All Roads Lead to Berlin
The specter of unfettered German power is once again haunting Europe as Berlin has become the pivot point for a continent in financial flux. Where is Germany’s path destined to end?
by Neal Hogberg
“Future historians will see the years between 2014 and 2017 as the period when Germany belatedly emerged from its post-war shell to become one of the leaders of the West” (Andreas Kluth, “Power v Piffle,” The Economist, Nov. 20, 2014).
Having recently observed the quarter-century remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall and just ahead of the October 2015 silver anniversary of reunification, Germany—once again the geographic, strategic and economic center of Europe—appears ready to take charge.
As the viability of the 28-nation European Union is being questioned due to numerous, daunting challenges—from a protracted financial crisis, Islamic extremism and growing nationalism to euro-skepticism, Russian aggression and threats by some members to withdraw from the union—Germany has become the pivotal player in Europe.
A European Germany or a German Europe?
At the end of World War II, much of Germany lay in ruins. It was on the frontlines of the Cold War, divided between the two superpowers. The U.S. Marshall Plan jump-started the rebuilding of the western part. Within Europe, the French and British sought to bind this free democratic part into a united Europe to prevent it from becoming too dominant.
Through adaptability, meticulous efficiency and a culture of thrift, West Germany rapidly became the envy of the world over the next 20 years, with many lauding its Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle.”
Still, some difficult times would follow. Occasional periods of economic stagnation, and a $2 trillion bill for reunification with the formerly communist East Germany, led Newsweek, as recently as 2002, to dub Germany “the sick man of Europe.”
Then a second Wirtschaftswunder occurred from 2005 onwards, as Germany reaped exponential growth as the primary beneficiary of European economic unity and a single currency. Unique amid the bruised and beaten economies of the eurozone, Germany has emerged relatively unscarred from the continent’s lingering financial crisis.
At the end of the Cold War, German Defense Minister Volker Rühe declared that Germany was now “encircled by friends,” rather than potential military aggressors. As the need for protection by the U.S. military has decreased, Germany’s relationship with America, always a bit tenuous, has waned due to phone-tapping revelations, use of drones and Washington’s preference to “lead from behind.”
“Many Germans,” according to Hans Kundnani, author of The Paradox of German Power, “now say they no longer share values with the United States, and some say that they never did” (“Leaving the West Behind,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2015).
In a historical irony, Germany has succeeded through economic strength, political clout and diplomatic prowess where Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler failed militarily—turning an entire continent into a greater German empire. Despite resentment, Germany is now the undisputed master of Europe without the loss of a single German soldier.
New correlation of forces
Frightened by its own historical shadows, Germany has been a “reluctant hegemon,” preferring to think of itself as an economic and moral model for the world, like a large Sweden, rather than a Teutonic tiger.
But as the German export-dependent juggernaut has continued despite the financial floundering of reckless debtor neighbors, a new national pride has emerged. “This new attitude,” writes sociologist Ulrich Beck in his book German Europe, “could be summed up in the words: We are not the masters of Europe, but we are its schoolmasters” (2014, p. 56).
In the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, former Italian premier and ex-president of the European Commission Romano Prodi worried that “France is ever more disoriented and Britain is losing power by the day in Brussels after its decision to hold a referendum on EU membership.” The result is that “Germany is exercising an almost solitary power.”
The new presidents of the European Commission and the Council of Europe, he added, “are men who rotate around Germany’s orbit, and above all there is a very strong [German] presence among the directors, heads of cabinet and their deputies. The bureaucracy is adapting to the new correlation of forces.”
“Smaller states,” writes economic editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “no longer form clusters of alliances around a three-legged diplomatic edifice made up of Germany, France, and Britain. They are instead scrambling to adapt to a new European order where only one state now counts” (“Britain’s EU Retreat Means German Hegemony Warns Prodi,” The Telegraph, Nov. 24, 2014).
Power within Europe has shifted so sharply to Berlin that, as noted in The Economist, “in Beijing or Washington, DC, the question: ‘Where is Europe going?’ has become synonymous with: ‘What do the Germans want?’” (“Europe’s Reluctant Hegemon,” June 15, 2013).
During the Cold War, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger mockingly quipped: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” The answer is much more obvious today. When there is a problem between Europe and the United States, President Barack Obama telephones German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Illustratively, rather than speaking with each other during the recent Crimean crises, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin used Chancellor Merkel as the go-between. Last year alone, Putin was reported to have spent over 110 hours on the phone with the chancellor.
The most powerful woman in the world
Widely considered the world’s most powerful woman, Angela Merkel has been nicknamed “Merkiavelli” after the Italian Renaissance strategist Niccolòlo Machiavelli, whose philosophy on the use of political power stressed that crises can be invitations to accumulate greater power.
Once dismissed by rivals as colorless for her unthreatening air of ordinariness and derogatively called “Mutti,” or Mommy, she is now respected for her fingertip feel of public opinion. In turn, Germans support her overwhelmingly in polls that hover around 75 percent approval.
Throughout the rest of Europe, Merkel is viewed less maternally. She is feared for her “ruthless and instrumental use of people to achieve her political ends.” She “has EU leaders in thrall while her genuine wit and charm have them competing for her favour” (Bruno Waterfield, “Why Queen Angela Makes Europe Dance to Merkel’s Tune,” The Telegraph, July 16, 2014).
The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Merkel was raised in East Germany and became a research chemist. Quiet, analytical and highly serious, this future chancellor of a united Germany personally witnessed the oppression of Soviet-sponsored communism and remains deeply distrustful of Russia.
Described by political correspondents as having a “perfect instinct for power,” and using unpretentiousness as a weapon, Merkel has historically outmaneuvered a series of male political heavyweights throughout the continent.
Early in her political career, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl presented her as “mein Mäadchen”—his girl—to foreign dignitaries. But later, after she cunningly played the key role in his downfall, Kohl confessed that championing the young Merkel had been the biggest blunder of his life. “I brought my killer,” Kohl admitted. “I put the snake on my arm” (George Packer, “The Quiet German,” The New Yorker, Dec. 1, 2014).
Ulrich Beck states the feelings of much of Europe when he notes, “Only one fate is worse than being overwhelmed by German money, and that is not being overwhelmed by German money” (German Europe, p. 50).
Diminishing European prosperity paired with German-domination has incensed much of Southern Europe. Furious Greeks and unemployed Spaniards see austerity measures as German imperialism. The impoverished “Club Med” countries, because of their terrible indebtedness, have little option other than to comply with the imposition of unpalatable austerity edicts from Berlin or be faced with economic doomsday.
As Europe’s paymaster, Germany begrudgingly came to the rescue of weaker economic neighbors, but it did so with rigid terms, leading to a mounting chorus of disapproval. One newly elected parliamentarian in Greece called Germany’s stipulations “fiscal waterboarding.”
Another Greek party leader, Panos Kammenos, went ever further, proclaiming, “We will never drop to our knees to beg from Angela Merkel” and calling his country an occupied land under the dictatorship of a Fourth Reich (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “Greek Coalition Braces for Debt Showdown as Germany Rattles Sabre,” The Telegraph, Jan. 26, 2015).
Where will Germany’s dominance lead Europe?
“We are now living through Europe’s test,” writes George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor. “As all human institutions do, the European Union is going through a time of intense problems, mostly economic for the moment. The European Union was founded for ‘peace and prosperity.’ If prosperity disappears, or disappears in some nations, what happens next to peace?” (“The European Union, Nationalism and the Crisis of Europe,” Jan. 20, 2015).
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that a single European currency could not accommodate industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries like Greece because the euro would “devastate their inefficient economies.” Thatcher, understanding the enormous power and potential of the German people, soberly stated that Germany was still “a destabilising, rather than a stabilising, force in Europe” (Andrew Roberts,
“Was Margaret Thatcher Right to Fear a United Germany?” The Telegraph, Sept. 13, 2009).
French historian Emmanuel Todd may have sounded the loudest alarm, saying, “Unknowingly, the Germans are on their way to again take their role as bringers of calamity for the other European peoples, and later for themselves” (quoted by George Packer in “The Quiet German,” The New Yorker, Dec. 1, 2014).
Bible prophecy comes alive
The Bible foretold that, just before the return of Jesus Christ, a powerful bloc of nations, described as “the beast,” will coalesce and impose a final revival of the ancient Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-8; 17:8-18; Daniel 2:37-45; 7:15-27).
Through the overpowering influence of a dynamic leader, this group of nations will for a short time be “of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:13).
This pan-European power is also described as comprised of iron and clay (Daniel 2:40-43), symbolizing both awesome strength and confounding fragility that don’t mix well.
God prophesied punishment and economic collapse for the English-speaking nations as a result of disobedience to God’s law (see our articles “Why Is God Angry With America?” and “Jacob’s Trouble: What Is It?”).
Just as with ancient Israel, which was taken into national captivity in the late 700s B.C., the modern descendants of ancient Israel will also be punished for incorrigible wickedness and rejection of their Creator.
Europe’s future appears to be stamped “Made in Germany,” but the unintended consequence and real significance of Germany’s mushrooming rise to power have devastating implications for the entire world. The Bible warns that without God’s eventual intervention, these end-time events would lead to human extinction (Matthew 24:21-22).
Perceptive observers recognize that significant geopolitical power is rapidly growing in and around Germany, yet few grasp the implications. Jesus Christ tells us in Luke 21:36 to “watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The rise of Germany has prophetic significance. As we watch end-time events unfold, it should motivate each of us to examine our spiritual condition in the light of God’s Word and should lead us to repentance.