Germany, Russia, and the Rise of Geo-Economics; The Paradox of German Power
Germany—which boasts a trade surplus larger even than China’s, plays a preeminent role in the EU, and enjoys a reputation for sound domestic governance—might be today’s most underrated global power. Its power rests not on military might but on what Szabo describes as “geo-economic” clout, derived from the practice of a kind of commercial realpolitik that privileges the country’s economic well-being above all other interests. Especially important is the influence of big export and foreign investment firms on German policies. Szabo focuses in particular on the complex, clandestine, and sordid drama of recent German-Russian relations. The actors include giants such as the German engineering firm Siemens, which has long faced accusations of corruption and bribery (and has admitted some wrongdoing), and Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian energy conglomerate, which in 2005 hired former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to chair the board of an affiliate it had formed to build a major Russia–Germany gas pipeline.Szabo’s core thesis—that big business runs the show in Berlin—has been somewhatovertaken by events, as German firms have helped shoulder the large costs of sanctions against Russia and might do the same in the wake of a eurozone-backed restructuring of Greek debt. Yet this analysis remains an original and indispensable corrective to the overly political-military focus of most writing on Europe, Russia, and global politics.
After a week of occupation, Russia appears to be on the verge of annexing Crimea. While the West proposes sanctions on Russia, it seems Germany could be in a unique position to help resolve the dispute.