US President Barack Obama’s expected visit to Athens next month as part of his tour of Europe before he leaves the White House is expected to confirm at the highest level of officialdom the difference of opinion between Washington and Berlin on matters pertaining to economic policy.
The US president’s intervention in favor of Europe’s southern states is more than welcome, but it will obviously do nothing to soften Berlin’s stance, not just because federal elections loom in Germany in a year’s time, but because the economic establishment has reaped significant benefits from Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s policy line. There will be no change, of course, even if the Social Democrats win.
The problem, in short, is Germany itself and not the coalition that governs today or whoever governs after the elections, and Washington is not about to remain silent, even under the next US president to emerge after the election in November.
Scandals involving German giants such as Siemens, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank were revealed by the US, the fines imposed were tremendous and even though the undeclared economic war will continue, Germany will remain steadfast. That is just what the country is like and that is the mentality of its economic and political leadership.
Some lament the decline of France and its loss of leverage, which has historically helped maintain a balance between Europe’s north and south, but they forget that Europe alone has never managed to stand up to mighty Germany. In both world wars, the victory of the allied forces was due exclusively to the involvement of the US, while it was also thanks to the Americans that Western Europe did not bow to the USSR.
The Americans are obviously not looking to bring Germany down; they have no interest in such a thing. They are also tolerant of how problems emerging from nationalist sentiment in the West are managed. So, while Obama’s tour of the continent will not have any immediate benefits, it will certainly strengthen the influence of the United States in Southern Europe, in the countries that are bearing the brunt of Berlin’s austere policies.
Beyond Germany’s excesses on the economic front, its needless involvement in Ukraine, in combination with France’s “initiatives” in Libya and Syria – which are responsible in part for the refugee wave – and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the strengthening of its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, have all left Europe’s south extremely exposed and Washington is the only factor that can restore some balance: This is the political essence of Obama’s European tour and his legacy to his successor.