Germany, Ukraine and “Peace for Our Time”

On September 30, 1938, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the U.K., returned from Munich, having negotiated with Hitler to permit annexation by Germany of portions of Czechoslovakia. He said, “I have brought peace for our time.” This  was a false hope. Next, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II followed.

David Clarke says that Merkel is pressuring Poroshenko to concede territory in the east of Ukraine, eerily similar to Chamberlain’s pressure on the Czech government, who capitulated to the Munich agreement.

On 8/22, Germany approved the acquisition by  Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman of RWE Dea AG, an oil and natural gas subsidiary of RWE AG.  Berlin explains that, removing concerns about Russia, the holding company that purchased RWE, LetterOne, is an EU based company.  Fridman’s current relationship, or lack of, with Putin, would be interesting to know. It would help determine whether the  Russian invasion now under way was encouraged by the approval of the deal.

Here my detached “little man” homunculus steps in, providing remove from despair at the West’s response, which stems from a convergence of factors. Some are  some coldly economic, and some are psychological.

Unlike the U.S., the Germans are possessed of a national characteristic that drives them to run a tight economic ship. They do not mint money. Until a few years ago, Germany was the largest exporter of finished industrial goods in the world. The names you know: Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Bosch, Sennheiser,  Leica/Leitz, Zeiss (the oldest optical company in the world.) German quality is the stuff of legend.

While Germany’s parliament does not have the equivalent of U.S. conservative pressure on foreign policy, it has high labor costs, which includes a bargain with labor: everyone will participate to keep the economic machine running 24/7. Unlike the U.S., Germany does not enjoy even the illusion of continental self-sufficiency. If something out of science fiction  isolated each country behind an impenetrable barrier, the U.S. would survive longer. The atmosphere in Germany is too small to hold much oxygen. The U.S. economy can almost stop and then start again; in Germany, cessation of life might be permanent.

Although conservatives are quick to condemn the current Administration as weak on foreign policy, even a strong reaction to Putin’s Ukraine adventurism would not have been enough to catalyze the equivalent of Cold War unity against Russia. Extraordinary  economic interdependence between Europe and Russia is one obstacle. And the erstwhile “Allies” watched the U.S. mainspring run down after the Iraq invasion,  as U.S. “neoconservatives” attempted the Manhattan project equivalent of social engineering, with consequences disastrous for both doctor and patient.

The current Administration has pursued a policy to draw down U.S. activism in world affairs. They know that, historically, no empire has managed to shed its burdens quickly enough to avoid economic ruin. Some personalities are better at bluff, formerly called “brinksmanship”, than others. Hillary Clinton’s remark about China debt,  “How do you deal toughly with your banker?”, could be paraphrased by Germany as, “How do you expect us to drive into the economic ditch, when we have no empire as an excuse?”

There is still room for personal inclination. One  relatively low cost option is to supply arms to virtuous supplicants. There seems to be a bias against handing out guns, rooted in guilt over decades of proxy wars. Is the Ukraine conflict a case of “Live free or die”, or some inhuman premise of international law, such as territorial integrity?

The detached “little man” steps aside. Make your choice.



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