The Rise of German Imperialism and the Phony “Russian Threat” By James Petras Information Clearing House
The principle Nazi ideological prop that secured massive financial and political support from Germany’s leading industrialists was the Communist and Soviet threat. The main Nazi military drive, absorbing two-thirds of its best troops, was directed eastward at conquering and destroying Russia. The ‘Russian Threat’ justified Nazi Germany’s conquest and occupation of the Ukraine, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, with the aid of a substantial proportion of local Nazi collaborators.
After Germany’s defeat , division and disarmament, and with the extension of Soviet power, the US reinstated the Nazi industrial and banking giants, officials and intelligence operatives. At first they were engaged in rebuilding their domestic economy and consolidating political power, in collaboration with the US military occupation forces.
By the late 1960’s Germany regained economic primacy in Europe and was at the forefront of European ‘integration’, in association with France and England. It soon came to dominate the principle decision – making institutions of the European Union(EU). The EU served as Germany’s instrument for conquest by stealth. Year by year, through ‘aid’ and low interest loans,the EU facilitated German capitalist’s market penetration and financial expansion,through out south and central Europe. Germany set the agenda for Western Europe, gaining economic dominance while benefiting from US subversion and encirclement of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Baltic and Balkan states.
Germany’s Great Leap Forward: The Annexation of East Germany and the Demise of the USSR
Germany’s projection of power on a world scale would never have occurred if it had not annexed East Germany. Despite the West German claims of beneficence and ‘aid’ to the East, the Bonn regime secured several million skilled engineers, workers and technicians, the takeover of factories, productive farms and, most important, the Eastern European and Russian markets for industrial goods, worth billions of dollars. Germany was transformed from an emerging influential EU partner, into the most dynamic expansionist power in Europe, especially in the former Warsaw Pact economies.
The annexation of East Germany and the overthrow of the Communist governments in the East allowed German capitalists to dominate markets in the former Eastern bloc .As the major trading partner, it seized control of major industrial enterprises via corrupt privatizations decreed by the newly installed pro-capitalist client regimes. As the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgarian, the Baltic States “privatized” and “de-nationalized” strategic economic, trade, media and social service sectors, ‘unified’ Germany was able to resume a privileged place. As Russia fell into the hands of gangsters, emerging oligarchs and political proxies of western capitalists, its entire industrial infrastructure was decimated and Russia was converted into a giant raw-material export region.
Germany converted its trade relations with Russia from one between equals into a ‘colonial’ pattern: Germany exported high value industrial products and imported gas, oil and raw materials from Russia.
German power expanded exponentially, with the annexation of the “other Germany”, the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe and the ascendancy of client regimes eager and willing to submit to a German dominated European Union and a US directed NATO military command.
German political-economic expansion via ‘popular uprisings’, controlled by local political clients, was soon accompanied by a US led military offensive – sparked by separatist movements. Germany intervened in Yugoslavia, aiding and abetting separatists in Slovenia and Croatia .It backed the US-NATO bombing of Serbia and supported the far-right, self-styled Kosovo Liberation Army ( KLA),engaged in a terrorist war in Kosovo . Belgrade was defeated and regime change led to a neo-liberal client state. The US built the largest military base in Europe in Kosovo. Montenegro and Macedonia became EU satellites.
While NATO expanded and enhanced the US military presence up to Russia’s borders, Germany became the continent’s pre-eminent economic power.
Germany and the New World Order
While President Bush and Clinton were heralding a “new world order”, based on unipolar military supremacy, Germany advanced its new imperial order by exercising its political and economic levers. Each of the two power centers, Germany and the US, shared the common quest of rapidly incorporating the new capitalist regimes into their regional organizations –the European Union (EU) and NATO– and extending their reach globally. Given the reactionary origins and trajectory into vassalage of the Eastern, Baltic and Balkan regimes, and given their political fears of a popular reaction to the loss of employment, welfare and independence resulting from their implementation of savage neoliberal “shock policies”, the client rulers immediately “applied” for membership as subordinate members of the EU and NATO, trading sovereignty, markets and national ownership of the means of production for economic handouts and the ‘free’ movement of labor, an escape valve for the millions of newly unemployed workers. German and English capital got millions of skilled immigrant workers at below labor market wages, and unimpeded access to markets and resources. The US secured NATO military bases, and recruited military forces for its Middle East and South Asian imperial wars.
US-German military and economic dominance in Europe was premised on retaining Russia as a weak quasi vassal state, and on the continued economic growth of their economies beyond the initial pillage of the ex-communist economies.
For the US, uncontested military supremacy throughout Europe was the springboard for near-time imperial expansion in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and Latin America. NATO was ‘internationalized’ into an offensive global military alliance: first in Somalia, Afghanistan then Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine.
The Rise of Russia, The Islamic Resistance and the New Cold War
During the ‘decade of infamy’ (1991-2000) extreme privatization measures by the client rulers in Russia on behalf of EU and US investors and gangster oligarchs, added up to vast pillage of the entire economy, public treasury and national patrimony. The image and reality of a giant prostrate vassal state unable to pursue an independent foreign policy, and incapable of providing the minimum semblance of a modern functioning economy and maintaining the rule of law, became the defining view of Russia by the EU and the USA. Post-communist Russia, a failed state by any measure, was dubbed a “liberal democracy” by every western capitalist politician and so it was repeated by all their mass media acolytes.
The fortuitous rise of Vladimir Putin and the gradual replacement of some of the most egregious ‘sell-out’ neo-liberal officials, and most important, the reconstruction of the Russian state with a proper budget and functioning national institutions, was immediately perceived as a threat to US military supremacy and German economic expansion. Russia’s transition from Western vassalage to regaining its status as a sovereign independent state set in motion, an aggressive counter-offensive by the US-EU. They financed a neo-liberal-oligarchy backed political opposition in an attempt to restore Russia to vassalage via street demonstrations and elections .Their efforts to oust Putin and re-establish Western vassal state failed. What worked in 19991 with Yeltsin’s power grab against Gorbachev was ineffective against Putin. The vast majority of Russians did not want a return to the decade of infamy.
In the beginning of the new century, Putin and his team set new ground-rules, in which oligarchs could retain their illicit wealth and conglomerates, providing they didn’t use their economic levers to seize state power. Secondly, Putin revived and restored the scientific technical, military, industrial and cultural institutions and centralized trade and investment decisions within a wide circle of public and private decision makers not beholden to Western policymakers. Thirdly, he began to assess and rectify the breakdown of Russian security agencies particularly with regard to the threats emanating from Western sponsored ‘separatist’ movements in the Caucuses, especially, in Chechnya, and the onset of US backed ‘color revolutions’ in the Ukraine and Georgia.
At first, Putin optimistically assumed that, Russia being a capitalist state, and without any competing ideology, the normalization and stabilization of the Russian state would be welcomed by the US and the EU. He even envisioned that they would accept Russia as an economic, political, and even NATO partner. Putin even made overtures to join and co-operate with NATO and the EU. The West did not try to dissuade Putin of his illusions .In fact they encouraged him, even as they escalated their backing for Putin’s internal opposition and prepared a series of imperial wars and sanctions in the Middle East, targeting traditional Russian allies in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
As the ‘internal’ subversive strategy failed to dislodge President Putin, and the Russian state prevailed over the neo-vassals, the demonization of Putin became constant and shrill. The West moved decisively to an ‘outsider strategy’, to isolate, encircle and undermine the Russian state by undermining allies, and trading partners
US and Germany Confront Russia: Manufacturing the “Russian Threat”
Russia was enticed to support US and NATO wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya in exchange for the promise of deeper integration into Western markets. The US and EU accepted Russian co-operation, including military supply routes and bases, for their invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The NATO powers secured Russian support of sanctions against Iran. They exploited Russia’s naïve support of a “no fly zone” over Libya to launch a full scale aerial war. The US financed so-called “color revolutions” in Georgia and the Ukraine overt, a dress rehearsal for the putsch in 2014 Each violent seizure of power allowed NATO to impose anti-Russian rulers eager and willing to serve as vassal states to Germany and the US.
Germany spearheaded the European imperial advance in the Balkans and Moldavia, countries with strong economic ties to Russia. High German officials “visited” the Balkans to bolster their ties with vassal regimes in Slovenia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Croatia. Under German direction, the European Union ordered the vassal Bulgarian regime of Boyko “the booby” Borisov to block the passage of Russian owned South Stream pipeline to Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and beyond. The Bulgarian state lost $400 million in annual revenue . . . Germany and the US bankrolled pro-NATO and EU client politicians in Moldavia – securing the election of Iurie Leanca as Prime Minister. As a result of Leanca’s slavish pursuit of EU vassalage, Moldavia lost $150 million in exports to Russia. Leanca’s pro-EU policies go counter to the views of most Moldavians – 57% see Russia as the country’s most important economic partner. Nearly 40% of the Moldavian working age population works in Russia and 25% of the Moldavians’ $8 billion GDP is accounted for by overseas remittances.
German and the US empire-builders steamroll over dissenting voices in Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia, as well as Moldova and Bulgaria, who’s economy and population suffer from the impositions of the blockade of the Russian gas and oil pipeline. But Germany’s, all out economic warfare against Russia takes precedent over the interests of its vassal states: its theirs to sacrifice for the ‘Greater Good’ of the emerging German economic empire and the US – NATO military encirclement of Russia. The extremely crude dictates of German imperial interests articulated through the EU, and the willingness of Balkan and Baltic regimes to sacrifice fundamental economic interests, are the best indicators of the emerging German empire in Europe.
Parallel to Germany’s rabid anti-Russian economic campaign, the US via NATO is engaged in a vast military build-up along the length and breadth of Russia’s frontier. The US stooge, NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg, boasts that over the current year, NATO has increased 5-fold the warplanes and bombers patrolling Russian maritime and land frontiers, carried out military exercises every two days and vastly increased the number of war ships in the Baltic and Black Sea.
What is absolutely clear is that the US and Germany want to return Russia to the vassalage status of the 1990’s. They do not want ‘normal relations’. From the moment Putin moved to restore the Russian state and economy, the Western powers have engaged in a series of political and military interventions, eliminating Russian allies, trading partners and independent states.
The emergent of extremist, visceral anti-Russian regimes in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania served as the forward shield for NATO advancement and German economic encroachment. Hitler’s ‘dream’ of realizing the conquest of the East via unilateral military conquest has now under Prime Minister Merkel taken the form of conquest by stealth in Northern and Central Europe , by economic blackmail in the Balkans ,and by violent putsches in the Ukraine and Georgia.
The German economic ruling class is divided between the dominant pro-US sector that is willing to sacrifice lucrative trade with Russia today in hopes of dominating and pillaging the entire economy in a post-Putin Russia (dominated by ‘reborn Yeltsin clones’); and a minority industrial sector, which wants to end sanctions and return to normal economic relations with Russia.
Germany is fearful that its client rulers in the East, especially in the Balkans are vulnerable to a popular upheaval due to the economic sacrifices they impose on the population. Hence, Germany is wholly in favor of the new NATO rapid deployment force, ostensibly designed to counter a non-existent “Russian threat” but in reality to prop up faltering vassal regimes.
The ‘Russian Threat’, the ideology driving the US and German offensive throughout Europe and the Caucuses, is a replay of the same doctrine which Hitler used to secure support from domestic industrial bankers, conservatives and right wing overseas collaborators among extremists in Ukraine, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria.
The US-EU seizure of power via vassal political clients backed by corrupt oligarchs and Nazi street fighters in Ukraine detonated the current crisis. Ukraine power grab posed a top security threat to the very existence of Russia as an independent state. After the Kiev take-over, NATO moved its stooge regime in Kiev forward to militarily eliminate the independent regions in the Southeast and seize the Crimea .thus totally eliminating Russia’s strategic position in the Black Sea. Russia the victim of the NATO power grab was labelled the “aggressor”. The entire officialdom and mass media echoed the Big Lie. Two decades of US NATO military advances on Russia’s borders and German-EU economic expansion into Russian markets were obfuscated. Ukraine is the most important strategic military platform from which the US-NATO can launch an attack on the Russian heartland and the single largest market for Germany since the annexation of East Germany
The US and Germany see the Ukraine conquest as of extreme value in itself but also as the key to launching an all-out offensive to strangle Russia’s economy via sanctions and dumping oil and to militarily threaten Russia. The strategic goal is to reduce the Russian population to poverty and to re-activate the quasi-moribund opposition to overthrow the Putin government and return Russia to permanent vassalage. The US and German imperial elite, looking beyond Russia, believe that if they control Russia, they can encircle ,isolate and attack China from the West as well as the East.
Wild-eyed fanatics they are not. But as rabid proponents of a permanent war to end Russia’s presence in Europe and to undermine China’s emergence as a world power, they are willing to go to the brink of a nuclear war.
The ideological centerpiece of US-German imperial expansion and conquest in Europe and the Caucuses is the “Russian Threat”. It is the touchstone defining adversaries and allies. Countries that do not uphold sanctions are targeted. The mass media repeat the lie. The “Russian Threat” has become the war cry for cringing vassals – the phony justification for imposing frightful sacrifices to serve their imperial ‘padrones’ in Berlin and Washington – fearing the rebellion of the ‘sacrificed’ population. No doubt, under siege, Russia will be forced to make sacrifices. The oligarchs will flee westward; the liberals will crawl under their beds. But just as the Soviets turned the tide of war in Stalingrad, the Russian people, past the first two years of a bootstrap operation will survive, thrive and become once again a beacon of hope to all people looking to get from under the tyranny of US-NATO militarism and German-EU economic dictates.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.