The following is the second installment of an extended report on one of the most important geopolitical developments of the 21st century: the increasingly comprehensive alliance between China and Russia and its implications for Eurasian and regional powers across the planet. To read Part 1, click here.
The joint statement issued after the visit of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Moscow in September mentions the “historical truth” about World War II. This may seem an esoteric subject, but it is anything but.
A seemingly innocuous Western campaign has been going on in recent years to play down and belittle the heroic sacrifices of the former Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany. Moscow was quick to grasp its invidious, treacherous intent.
Simply put, the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the burden of resisting the Nazi aggressors, but the facts of history are being systematically falsified in countries such as Poland and the Baltic states, often with the subtle encouragement of the US. The campaign fuels anti-Russian sentiments but even more dangerously, it encourages irredentism and militarism.
The joint statement pledges that Russia and China “will not allow anyone to revise the results of World War II, which are fixed in the UN Charter and other international documents.” The common Russian-Chinese stance touches on the gradual transition taking place in Germany and Japan in recent years to shift away from pacifism toward militaristic ideologies. This needs explaining.
Russia has been observing with growing disquiet that Germany is in another historical transition that holds disturbing parallel with the transition from Otto von Bismarck in the pre-World War I European setting and subsequently from the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany, which led to two world wars and caused horrific destruction to mankind.
To illustrate the change sweeping over the German ideology, in an interview with the weekly magazine Die Zeit in July, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (who is also the acting chairwoman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union party) stressed that it was “high time” to discuss “how Germany must position itself in the world in the future.”
She said Germany is “expected to show leadership, not only as an economic power,” but it also concerns “collective defense, it concerns international missions, it concerns a strategic view of the world, and ultimately it concerns the question of whether we want to actively shape the global order.” Plainly put, the German voice is no longer the voice of pacifism.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said “the claim of the current Russian leadership” to advocate their interests “very aggressively” must be “confronted with a clear position: We are well fortified and in case of doubt, ready to defend ourselves. We see what Russia is doing and we will not let the Russian leadership get away with it.… If you look at who is within range of Russian missiles in Europe, then it’s just the Central and Eastern European states and us.”
She promised to “work on a joint threat analysis” with European allies to develop “defense systems,” which would increasingly involve “drones, swarms of AI-controlled drones or hypersonic weapons.”
Suffice to say, 75 years after the end of World War II, German imperialism is stirring – and, once again, targeting Russia. A comprehensive militarization of society is back on the German agenda. Germany’s elites, as in the past, will stop at nothing to push forward the interests of German capital both at home and abroad.
Three features are to be noted here. As in Weimar Germany, right-wing extremist networks in Germany’s Bundeswehr (armed forces) and the security services have once again begun their operations largely unhindered by the German ruling elite. A comprehensive militarization of society is, once again, under way.
As Kramp-Karrenbauer put it, she is pleased “that we have been able to make the Bundeswehr somewhat more visible in the midst of society, with troops taking a public pledge before the German Bundestag [federal parliament] on the Bundeswehr’s birthday and the free train rides for those in uniform.”
In response to the prompter by Die Zeit that “comradeship, war, dying for one’s country, killing someone” was “practically non-existent in the public self-representation of the Bundeswehr,” Kramp-Karrenbauer promptly replied that precisely this had to change.
“We are an army. We are armed. When in doubt, soldiers must also kill,” she declared. Unlike in the past, “today, dangerous foreign missions are common. Those who join the Bundeswehr know that. That is also part of what I understand by a well-fortified democracy and a strong Europe.”
German-US tensions and the recently announced American troop withdrawal from Germany are in reality working as an excuse to accelerate Berlin’s rearmament plans.
Germany has recently massively increased its military expenditure and is planning armament projects worth multi-digit billions, although the budget still currently stands at only 1.38% of gross domestic product. In reality, this enables Germany to become militarily independent from the US.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a high-quality Swiss newspaper known for its objectivity and its detailed reporting of international affairs, wrote with great prescience recently, “At first glance, [US President Donald] Trump may have punished the country.
But in truth, the withdrawal of troops opens up an opportunity: all those Realpolitiks, who for years have been speaking out against the partly pacifist, partly anti-American majority opinion in Germany, are now at an advantage for a change.
“Does it want to retain the comforting feeling of being a ‘peace nation’? Until now, this has meant that others have ensured peace. Or will the country come out from under the shadow which spreads from its past, and secure peace for itself and its European partners?”
The German public militates against war and militarism. The horrors of the world wars and the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germany on humanity are still in collective memory. What is taking place is that the return of German militarism comes exclusively from the ruling elites with strong backing from the industrial conglomerates that have a gory history as arms manufacturers and shameless record in war profiteering.
Put differently, faced with a deep crisis of capitalism and growing international tensions, the ruling German elites are returning to the means of militarism and war to secure their wealth and power.
This article was produced in partnership by Indian Punchline and Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times. It is the second article in a series. Part 3 will focus on the perceived rise of Japanese militarism.
M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.