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March 23, 2023

Germany, Europe and the Asian ‘pivot’

China’s exponential growth in the last thirty years was crowned in 2011 with the performance of becoming the world number two as volume, right after the USA, unseating Japan. The performance as such speaks volumes, as such a fast economic development, climbing up the global economic ladder at exponential pace, threatening to soon breath down the neck of the American leader is unprecedented in history. As it is known, in a historical perspective, such changes of global economic hierarchy are almost instantaneously reflected by changes of strategies at an international level, generating systemic shifts. It is now very often said that Asia, where China’s vertiginous rise is complemented by the high rhythms of the Asian ‘tigers’ – South Korea, Vietnam and so forth – is about to become the ‘centre’ of the global system, therefore the principal region on the globe, one that will determine the history of the 21st century.

Europe’s systemic centrality, at a wider scale of the euro-Atlantic space, is already believed to be in the past. The big global players are ‘moving’ to Asia, in other words are beginning to focus on developments on that continent in order to be sure to stay in the systemic race. The USA ‘pivot’ to Asia, declared by President B. Obama earlier this year, reflects such thinking, hence the fears expressed including during this current presidential election campaign in the US, as a strategic slide to the Asian continent leaves behind allies in the East of Europe. Beside these fears, a doubt has been recently voiced on the fact that the US, proceeding to such a large-scale change of strategic orientation, entailing vast costs, would be able to sustain them, given the current state of its economy. Especially since – The Times magazine was stating recently – ‘America’s allies, as well as, our potential rivals for influence and power in Asia, Europe and Latin America, are all at the mercy of the same debt bubble that we are’, suggesting the possibility that the US alone may apply a ‘containment’ on China.  Or , in the view of the author, that would be a wrong decision to make: ‘America’s weakened economic condition suggests this is no time for leaders in Washington, D.C., to make uninformed decisions regarding defence spending or the use of force in a dispute with a major power like China.’Not only is the US ‘moving’ to Asia, but Russia, in its turn, operates the same big size geopolitical move. Recent developments show that Moscow is considering being an active and irreplaceable participant in the future ‘great game’ in Asia. Not only do prestigious Russian strategists consider even moving the capital to Vladivostok, but Kremlin is already working on a Euro-Asian Union construction and enhancing funds for the development of the Far East. A report prepared by a group of prominent Russian experts, published mid-year, ‘set a goal of reshaping of the Russian geopolitical discourse and changing the Eurocentric model of Russia’s foreign and economic policy to a more balanced approach that will include Asia and Asian issues. They argue that the rise of China and growing importance of the Asian Pacific region can harbour serious challenges to national interests if Russia do not adjust its vector of development.’Under such conditions, where is Europe headed? Especially with the European Union having been struggling with the extended crisis since 2008, one that wastes the continent’s financial resources and also has quite unexpected political consequences. Quite a few anticipate these days the collapse of the euro and, as a consequence, the dismembering of the EU, followed by a return of the Old Continent to its old historic evolution paradigm, periodically dotted with devastating wars. Europe’s evolution in the next decades is not only a concern for the big European capitals, but also for the capitals of neighbouring colossi. The US are worried that a Europe relapsing into its own past could become a fatal hazard to the trans-Atlantic link and put the entire global American strategy on the line, pointlessly using up resources needed elsewhere. Such eventuality would put the West in an uncomfortable position with respect to the ‘Rest’. While trusting a balanced distribution of its own resources for engaging effectively in the competition with Asia, Russia’s equally interested in what happens to Europe. Moscow’s own Asian ‘pivot’ needs a ‘quiet’ Europe that should not create any problems. Apart from these huge neighbours, China is another global actor that is not indifferent to the fate of Europe, one that has not hesitated to assist with a quick solution for the sovereign debt crisis and keeping European unity. Beijing does not need to be alone in a competition with the system colossi in the ‘Asian century’, so it’s feverishly looking for allies, perhaps even more determinately than it is looking for resources to feed its insatiable economic engine. The big European powers are in no way running adrift as a mere reading of European financial and economic crisis development may suggest. Showing ‘flexibility and pragmatism’ German finance minister deems necessary in a time like this, Germany is making decisive and steady headway in the direction of a consolidated political union, where strengthening the single currency by means of banking union and introducing controls on national budgets for better economic discipline necessary for avoiding future crises are stapes in a long-term strategy. At the end of such strategy Berlin sees a strong European Union, capable of playing its global role and participating in the competition race of the 21st century under conditions of efficiency. Under the German leadership, the European Union is shaping up a distinct profile for itself in global politics and Berlin’s decisions on Libya, last year, and on Syria, this year, point at something that will definitely have to be taken into account in the future: by that, Germany is positioning itself according to its own interests, however not closer to Russia or BRIC, but in a place it sees adequate for making Europe singular. As an US expert was recently assessing the situation in an analysis meaningfully called ‘All Roads Lead to Berlin’, ‘Merkel is attempting to create a Europe in Germany’s image, not America’s ‘. And that will take ‘special relations’ with China, assertiveness to Russia and visibility from the USA.Germany is not only able to provide a benign leadership in Europe’s irreversible way to its global actor posture. As a penetrating analysis published by the Financial Times was pointing out a few weeks ago, it ‘has to lead or leave’, meaning that Berlin has the euro crisis to deal with before it can start the natural process of global EU action or should leave the euro zone itself in order not to turn into a hurdle in the way of such process.

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