By Jack Wright
On 26 September 2017, the Henry Jackson Society hosted an event with Sir Paul Lever — vice president of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); formerly a member of the British Diplomatic Service, specialising in European and politico-military affairs [serving as Ambassador to Germany]— to outline the central thesis of his new book, Berlin Rules: Europe and the German Way.
Sir Lever explained that Germany would prefer to invest greater energy and resources in consolidating and preserving the European Union (EU) than risk invoking its own national history. “Germany,” he said, “is a country with no past.” Berlin remains by far the most influential power in Europe — a truth prevalent since the end of the Second World War and, definitively, in the aftermath of the eastern European democratic revolutions ; with no viable competing economic or social model, policymakers take pride in the acceleration of successful continental integration, to the extent that “Euroscepticism” within Germany is not encouraged in public discourse and debate.
The role of history could best explain the subtle alignment in the foreign policy interests of Germany and the EU, the latter being formed as a consequence of reconciliation between the major powers affected by the devastation of two world wars; but, the fear of recrudescent extremism caused Germany to revoke its entire historical past. Sir Lever insisted this phenomenon makes sense of the ease with which policymakers disapprove of nationalism elsewhere; Germans would “squirm” at the acknowledgment of their own regional hegemony.
Sir Lever concluded by predicting the state of Europe in two or three decades. Summarily:
- German foreign policy will primarily revolve around the preservation of the EU, sustaining the bloc in as orderly a manner as possible;
- Some new states may join the bloc, but no other powers will leave; the EU will have no major new powers, as Germany seeks to protect the integrity of the Single Market;
- Although “Brexit” has not predominated thinking within Berlin (barely factoring in the recent parliamentary election), Germany — the ultimate status quo power — would prefer London to withdraw “cordially” from the Union; guided by pragmatism, Berlin will use “adversarial diplomacy” against London in the coming months; the two powers aft will have less to discuss; British policymakers should understand that Germany is a partner, not a friend;
- EU foreign policy will face less ideological resistance as Britain withdraws; Germany will confront Russia via traditional bilateral diplomacy (evident by the formulation of the Minsk Agreements following the invasion of Ukraine); nevertheless, NATO will remain the bedrock of continental security.