Quo Vadis Deutschland? (Part I – Politics and Economy)
This is the first part of a series touching on the various factors affecting the current state of affairs in Germany.
As we all know, Afghanistan is under the rule of the Taleban, and almost everything about them has been said, shown and written. By now, there's nothing left to rack one's brains over or to leave one wondering whether one should laugh or cry.
Germany is not governed by the Taleban. But the circumstances there are such that one can only rack one's brains over them and cry or laugh. Yes, Germany... which, until the Covid saga, was considered the European export champion, had the strongest economy in Europe and saw itself at the helm of the EU, is now standing on the edge of an economic, cultural and social precipice.
The state of affairs in Germany (as in the rest of the EU) is messy and convoluted. Changes and events are unfolding thick and fast. Not a day goes by without some new, often unpleasant surprise. A spectre is haunting Europe. The spectre of Fear. An all-encompassing, diffuse fear. A Fear of everything and anything... even of speaking out about this Fear. On the one hand, it is being stoked by politics and the media; on the other hand, its origins are being deflected, suppressed and repressed by large parts of the population or pinned on scapegoats. (More on this will follow.)
According to a few critical economic and financial experts, journalists and committed citizens, who focus daily on what is happening in and around Germany and who publish their findings and concerns mostly in alternative media, Germany is being threatened with deindustrialisation and is in the process of being downgraded to a "third-world country". Even the Green Party mayor of Tübingen Boris Palmer fears that "Germany is truly on the precipice of deindustrialisation", as he stated in a talk show two weeks ago. Debates on this issue are heating up increasingly in alternative media and recently even in mainstream media, leading the government to crack down on their critics with unprecedented harsh rhetoric and, in some cases, tough actions.
From the point of view of the government and mainstream media, these circumstances can all be blamed on "Putin" (as in the case of Covid, China was of course to blame): "He attacked Ukraine and is waging a brutal war against civilians." ... Why? "Because he is a bloodthirsty, imperialist, colonialist dictator who hates democracy."
The allocation of blame was soon extended to all Russians. Russians, who worked in Germany, in so far as they had an important position in the cultural sector or in society, were asked to distance themselves from Putin and "his state". Those who refused to do so were sanctioned. Music conductor Valery Gergiev was promptly dismissed from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Performances by popular opera singer Anna Netrebko were cancelled in Baden-Württemberg and Stuttgart. Only after she condemned the war was she able to perform in Cologne (she was then duly dropped from the repertoire in Moscow).
In addition to the economic sanctions imposed by the West, Russians were excluded from sundry cultural events such as music concerts and film festivals. A malicious smear campaign, strongly reminiscent of the Nazi era, was unleashed against Russia and President Putin by German politicians and German mainstream media. Particularly, Green Party politicians, currently in government in a coalition with the SPD and the FDP, are engaging in the campaign with a special fervour.
Green Party Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a few headlines when she stated in a public panel debate [video: 1:59]: "... if I give the promise to people in Ukraine 'we stand with you as long as you need us', then I want to deliver – no matter what my German voters think – but I want to deliver to the people of Ukraine and (…) I have to be clear that this holds on as long as Ukraine needs me…". Her critics remarked that her statements only demonstrated her "utter lack of brains".
Formerly, Germany obtained 65% (according to statistics in 2020) of its gas from Russia, via the Nord Stream1 gas pipeline. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was about to go into operation, was suddenly shut down by the coalition government – on the orders of the US. After the start of the war in Ukraine, in response to the sanctions imposed on them by the US and that "community of western values" (the EU), Russia began to reduce gas supplies to Germany and then stopped them altogether. Since then, the German government has been frantically searching for alternative suppliers. The gas they have in reserve will only last for a short time. A lack or even shortages of gas will have fatal consequences for all sectors of the economy and, in turn, devastate the lives of the population. Electricity and fertiliser production and many other commodity productions are dependent on gas.
Expectations are that inflation will reach 8% this year and the economy will plummet, with no relief in sight. Energy costs and prices for food and other necessary goods and services continue to rise daily. By now, a total collapse seems unavoidable.
Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck (of the Green Party) predicts bleak times for Germany and urges the population to adopt rigorous austerity measures: they should shower less, wear thick jumpers during the coming cold Central European winter instead of heating their homes; the display windows of shops should no longer be lit, urban advertising panels and billboards should cease to be illuminated (in itself not a bad idea!), even traffic lights in some places should be deactivated, etc. ...
In a recent talk show [19:17], when the host asked if his policies wouldn't set off a wave of insolvencies in the course of the energy crisis, Habeck stammered: "No, there won't be any insolvencies, but it may be that some businesses will first have to stop producing (...) but they will not become insolvent automatically, but they will perhaps have to stop selling. (...) It can be that some businesses will have to close down." (A more artful and less bungling politician might have conveyed the same thing in a less cringe-worthy manner.) Soon afterward both he and the government were met with a deluge of derision and condemnation across the country. Left-party politician Sahra Wagenknecht said in one of her video reports: "We obviously have one of the stupidest governments in all of Europe."
Not a day goes by without some German politician ranting away against Putin/Russia. Of course, there are a few exceptions – mainly to be found amongst the left-wing and older conservative politicians, most of whom are no longer active, such as Oskar Lafontaine (ex SPD), Willy Wimmer (CDU), Albrecht Müller (ex SPD), just to name a few. In the Left Party – apart from a few individuals like Sahra Wagenknecht, one of the most prominent politicians in Germany, who is constantly bullied and hated even in her own party –nothing remains of any "left-wing principles". Policies in Germany, especially with regard to foreign affairs, are manufactured in transatlantic centres across the "pond". The German government is only the executor of these decisions. The Greens are the undeniable proof of this... as corroborated by Annalena Baerbock, Germany's "Green" Foreign Minister: "Today, when our security and freedom are threatened in a way not experienced for decades, it is again our task to close the transatlantic ranks. We must seize this transatlantic moment to build a stronger, irreversible transatlantic partnership for the 21st century."
This security and freedom, which are oh-so-terribly threatened, are now being defended in Ukraine shoulder-to-shoulder with Nazis, just as it was once oh-so-successfully defended in the Hindu Kush shoulder-to-shoulder with drug kingpins and warlords.*
*[A statement made by former German Defence Minister Peter Struck on 11th March 2004, was never to be forgotten: "The security of the Federal Republic of Germany is being defended in the Hindu Kush ".]