#Brexit, from the #German perspective


By Elisabeth Hellenbroich

In all EU countries an intensive debate has started in the aftermath of the “Brexit” vote and the consequences which the vote will have for the United Kingdom and for the European Union. In the discussion about future economic and security policy guidelines for the EU two tendencies come to the fore, especially in the German debate: While SPD economics minister and Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel demands a policy of strong economic growth, in order to create productive jobs, in particular for the many young unemployed people in Europe and calls for more investments in the European infrastructure, Finance Minister Schäuble (CDU) in an interview with the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” (WamS, 3.7.16) criticized the Deputy Chancellor’s position as well as foreign Minister F.W. Steinmeier (SPD) who recently had criticized the NATO maneuvers. Schäuble rejects at this moment a debate about a “deepening” of the EU and insists on continuing a strict austerity policy in Europe.

The intensity of the polemic within the German Grand Coalition points to enormous unresolved problems around the globe which began to explode during the 2007/8 global financial crisis. The “Brexit” vote should be rather seen as a chance for correcting certain false economic and security policy decisions or “non- decisions” in Germany and the EU, in order to give the EU a new conceptual orientation.

The world in disarray

During an event organized by the German-Atlantic Association in Frankfurt (26.06) former Foreign Minister and BND (German Foreign Intelligence Service) Chairman Dr. Klaus Kinkel spoke on the basis of his foreign policy experiences about the subject “Europe in a crisis.” Kinkel analyzed how it came to the Brexit vote and what could be its consequences. He presented the strategic panorama of a world which is going into disarray, a “world disorder”, shaped by a Europe that is living through multiple crisis, shaped by terrorism, a raging war in Syria with 250.000 dead and 2,5 Mio refugees, by the fight for hegemony between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the Mideast and by a non- resolved Ukraine crisis. With the annexation of the Crimea, as Kinkel underlined, a violent change of borders took place. As brazen as this violation of international law by Putin was, he underlined on the other side that Putin plays an important role today. He rhetorically asked who it was that gave the Russian people self- consciousness and honor, after they had lived through a phase of intense humiliation. In the year 1990 the Soviet Union lost the Warsaw Pact and they had to accept that NATO advanced closer to their borders. Kinkel made reference to several discussions he had with his former “boss”, former Foreign Minister Hand Dietrich Genscher about Russia and demanded that one should look at the Ukraine in an honest way. The country found itself in a situation, where they had to make a decision between Russia and the EU and the EU allowed that Ukraine slide into the crisis. What Putin did in Syria, was qualified by Kinkel as a “brilliant move” since this allowed him to negotiate with the US on an equal footing.

In respect to the present status of Europe Kinkel’s analysis was quite sobering. He spoke about certain fatigue damage, self- love and a Europe, which is exhausted and incapable, to create synergy effects. One should realize Europe’s potential with 500 Million living there and everything should be done to avoid Europe’s marginalization, especially if this is looked at in the context of other great powers, like China, Kinkel underlined. Instead of pooling and using this potential there was a growth of centrifugal forces and national interests in Europe. In addition Europe is paralyzed by a slow administration apparatus and decision processes among the 28 (or soon 27?) member states which take too long. Kinkel qualified the “Brexit” vote as a revolt of the little man, a revolution against the elites (Bank of America, which had analyzed the vote, according to an article in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ, 28.6.16) qualified the “Brexit” vote -in American terms- as “Wall Street won, Main street lost”, they warned of an imminent “war against inequality” E.H.) According to Kinkel 67% in London voted for “stay”, and he contrasted this with the immense gap between city and countryside, where people overwhelmingly voted for “leave”. The vote, he underlined was a defeat for human reason; after all GB exports 53% of its goods into the EU and the EU exports 43% to GB. He further warned of a smoldering fire for the populists in Europe, a growing tendency for organizing referenda, the exit danger for other countries and paralysis for the economy. On the other side he stressed that GB is an important partner within NATO and the UN Security Council. Instead of precipitating “great reforms” in the EU, the EU should try to find a common answer to the great challenges: Migration, Unemployment and Debts.

Teltschik: I can understand the Russian mistrust

Kinkel’s analysis must be seen in line with the ideas which the former advisor of Chancellor Kohl and former chairman of the Munich Security Conference (1999-2008) Dr.Horst Teltschik presented in an exclusive interview with the Russian Online Magazine (Sputnik 29.06). Being asked about his active role in bringing about reconciliation with the Soviet Union and the creation of a common European Peace Order, the Paris Charta Conference 1990 for a new European order, and what he thinks about the European peace order today, Teltschik spoke about a quite “depressing situation”. “I look forward with concern to the NATO summit in Warsaw. While they concentrate on the questions of security and defense, what they forget is that, which made us strong in the past- the attempt to bring about a policy of détente first with the Soviet Union; and also the grand vision of Gorbachev in Paris(1990) for a common peace and security order in the framework of OSCE. We are miles away from that today.”

In reference to the technical rearmament of NATO at the Eastern border and the recent statement by Steinmeier, who had been sharply attacked because of his call to have a moderate stance in respect to Russia, Teltschik emphasized that he agrees with Steinmeier. The danger would be too big “if Americans and Europeans station troops along the borders of Russia and begin to establish first steps in direction of a missile shield in Rumania. The Russian reaction is predictable in this case: they will begin similar measures at the border. This is the game – if you beat me I will beat you. This depressed me really. We once were a lot farther.” He emphasized that he can understand the Russian mistrust, when they say in respect to the plans of establishing a missile shield in Rumania, that this is directed also against them. “Even NATO during a summit in Lisbon invited the former President Medvedev and promised him, to have Russia participate in the development of a missile shield system. NATO never kept its word.”

Teltschik also urged to activate the NATO-Russia Council in light of the actual growing tensions. “Why was this Council not called in during the Georgia and Ukraine crisis? Why is there no attempt to push through confidence building measures, like the exchange of maneuver observers? Such things would be important to avoid clashes for example in the Black Sea or in the Baltic Sea. The danger of collisions, as we saw in Turkey with the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet is very big. And for all this mechanisms existed in the past which today are no more intact.” Professor Teltschik reminded of the speech which Russian President Putin gave on 25th September 2001 in the German Federal Parliament. At that time he got standing ovations for his speech in which he presented Russia as a European country. At that time there was talk about a “security partnership with Russia” form the side of the German federal Government and from the side of the EU. Putin’s behavior today should be seen as a reaction to the western behavior, Teltschik said. At the same time he explained that he is not very fond of sanctions, since they always hit the populations.

He strongly pleaded for the strengthening of the OSCE: “It should be made clear that the OSCE can be an instrument, which shapes the security in the whole of Europe. Concerning the vision of a common economic and security space in Europe with Russia, Teltschik said: “For me this was already in Paris in the year 1990 an incredible vision. I insist – and this is of course only a thesis—if at the time that the EU negotiated with Ukraine about an association agreement, one would have simultaneously pushed the idea of an all European Free trade Zone, as Prodi, then EU commissioner had suggested – it may not have come to the Ukraine crisis. Former Russian president Medvedev in his speech in Berlin said that the concept of the Paris Charta 1990 should have become subject of a treaty. The West didn’t react at all to this. This means, we didn’t have the will to seriously examine the Russian proposals. “Without Russia the Nuclear Agreement with Iran would not have happened; similarly Russia must be included in the discussion about a Syrian solution. Russia proves to the world that it conceives itself as a global player, similar to the other great powers, like the US or China. And that it wants to be treated on equal footing.”

Important signal given by Foreign Minister Steinmeier

In a background discussion with a well- informed Russian observer, the interlocutor pointed to the significance of Steinmeier’s recent interview with “Bild am Sonntag” (BamS, 19.06) in which the Foreign minister had warned of “sabre rattling and war howling” vis a vis Russia (in respect to the recent NATO maneuvers). The observer pointed also to another signal which has been recently given in the context of the cautious rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, preceded shortly before by a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. The turn was signaled by the letter which Turkish President Erdogan wrote to President Putin expressing his excuse for the shoot down of a Russian jet fighter last November. The observer qualified this as a potential strategic turn for the whole region which also would have consequences for the EU. With Russia lifting its sanctions against Turkey, as was underlined, an important signal was given. Thanks to Putin’s moderate attitude after the shoot down of a Russian fighter jet, no dangerous escalation towards war happened. A stronger rapprochement of Turkey to Russia would have strategic consequence for the entire region, where several powers fight for hegemony, but it also would have consequences in respect to Syria and the fight against IS. Lastly he saw this development as a positive signal also for the German Russian relations and despite the fact that he reiterated his warnings about the situation still remaining extremely dangerous and hot, he was cautiously optimistic concerning the renewal of the concept of a Europe extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

Wiesbaden, July 4, 2016



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