Germany has failed to challenge Putin as the crisis in the Ukraine deepens. The world has always assigned blame to Germany for World War I and World War II. Will Germany now be responsible for World War III?
The critics have been relentless in portraying Germany as weak and that Chancellor Merkel has been strong on words and weak on actions. Germany fears a European split that would have dire effects on its economy. It now imports more than 40 percent of its oil and gas from Russia. It currently has over 6,000 companies doing business in Russia, and $27 billion in capital investment in Russia. It sounds like Germany has a lot to lose. But Russia has a lot more to lose if it is economically isolated from the world, like North Korea or even Cuba.
Dictators like Putin can only survive with some sort of real or imagined threat, or crisis. Putin preaches Russia must be strong, as it is encircled by its enemies. The Russian people love the spectacle of Putin making fools of European leaders like Merkel, and even President Obama. Putin will only continue to survive as long as there is a threat, either real or imagined, and there always must be drama to draw attention to himself.
Russia is extremely vulnerable to economic sanctions. It always has been vulnerable. During the cold war, for the most part, Russia was an economic basket case that couldn’t even feed its own people. It had to beg Jimmy Carter for American wheat during the harsh winters of the late 1970’s.
In an unusual case of history repeating itself, Merkel appears to be the new Chamberlain in Munich. But Germany is an economic superpower and Russia has a smaller economy than Brazil. In fact, it would be like Brazil challenging the United States. The United States could economically destroy a county without firing a shot. The United States use of economic embargos had more effect on influencing the actions of rogue nations, than most of its combat actions. The dollar is certainly stronger than the sword. In Havana they are still driving 1950’s American cars and answering old Western Electric rotary phones. Germany should take notice.
Germany alone could destroy the Russian economy and leave Putin to the same fate of Nicolae Ceausecu of Romania, who was executed by his own people. Germany could do sizeable damage to economy of the United States, let alone Russia. After two horrific world wars and the ethnic cleansing in the 1990’s in Yugoslavia, it should be clearly understood, that the military use of force on the European continent, shall never be tolerated again. Its bad enough with conflicts tearing up the Middle East and Asia, we don’t need one in the Ukraine.
No longer should Germany fail to challenge Putin. It is now time for Germany to flex its economic muscle and guarantee the peace in Europe. A sort of Pax Germania. Like the ancient Romans, attack all who threaten the peace. But attack economically, not by military means.
Opinion by John J. Poltonowicz