZenBean

    The Greens have sunk to 14 percent.

    Sunk to 14 percent from what? In 2021, not quite 15 percent of Germany’s electorate voted for the Greens. It’s social base (exerting a disproportional amount of influence beyond its numbers) is clearly not disappointed. According to them, everything is fine.

    1. Louis Fyne

      The Greens are a good example of “tyranny of the minority” (see also the original US revolutionary “founding fathers”)

      All it takes is a focused minority with specific policy aims and given the quirks of institutional processes (whether national elections, local zoning, etc.), they can get what they want.

    2. JonnyJames

      Like in other so-called democracies, the Greens, the Socialists (SPD) and other former left-leaning parties are now right-wing authoritarians. On top of that, Germany is a subservient vassal of the empire, they are still occupied by the US military. One could argue that the public has very little influence on foreign policy decisions, or even domestic policy.

      1. Christophe Douté

        Rücktritt durch Dummheit … und/oder Korruption. The so-called Greens are a shining (so to speak) of that.

  3. John R Moffett

    German voters will probably usher in a new age of political conservatism as they reject the Greens war-mongering, only to find out that the conservatives don’t have anything to offer them either. The west in general is stuck between fake liberals and ultra-conservatives that all want the same thing, wealth accumulation for themselves. And war makes for very nice profits indeed.

  4. Mirko

    One thing I can write with certainty is that the German government’s aircraft are very well maintained. Therefore, there must be other reasons that the flight of Mrs. Baerbock was canceled. I can well imagine, for security reasons. If, for example, the BKA or the MAD can not give security guarantees, which by request of the countries to be overflown, the flight is canceled. Also across the Pacific are not only fishing boats.

    1. nwwoods

      One thing I can write with certainty is that the above article appears to provide ample evidence to the contrary.

  5. Stephen

    “Baerbock returned to Berlin on an Emirates flight.” Not even a Lufthansa one. Maybe she prefers the First Class service on Emirates with showers and so forth in the A380s.

    Fascinating that AfD are characterized as xenophobic but they eschew Sinophobia and see US hegemony as past its sell by date. They sound anti imperialist when it comes to foreign policy. Although I guess their stance is quite traditional: serve Germany’s interests not those of America’s Beltway. I cannot speak for their domestic policy though.

    1. ali

      They don’t hate foreigners as long as they stay in their place. For me, that’s xenophobic enough. And a large part of them are real Nazis.

      1. Stephen

        Yep, and the mainstream seems to seek war. Not much of a choice on offer. Germany sounds like most other western countries in that respect.

      2. Giandavide

        it’s better than hate foreigner that stay in their places and go to war with them, as commercial wars almost always evolve in conventional wars. it’s stupid to think that history repeats the same: nazies are back, but they changed face, cause being tied with a past reality would make them marginal and powerless

      3. digi_owl

        And i suspect once you poke at their financials, you will find they are quite happy to employ the very same people they officially hate. As long as they can pay illegally low…

  6. The Rev Kev

    I actually think that I might know what is going on with this one. In Germany, the German Air Force has what they call the Executive Transport Wing who, among other duties, gets to fly all those big wigs around the world. I am of course assuming that it is planes from this unit that are experiencing all those problems-

    It has not escaped my notice that the person who was running the Ministry of Defence from 2013 through to the end of 2019 – of which the Executive Transport Wing is a part of – was none other than Ursula von der Leyen and who was reputed to have made an absolute dog’s breakfast of that job. So perhaps under her reign she was cutting the budget back on maintenance for the Executive Transport Wing as well?

      1. divadab

        Such a fine woman, educated, high achieving, well-spoken, with authority, and yet so incompetent on every level. She should be occupying a purely ceremonial position, where she can do no harm… it is, she is presiding over the devastation of the EU as a credible institution.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Reportedly she stands a good chance of being the next NATO Secretary General. Failing up as usual.

          1. divadab

            Well that is a ceremonial position – NATO policy is set in DC and the Secretary-General mouths the words written for him by the evil empire’s controllers.

            1. John

              Why must Ursula have any position at all? This “failing upward” trope, meme, seems asinine to me. Put her out to pasture if she is, as seems to be universally acknowledged, incompetent.

          2. Richard Whitney

            When Stoltenberg’s replacement was being considered, she came to Washington for an interview. She left without any announcement, then Stoltenbergg was re-upped.

        2. jeff

          Define high achieving, because the rest of the description you gave is the opposite of high achieving.

  7. divadab

    Hard to believe, looking at the utter incompetents and weaklings in its government, that Germany once was so powerful that it took a coalition of the USA, USSR, and the British empire to defeat it.

    And doesn’t it seem to you that much of the EU leadership was kicked upstairs after failing utterly? Van der Lyen, Borell, eg. These people are jokes.

    1. juno mas

      Sequence and proportion matter when discussing WWII. It was the USSR manpower that defeated Germany, with the US providing mostly machines on the southeastern flank to distract Hitler’s B-team. The British were gallant but not consequential.

      The USA did do major destruction in the Pacific. “Victory at Sea” was not staged.

      1. Revenant

        The Royal Navy restricted Berlin to being a land power, not a sea power, and Britain prevented German annexation of Middle Eastern oil. Britain and her dominions also provided the southern and western limits of Japanese expansion (India, Australia, NZ) and put a great many dominion troops in uniform….

        1. Giandavide

          everybody knows that, and ww1 and 2 were caused by that selfish decision of britons to decide other countries policies. they invaded 90% of the countries present in history, it seems it was an uncurable bad attitude, so the empire died cause it cannot be cured. then there was the stupid pro hitler policy of chamberlain. and the british support to hitler mussolini and franco during the spanish war? what a clever and humnitarian move! the subjects that inspired guernica of picasso surely will be grateful to the briton generosity

    1. JonnyJames

      Garden full of toxic weeds, poison oak/ivy and stinging nettles.

      How very “green” flying around in poorly-maintained airplanes, dumping raw fuel.

  8. polar donkey

    Germany decided to put Colonel Klink and Sgt Schultz in charge, but Hogan is really running the show.

    1. JonnyJames

      Lol, The look on Schulz and Klink’s faces when they are threatened with a transfer straight to the Russian Front

      (I’m old enough to remember that show)

    2. hk

      Except this Hogan (Biden) is both insane and incompetent. (And Schulz was, in fact, both highly competent and an enemy of the Nazi regime pretending incompetence–there were enough clues of these throughout the show–including that one episode when he got placed in charge.)

  9. Robert

    I suppose the trick is to pick the wars you fight and the way to fight them. Alternatively, you can stick to and enforce the International Treaties you’ve signed, cos itz le onist fing to doo as eny boy scowt kan sey.

  10. Feral Finster

    Nobody in the German political class cares. And should the AfD or any other political force not in thrall to Washington start to become a threat they’ll be promptly banned.

    To “protect democracy”, see.

  11. Piquet

    Oilprice’s article is somewhat misleading about LNG and its place in the energy mix. For example,

    “…even calmer prices have been 35% higher this year than the average for 2018 to 2021…”

    is an incorect statement. The price of natural gas in Europe (Dutch TTF) this year has ranged from 26 to 53 Euro/MWh, which is many times higher than the average price in 2018-2021 (about 10 Euro/MWh). And the price is going up quickly as we approach the buying season for this winter.

    LNG use as a primary source of energy guarantees destruction of industry in any country which makes that transition due to its non-competitiveness.

    For a detailed look at Natural Gas in Europe, see Natural Gas: Western Europe’s Demise?

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