Thursday, 3 September 2015

Germany, the Migrant Crisis and the Pivot Eastwards

The Syria crisis in 2015 has conclusively spilt over into Europe in the summer of 2015 with migrants, mostly from Syria, spilling out of trains waived through from Keleti station in Budapest directly into Austria and then Germany where PM Merkel had said she would welcome migrants 'unconditionally'.

Orban's offloading of migrants into Germany, after Merkel proclaimed she was willing to take a large number of Syrian migrants, as she had already taken so many from a region ravaged by wars, was part of a strategy to undermine the German approach or get stronger fortified borders to the south.

Arguments have raged as to whether call the people entering Europe 'migrants' or refugees or asylum seekers given that so many fleeing the war in Syria have first passed through Turkey, then Greece, undergoing an economic crisis of its own, through Serbia and Hungary on to Germany.

The difference between Merkel and Orban is that the latter holds to a nationalist view of national sovereignty. Germany, however, seems to have embarked on a non-violent yet tacit form of 'emotional blackmail' to get other EU states to share a burden few of them apart from Sweden seem to want.

Germany's New Hard-Soft Power Role

Germany's guilt for World War Two and being the representative of that is nasty and evil during the Third Reich has led to it forthrightly declaring itself on a global mission to save the world. The idea of Germany representing the entire world and the progress of all 'humanity' has deep roots in its culture.

The trend towards solving the world's problems through determined humanitarian state policy human rights has offered one rationale for the extension of Western power into the Greater Middle East and post-Soviet space. Apart from US 'hard power', it is also a very European and German project.

Since the 1990s Germany started to take part militarily in 'nation building' work carried out by the West in Afghanistan. The taboo on mentioning resources or the geopolitical benefits of the TAPI pipeline was broken by one politicians who was promptly sacked for suggesting it was, in fact, a rationale for war.

Partly this is to do with Germany's huge and central economic role as the Great Power in the EU with a 'soft power' agenda to promote universal human rights and liberties everywhere from Ukraine to Syria that conceals harder headed realpolitik calculations and the geopolitics of east-west energy flows

Germany was also fairly keen that  'Assad must go' at the outset of the Syrian War in 2011 but  played a weak role. However, the Ukrainian crisis and outbreak of civil war in 2014, itself partly a failed attempt to draw Ukraine and Crimean gas into the EU's sphere of control, has made Turkey all the more vital.

Germany tends to hope it would be respected if regarded as a benevolent power by taking migrants, as if that would save it from any enmity directed against it from those always ready to point the finger accusing 'the West' of being completely to blame for state collapse and violence-with some reason.

In particular, the chaos and carnage in Syria is being laid at the feet of the Western Powers who from the outset of the crisis swung behind Turkey and Qatar as 'Friends of Syria' determined to overthrow Assad without thought that the consequences would turn out be be as disastrous as in Iraq.

The problem is the EU power's  foreign policy is based on a fatal and ultimately weak mixture of greed for resources, needed to underpin the high octane consumerism, and guilt at the consequences that has had through the tacit acquiescence with autocratic regimes needed to uphold geopolitical interests.

This is not so much of a problem for a state such as Orban's Hungary which has aligned closely with Putin's Russia over energy ties, not least because his attempt to use Russia's diaspora to exert political influence is emulated by Orban, especially with Ukrainian paramilitary threats to ethnic Hungarians

Germany Pivots East.

Germany contains a very large and prominent Turkish and Kurdish diaspora population as well as an increasing number of Syrians. The willingness to stand up for Syrian migrants has as much to do with a compassionate state policy as with the supposed need for migrants to prop up an ageing population.

The assumption would appear that Germany's population needs fresh blood where the drive to survive is no longer expressed itself such radical actions as reproducing children. Indeed, the whole business of procreation is to be left to those in poorer lands such as Syria where civilisation is sadly collapsing.

In none of this is there any real sense that the Syrian catastrophe is, in part, caused by climate change and the impact of richer nations enjoying high octane consumer lifestyles that involve jetting to Tuscany driving SUVs or having holidays on the beaches where dead migrants get washed up. 

Climate change caused disastrous droughts in Syria in the run up to the 2011 uprising. The migrant issue is the first stage in an unfolding crisis of civilisation caused by over-dependence upon oil and gas and so increasingly pathological proxy struggles over oil and gas transit routes.

Whether it was wise for Merkel to encourage Syrian migrants to risk getting to Germany, despite the risks of dying at sea on flimsy boats and no common EU policy on dealing with them is questionable. But there are, paradoxically, still echoes of the German's imperial past within the humanitarian quest.

Germany in the run up to the 1914 war had grand geopolitical ambitions to be a power in the Middle East as the Ottoman Empire crumbled and Germany required larger export markets and access to the oil of what was back then the Ottoman province of Mesopotamia via the 'Baghdad Railway'.

A century later the disintegration of the two successor states created by Britain and France after the defeat of Imperial Germany in 1918 has once more opened up the possibility of Germany and Turkey aligning closer as part of a strategy to reconfigure the Greater Middle East for resource interests.

While Germany has expressed displeasure at Erdogan using the war against ISIS as a pretext to bomb the PKK Kurdish militias, it has cautiously backed Erdogan's Turkey for absorbing most of the migrants as well as identifying its regional power ambitions as an alternative route to Russia for gas.

Until the Syrian uprising in 2011 went wrong, Germany, as with other EU powers, had hoped for the possibility of a Qatar-Turkey pipeline via Syria which would connect the Persian Gulf with the Eastern Mediterranean until the country descended into utter carnage and ISIS arose as a force by 2014

This has already led to mounting ethnic and sectarian tensions in Berlin between German- Turkish Kurds and others demanding both greater support for Erdogan and other sympathetic to the ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood, also big Sunni movement pitched against Assad in Syria.

If Germany supports Erdogan too much it runs the risk of seriously annoying PKK supporters whose organisation is technically classified as a 'terrorist' group. If it does nothing to help Syrian Sunni Muslims, it stands to be berated by groups sympathising with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Germany's Role in Egypt.

“Political Islam is not the same as radical Islamism.”-Guido Westerwelle 

Merkel's shift towards courting the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany after 2011 was a result of its apparent shift towards the idea of accepting democracy and the strategy of aligning with Qatar, set to be a source of LNG imports, and to win favour with Muslims in the MENA states.

This followed on from the fears of Islamist terror plots being hatched on German soil and directed against the US and European allies and the geographical impact that the Schengen area agreements had on effectively extending Germany's borders down towards the Mediterranean coast.

German Foreign Minister Westerwelle had worked with Erdogan in Turkey to help define what Muslim Brotherhood politic during the Arab Spring should, in theory, mean; namely,“to abstain from violence, and to profess democracy, the rule of law, pluralism just like peace at home and abroad.”

Unfortunately for Germany's attempts to reach out to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, as in Syria, the tenacity of the old regime and national security states fought back against the Muslim Brothers with a degree of consent from the population which feared it was too domineering and dangerous.

The Egyptian coup of 2013 and the machine gunning dead of Muslim Brotherhood protesters with only token condemnation was bound to lead to a backlash against what Islamists in the region and in Europe loathe more than anything else: the hypocrisy and the double standards of  'the Western other'.

Germany has effectively colluded with state repression and the killing of civilians in selling weapons to Sisi's military junta and Saudi Arabia which Merkel is on record as insisting on calling a 'vital and legitimate tool" of Germany's foreign policy. The Muslim Brothers worldwide would disagree.

Even so, Germany's special relationship with Israel, a consequence it is thought of Holocaust guilt alone, also is deeply interconnected to its arms ties with Tel Aviv and search for another source of pi gas from a 'peace pipeline' from Israel's untapped huge gas reserves running via Cyprus.

Professor Dr Friedberg Fluger, an energy security expert and former Deputy Defence Minister in Merkel's first government, regards a pipeline running from Cyprus via Turkey, and linking up with an oil oil and gas network that would link Turkey with Azerbaijan's and Iraqi Kurdistan's pipelines west.

The Prospect of Blowback 

There is no reason to suppose Syrian or Iraqi migrants would not be at first grateful to get their human right to migrate to a place where they deserve to get a slice of the global pie of wealth denied them. But it is also highly questionable they have any especial reason to be permanently grateful to Germany

In both Iraq and Syria weakness tends to be despised in lands only ever held together by physical force of arms an a security apparatus. Removing the dictatorship, as in Iraq or Syria, has led to a rise in ethnic hatreds and sectarian conflicts instead of secular democracy, harmony and compromise.

The failure to hold Israel to account for war crimes in Gaza, itself partly a consequence of a strategy to prevent Hamas threatening the tapping and piping of Gaza Marine gas, is bound to rouse anger and the prospect of 'transferable grievances' across the Muslim World being channeled back West.

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