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Articles on Germany after 2006
Corruption in Germany?
Gerhard Schroeder, loser
The German mind
Germany and destiny
The changing mood in a united Germany
Germany for Sale
Schroeder the destroyer
Germany: the good news and the bad news
The state of Germany's economy

  • (December 2005) Corruption in Germany? Had such a shady deal been engineered by George W Bush, the world media would be salivating to investigate it: it has all the fingerprints of a major scandal.
    But the hero of the story is Gerhard Schroeder, better known as one of the European leaders who opposed the USA's unpopular invasion of Iraq. Thus the European media have been relatively quiet about it.
    What Schroeder has done is very simple. In september he knew that most likely he would lose his job at the coming elections. Just days before the elections he signed a deal with a Russian company to build a gas pipeline to Germany. This does not sound suspicious. Except that, once he lost the elections, Schroeder accepted a top job at this company (basically, he will be the chairman of the board). And one can't help suspecting that he knew all along of this "opening". And one can't help suspecting that this is the reason that he signed the deal.
    Schroeder is a politician more famous for his dialectical skills than for his moral principles (he became a pacifist only after a poll showed that the majority of Germans wanted to stay out of the war). Some of his deals were criticized as narrow-minded and short-sighted. For example, he sold high technology to mainland China and then boasted that he collected a huge payment, but forgot to mention that he sold China the rope that China will use to hang the Germans (it will not take too many years for China to figure out how to copy those high-tech items).
    The deal with Russia seems even worse because it has to do with Germany's dependency on foreign resources. Germany used to rely largely on its own nuclear energy but a suicidal policy has led it to depend more and more on foreign supplies, both from the Middle East and from Russia. Under the new contract Russia will supply Germany with about one third of Germany's needs of oil and gas. Needless to say, this means that Germany's economy will be captive to Russia's politics. One more of these contracts and Germany will become a colony of Russia.
    The project also upsets the delicate balance of power in the Baltic republics, Poland and Ukraine, all of whom will be bypassed by the Russian-German alliance (which is certainly not a German-Russian alliance), all of whom will perceive this as an increased threat from their traditional invader Russia.
    Sadly, the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, also supports the project, a sign that Germany's options in 2005 are limited.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (November 2005) Gerhard Schroeder, loser Gerhard Schroeder goes down in history as the worst thing to happen to Germany since Adolf Hitler. Not that he is a nazi, but his devastation of the German economic power is the first major setback in the history of the nation since the territorial devastation caused by Hitler.
    A nation that went from utter destruction (1945) to reunification (1989) has then been crippled by an inept chancellor who failed to take advantage of the world economic boom of the 1990s and instead caused the highest unemployment rate since the 1930s. A nation that was the USA's most trusted ally has become one of its opponents, siding repeatedly with the corrupt and even more inept regime of Chirac's France and cultivating friends such as Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China.
    Bush might not be the smartest or nicest man in the world, but one wonders if Germans have to be proud that their relationships with undemocratic Russia and China are better than their relationships with democratic USA, Britain and Australia.
    Schroeder claimed to be someone "able to withstand pressure from outside and stand up for what is Germany's best interest": he did not withstand pressure from France, and his policies hardly provided "Germany's best interest".
    Schroeder accused his rival Angela Merkel of aiming for rampant capitalism and reduced social services, forgetting that under his rule German corporations posted hefty profits while the proverbial German social system was severely reduced.
    Schroeder used demagogy that was eerily reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's demagogy, for example when he said at a rally "You only need to look to America to see what poverty in old age is". (Incidentally, statistics show that Americans live longer and healthier than Germans). Does Schroeder really think that Europeans still need anachronistic leaders like him?
    Schroeder was a complete disaster. His successor can't do any worse. That was probably in the minds of many German voters, even those who dislike the Christian Democrats and are afraid of being involved in Bush's military gambles.
    The scary news is that so many Germans still voted for Schroeder, as if Schroeder's guaranteed slow decline was the future they desire for their children.
    Coincidentally or not, the economic collapse of Germany went hand in hand with a peak in anti-USA sentiment, a phenomenon that feels more and more similar by the day to the anti-Jewish sentiment of Hitler's times.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (February 2005) The German mind
    This is one in a series of articles on the French mind, the German mind, the Arab mind, and the Anglosaxon mind.
    See Germany and destiny
    See The changing mood in a united Germany
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (August 2004) Germany and destiny. Up until the fall of the Soviet Union, Germany was the most faithful ally of the USA. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Germans have been slowly but steadily increasing their anti-American sentiment. Besides proving how naive Americans are (if you are a superpower, you have no friends, only countries that "use" you), it also proves that today's Germany is more similar to old Germany than Germans themselves realize.
    Josef Joffe (of the Zeit newspaper) is among many German intellectuals who admit that anti-Americanism was pervasive in Germany even when Germany was, officially, a strong USA ally. And anti-Americanism was pervasive at both political extremes (right and left). Go back 50 years and you'll find that Hitler described the USA as Germany's eternal foe, and Hitler's judgement was based on a very similar dislike for the American values. Hitler was also the first German politician to deride the USA as a barbaric, backwards country, an attitude that is now again widespread in Germany. "Amerikanische Verhaeltnisse" is a popular German expression to denounce some horrible working and living conditions.
    The second similarity with old Germany is that Germans are still fundamentally convinced of being right, of being somehow superior. They simply changed the ideology that they consider absolutely right. As German historian Heinrich Winkler has noted, the pacifism of modern Germans (particularly the younger generations) is not so different from the aggressive beliefs of the 1930s. In both cases, German attitudes share an attribute of arrogance, a strong belief that the German race knows better than anyone else. Underlying the peace marches of 2003 was a sentiment of "moral superiority" of the German race, not unlike the moral superiority that convinced their grandparents to march on Jewish stores on Crystallnacht. What the pacifists of 2003 expressed was an almost religious belief: that the USA are "obviously" barbaric in not listening to the wisedom of the superior German race.
    Many Germans, particularly among the younger generations, are now convinced that the USA is the cause of all evil. They don't seem to realize that their grandparents had the same view of Jews: Jews were considered the cause of all evil. Today, these Germans seem to have simply replaced the Jews with the USA. The racist attitude, though, is of the same kind.
    In any case, the "we know better" attitude is at least odd for the nation that started both world wars.
    Last but not least comes the feeling of divine predestination. You can go back centuries and find German intellectuals who strongly believed God had personally determined the course of German history. Of course, it wasn't God: it was the Germans themselves who created Germany, for better and for worse. And it was the German people who created Hitler and caused World War II. But that feeling is still there, albeit a bit disguised. Today's Germans (particularly the younger generations) believe that Germany is declining not because of their mistakes but because it is inevitable that Germany declines. A large number of Germans do not see German decline as a consequence of their huge deficit, of the unreasonable social system, of their less and less responsible attitude, of a decaying educational and work system. These Germans (mostly younger ones) see the decline as a consequence of some divine decision. The attitude is still one of following a national destiny, albeit a completely different one from the one envisioned by Bismark or Hitler.
    So is there any danger from today's Germans becoming old Germans again? Probably none. Whether they realize it or not, Germany is the most Americanized country in the world. Even when they protest against the USA, Germans are fundamentally using the American way: German leftists are modeled after the American leftists of the Sixties. Most of German critics of the USA criticize the USA on the basis of the USA ideology of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. Some Germans may call the USA barbaric, but it is the USA that has civilized Germany, not viceversa. That has indeed created a dramatic difference between new and old Germany, and it is unlikely to ever be undone: Germans have kept some of their old attitude, but that attitude is "about" something else. Germans will probably only hurt themselves, by turning Germany into a weaker and poorer country, eventually becoming irrelevant on the world scene.
    In 1992, when he was first elected president, Bill Clinton announced that he wanted to learn from one country: Germany. Analyses published after the 1991 breakdown of the Soviet Union routinely predicted that the future belonged to three economic powers: USA, Japan and Germany. Just ten years later, the world has all but forgotten about Germany, that has become the sick man of Europe. Chancellor Schroeder has presided over the fastest decline of German power in peacetime. Unemployment (that used to be inexistent) is now twice the rate of the USA (that has never changed over the last sixty years).
    Germany's unemployment has reached the levels of third-world countries. Worse: the percentage of unemployed people who are "long-term unemployed" has reached almost 50%. The only other major country to have such long-term unemployment is Italy (almost 60%). France and Japan are below 40%. Britain is barely above 20%. The much derided USA has the best employment situation: barely above 10% of people who lose their job are left jobless for the rest of their lives.
    The most serious danger is that Germans are leading European public opinion towards self-destruction, but then Europe has caused so much harm to the rest of the world that one wonders if European self-destruction is such an undesired outcome after all. Sure it would be nicer if Germany led Europe to a rebirth under a different ideology, an ideology of compassion and inclusion, instead of the old imperialism and depredation. The European Union (mostly an American invention, modeled after the USA and sponsored by the USA) was supposed to be such a new Europe. But Germany embodies most of the contradictions of creating a European Union that wants to be different from the past while being still ruled by old attitudes.
    Germany is not leading anymore, it is following. That, too, is interpreted by many Germans as part of its divine destiny; a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    See also The changing mood in a united Germany
    This is one in a series of articles on the French mind, the German mind, the Arab mind, and the Anglosaxon mind.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2004) The changing mood in a united Germany. Most likely, Kohl himself (the man who engineered the reunification of Western and Eastern Germany) did not dream that the end of the East-West division would bring about such a change in Germany's view of the USA. George W Bush's unilateral decisions and Schroeder's opportunistic behavior have simply sped up a process that had already begun during the Clinton years. The moment Germany became one country again, it also became a "nation" again, a nation with a strong sentiment of a universal mission. As the European Union became more and more real, that mission became the mission of recapturing the cultural supremacy of Europe and applying it to all sorts of humanitarian causes. In the country that has the largest environmental and pacifist movement in the world, this has often translated in an anti-American stance, given that the USA (particularly under Bush and particularly after September 11) is not easily moved by pompous speeches and good intentions, but is more interested in pragmatic results. Inevitably, Germany and the USA have been drifting apart, and, eventually, Germany opposed the USA for the first time since Hitler when Bush decided to invade Iraq.
    Besides the "humanitarian mission" that Germans seem to have embraced as a nation, there is also an obvious change in the perception of the USA role in Europe. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Germany does not need the USA anymore to defend it from the Soviet Union, but, at the same time, the USA does not need Germany anymore to fight the Soviet Union. It should be obvious that the USA is not going to notice if Germnay is no longer its number-one ally, whereas Germany may notice if the USA is no longer its number-one ally. The first part of the equation has been clear to Germans since the evening that they stormed the Berlin Wall. But the second part of the equation has begun to dawn on them only recently, as they see the USA more keen on improving ties with Poland and South Korea than on maintaining the traditional ties with Germany. The truth is that Germany is totally useless (strategically and economically speaking) in the new world. Turkey is more strategic, and China and India look like the economic powers of the near future. Germans are only now beginning to realize that it is not them who are dumping the USA, but the USA which is dumping them. Not coincidentally, Schroeder and his foreign minister Fischer have repeatedly expressed filo-American views in recent meetings. Alas, their words do not change the fact that, in a recent poll, 41% of Germans said it is ok to give in to terrorists if that brings peace. That principle is just incompatible with the USA's view of the war against terrorism, as incompatible as appeasing Hitler was to Churchill.
    Paradoxically, it might be Germany (not the USA) that will pay the price of isolation. Germany is surrounded by staunch USA allies (Britain, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary) and by France, which has its own (French-oriented) agenda. If one does not consider Chirac's France (which is only trying to turn the European Union into the new French empire), it is Germany that remains isolated once the traditional USA-German ties are broken. As long as Bush is president (a president greatly despised in all European countries), Germany may not look so isolated. But a victory by Kerry in the next elections (i.e., a more palatable White House for the European public) would resurrect pro-American sentiment everywhere, and leave Germany as isolated as France (but without the nuclear weapons and without United Nations veto power). This is a consequence that is just beginning to dawn on the German psyche.
    German pacifism is welcome, given Germany's precedents in starting world wars. But, as German historian Heinrich Winkler (a Schroeder ally) has noted, its pacifism is not all too different from its old aggression. In both cases, German attitudes share an attribute of "arrogance": the German race, obviously a superior race, knows better than anyone else. Underlying the peace marches is a sentiment of "moral superiority" of the German race, not unlike the moral superiority that convinced their grandparents to march on Jewish stores on Crystallnacht. In 1939, they thought they knew better than Britain, and promoted war. In 2003, they think they knew better than the USA, and promote peace. The problem is, in fact, broader than Iraq. Many Germans feel that the USA has been systematically on the wrong side of all the issues, from the death penalty to the Kyoto protocol to the international criminal court. Over and over again, they feel that Germany has the moral authority to judge (although it does not have the moral authority to send soldiers to protect Iraqis from Saddam Hussein or Tutsis from Hutus). This renewed sense of a moral mission is not necessarily bad (the world probably needs a counterweight to the unbridled capitalism that is taking hold everywhere), as long as it doesn't become a new form of dogma. Both the fanatical defense of the Kyoto protocol (by people who had not even read it) and the fanatical opposition of the Iraqi war (by people who had never protested against Saddam Hussein's crimes) have sounded just like that: <>dogmas. A lot less murderous, but as fanatical as nazism was.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (December 2003) Germany for Sale. Joschka Fischer, Germany's outspoken foreign minister ("outspoken" only when it comes to defending world dictators), is a leader of the Green Party, the most powerful environmental party in the world, who successfully engineered the demise of Germany's nuclear program (thus Germany's increased dependence on Arab oil, thus Germany's alliance with Saddam Hussein and all the other mad dictators of the Middle East). One of Fischer's early accomplishments was to shut down a nuclear power plant before it even started operating. Now that he is foreign minister, Germany's government has authorized the sale of that very power plant to communist China (another mad regime that Fischer's Germany loves because they buy lots of German technology). China will pay only $55 million, which is about 25% of what it cost to built. What was bad for Germany is good for China: this plant will help China to develop the very technology that Fischer considered so evil for Germany. And it will do so at a discount price. One wonders if this is just an example of political stupidity or a case of international corruption.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2003) Schroeder the destroyer. Germany has been flirting with recession year after year. Unemployment has reached the astronomical number of 4 million people. Schroeder, the worst chancellor in German history, has managed to destroy what used to be the most powerful, efficient and reliable economy in the world. There is very little to salvage. Even if Schroeder resigns (and he is not the kind: he even became a pro-Saddam pacifist to save his job), his successor will face a virtually insoluble problem. Schroeder promised to balance the budget, lower taxes, create jobs and many other things. He had ample time to work on his agenda. The result is: the worst budget deficit in Europe, higher taxes, widespread unemployment.
    By taking side with European emperor Chirac, Schroeder also upset the USA, the trusted friend who was mainly responsible for Germany's economic miracle. Now Germany can't even hope in that help.
    Germany has become the chronically sick economy of Europe: a liability, not an assett. The rest of Europe will have to support Germany.
    Schroeder will go down in history as the man who caused the end of Germany as a world power. Losing two world wars did not cause Germany as much damage as Schroeder's policies did.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Germany: the good news and the bad news: Schroeder stays (a national catastrophe), but Germans show that they are more mature than other Europeans. The fact that Germany will get four more years of Schroeder is a national catastrophe that mirrors Chirac's reelection in France: these are the leaders who don't know how to lead, these are the leaders who are causing a devastating political, economic and cultural crisis in Europe, these are the leaders who represent the dreadful "status quo". Remove them (with just about anybody) and you solve half of Europe's problems, because Europe's biggest problem (like Japan's biggest problem) "is" the status quo. So the bad news is that Germany will enjoy four more years of high unemployment, economic stagnation, political decline and erosion of the welfare state. The bad news is that Germany will be still ruled by the most incompetent leader in its history, and the rest of the world will still have to listen to his ridiculous statements.
    Shame on the Greens, of course, who have become a highly politicized and corrupt party like all the others and who are helping Schroeder stay in power.
    The good news is that both the fascist and the communist parties were clearly defeated, humiliated, annihilated. German electors proved that modern Germany is one of the strongest democracies in the world. Compared with Italy, where the communists once enjoyed 40% of the popular vote and where two xenophobe and pseudo-fascist parties today collect almost 15% of the votes and are actually part of the current governing coalition, Germany has showed an impressive indifference towards totalitarian systems. Unlike France, Austria, Holland, where voters have reacted to the problems of their countries by moving massively towards the right-wing parties, German voters have totally ignored fascist and communist parties, who will not be represented at all in the Parliament. Germany has turned the tide. May this be a sign of a political renaissance in Europe.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • The state of Germany's economy. They used to say "there is only one economy in Europe, and its called Germany". On the other hand, Britain was discounted as a decaying country whose days were numbered. All the other European economies were midgets compared to the mighty German locomotive. These days, a German who travels to London will be shocked to see how low unemployment is in that part of Europe, and will be lucky to able to pay the restaurant or the hotel bill (the pound has shot up as the euro was sinking). Gerhard Schroeder was probably the worst possible politician to be put in charge at this turn of German history: he is weak, confused, inexperienced. After many months of doing basically nothing, he has simply started doing what his defeated rival Kohl had promised to do: balance the budget, lower taxes, fight unions, reduce the social state. Schroeder is beginning to understand that the German economic miracle was founded on debt: spend in social benefits by using the savings of German citizens. That worked when the state's share of the economy was 30%, 35%, 40%... but it is now estimated that the German state owns about 50% of the entire German economy. Now Germans are faced with the fact that they have to pay for the huge costs of running their social benefits. Many German economists argue that the success of the Sixties was enjoyed simply at the cost of future generations.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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