The hegemon’s closest partner
It was the first meeting in Washington in a year between U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Not surprisingly, in Poland the media and politicians devoted little attention to it, which is especially true of those on the right.
This is because Scholz’s visit and the words that were said during the meeting undermine the official line of the Polish government, which is also so readily adopted by many right-wing publicists. According to it, Germany proved to be a disloyal state during the war in Ukraine. This is because Russia’s aggression against Ukraine marked the end of their dreams of power, of creating a kind of German-Russian empire to subjugate Europe. And if so, according to this vision, Germany will now be punished by the Americans for its close previous cooperation with Moscow and its unwillingness to engage in Ukraine. This presents a great opportunity for Poland, Washington’s most loyal and devoted ally in Europe. Some have even mentioned the role model for modern Berlin to be Otto von Bismarck and his power politics of the 19th century. Well, once again the old Polish adage comes to mind that we like best what we already know.
Well, during a meeting in Washington, the US president thanked the German chancellor for his “strong, powerful, enduring leadership that has changed reality enormously.” And he added: “Together we have delivered on our promises. You rose to the occasion very quickly and provided military support. It can be argued that in addition to the military support, the moral support you have given to the Ukrainians is enormous, very deep.” Chancellor Scholz could only rejoice. Germany’s role as America’s first partner or, if you like, first vassal, was confirmed.
While Polish stories about the new Bismarckian Germany have an advantage, because they describe our emotions well, they have a rather fundamental flaw: they pass by reality. Bismarck’s Germany was based on three pillars. First, on a powerful army, the strongest in Europe at the time; second, on an appeal to Prussian nationalism, out of which, incidentally, came the persecution of Poles and the fight against the Catholic Church; and finally, after defeating Denmark, Austria-Hungary and France, on the recognition of the principle of balance in international relations. This, moreover, was the source of Bismarck’s aversion to the so-called Weltpolitik, of which Wilhelm II was a great enthusiast, and which contributed significantly to the empire’s entry into World War I. Today’s Germany lacks a powerful army, undermines the value of national sovereignty, and as for world politics, will not make a move without Washington’s approval.
This is perfectly illustrated by a small but significant fact: no open press conference was scheduled after the meeting with Scholz. Hardly surprising. What if someone posed unpleasant question about blowing up Nord Stream 2? As is well-known, quite recently the United States was accused by American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of carrying out this attack on the gas pipeline connecting Russia with Germany. Not just any investigative journalist – a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many previous discoveries. And? Nothing. The White House denied it. And Germany’s neo-Bismarck empire? The German prosecutor general chided only that there was no sign of Russian involvement. Quite coincidentally, a few days after Scholz’s visit, the New York Times, citing the CIA, reported that the attack was supposed to have been carried out by an unspecified group of Ukrainians. Hmm, this smells like an attempt to cover up Hersh’s inconvenient reporting. After all, if such an attack was carried out by Americans, it would be an act of embezzlement – after all, Germany is a U.S. ally in NATO, and the gas pipeline is largely their investment. This is a thread Germany prefers not to explore.
The reason is simple. From the very beginning, after World War II, the US granted Germany limited sovereignty. They retained control over the secret service and the army (via military bases), allowing Berlin to pursue sovereign policies in only one area, the economy. The Germany of today was constructed not by Bismarck and the Prussian conservative Junkers, but largely by the professors of the so-called Frankfurt School who returned after 1945. This is also why, in an ideological sense, Germans are such great supporters of an EU European federation or United States of Europe, a U.S. –executed project that means weakening or destroying the principle of national sovereignty. Americans have retained something of a “golden share” in their relations with Germany – that is why, by the way, the stories of American neoconservatives, so readily accepted in Poland, according to which Germany with Russia could create a new anti-American empire, weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. It is interesting, moreover, that apparently Vladimir Putin himself was fooled by them, when he hoped that Germany would remain neutral in the crackdown on Ukraine.
The Scholz-Biden meeting should give Polish politicians, especially those who are defending the principle of national sovereignty, much food for thought. There is one hegemon in the West, which years ago already decided who would best serve its interests in Europe.
This article was published in March 2023 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.