In Germany, nationalism confronts regionalism

The postwar status quo seems to be changing rapidly, however. In the face of American intransigence, Europe is beginning to look to its largest economy to pick up some of the slack. Germans, ever stalwart and prudent, are averse to making this commitment in the face of the nation’s long-standing tradition of avoiding deficit spending at all costs. The type of commitment, in terms of increasing both men and machinery, that it would require to bring Germany’s military up to anything resembling modern standard would be staggering. It won’t be quick a proposition either. Even if Germany were to commit itself to a program of rearmament, it would take upward of a decade under current budgetary restrictions to construct a robust defense force. Meanwhile, absent this commitment to military leadership, the rest of the EU continues on an inexorable path to disintegration.

The forces of nationalism are unquestionably gaining on regionalism, not just in Europe but in the U.S. and among its strategic partners in the Middle East, such as Turkey and Israel. In April, the EU secretariat in Brussels issued a scathing rebuke of Turkey’s turn toward authoritarianism, and received, in effect, a shrug in response from the Erdogan government. Turkey believes it has to take far more decisive measures than its EU membership affords to curb the contagion of radical Islamic fundamentalism that has threatened its society. Erdogan’s hotly debated (though not contested) re-election this June seems to confirm this stance. Surprisingly to many, NATO has even signaled to Israel that it would not be willing to commit to its defense in the event of an attack by Iran—although individual countries such as France, Germany and England would probably do so.

Undergirding this shift away from regional unity in Europe is the “America First” philosophy ushered in by the U.S. government. This prioritization of national interests over regional concerns is a state of affairs Germany is woefully unprepared to deal with at present. It will be interesting to see how Germany adapts to these shifting geopolitical winds.