Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

CNAS conference hits (Part V): Kaplan focuses on Germany’s resurgence

Robert Kaplan also said the biggest unreported story of the last two years is the re-emergence of an influential Germany. "The capital of Europe moved from Brussels to Berlin." Germany has been unleashed by the Euro, he said, and the country is showing itself to be an "avant garde" major power, wielding influence politically and ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Robert Kaplan also said the biggest unreported story of the last two years is the re-emergence of an influential Germany. "The capital of Europe moved from Brussels to Berlin." Germany has been unleashed by the Euro, he said, and the country is showing itself to be an "avant garde" major power, wielding influence politically and economically but not militarily. At least for the moment: "I don't believe that German quasi-pacifism is permanent."

But, he added, this does not mean we should throw away NATO. As the U.S. Navy and Air Force focus more on the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, he said, NATO should pick up the slack in the Atlantic.

I also think that the rise of Germany may make NATO relevant again. Remember the old line from the 1950s, that "the purpose of NATO was to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in, and the Germans down"? Well, if Germany is beginning to throw around its weight, NATO may be the way to control that a bit. Keep in mind that the history of Europe since the Romans has been basically, What to do about Germany? 

Robert Kaplan also said the biggest unreported story of the last two years is the re-emergence of an influential Germany. "The capital of Europe moved from Brussels to Berlin." Germany has been unleashed by the Euro, he said, and the country is showing itself to be an "avant garde" major power, wielding influence politically and economically but not militarily. At least for the moment: "I don’t believe that German quasi-pacifism is permanent."

But, he added, this does not mean we should throw away NATO. As the U.S. Navy and Air Force focus more on the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, he said, NATO should pick up the slack in the Atlantic.

I also think that the rise of Germany may make NATO relevant again. Remember the old line from the 1950s, that "the purpose of NATO was to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in, and the Germans down"? Well, if Germany is beginning to throw around its weight, NATO may be the way to control that a bit. Keep in mind that the history of Europe since the Romans has been basically, What to do about Germany? 

As it happened, on the metro ride home after the CNAS conference I read Martin Wolf’s column in the Financial Times about challenges facing the Euro. He observed almost in passing that the German central bank now is owed the equivalent of the total debt of Ireland, Portugal and Greece. (And speaking of Ireland, Yeats maintained that the center could not hold, but looking at the list of European financial cripples, it looks to me like the periphery is what goes first.)

Marc Lynch added the thought that the best thing Europe can do to support the Arab Spring is to open its markets to Arab goods, but he said it won’t do it.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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