According to reports first made public in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the German Ministry of Defense is not banking on the EU being intact by 2040. In two decades, the Ministry foresees six potential scenarios for how European and world powers will be aligned, but the maintenance of the European Union as we know it is considered unlikely, though it is presented as a possibility in two of the six scenarios. Yet, even in those scenarios, the EU’s tenuous grip is already described as “struggling” to stay intact, with cultural divides and increasing nationalism driving a wedge through its sense of shared goals and ideologies. It’s clear from Strategic Perspective 2040 that Germany is preparing to look out for itself.
The scenarios in and of themselves are interesting, and the release of the German military document will surely prompt other European powers to face even more seriously the prospect of the EU crumbling. Germany was a leading force behind the EU’s formation and has served as its economic backbone since. It is the glue that holds the Union together, and their contingencies which hint at life post-EU mean other nations must act even more quickly than Germany to form their own policies and get their stuff together. Germany may be fine without the EU, but several nations face likely economic disaster and potential long-term ruin without the financial support systems the EU provides. But, as will be come clear, Germany stands to lose from the crumbling of the EU in multiple respects.
On to the scenarios, which include fallen European nations being lured by Russian influence, increased US isolationism, a China versus the West showdown, and even a potential where the West faces complete ‘demise’. But, the specifics of each individual scenario detailed in the 120-page report are worth examining.
The first two scenarios, which seem unlikely, describe the EU fighting through its struggles, with Germany continuing to wage local and international peacekeeping efforts. Though these scenarios use the term ‘existential crisis’, they are perhaps the rosiest pictures in terms of a unified, stable Europe, as flawed as it currently is.
The third scenario seems to essentially describe what is already occurring in Western Europe and the rest of the Western world. This scenario is marked by rising tensions within Western Europe, including the rising nationalism and anti-EU sentiment in countries like Poland, Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic. In combination with rising migrant-related terrorism threats which have catalyzed the rebirth of pro-national, not European, sovereignty in the defiant EU member nations, these hurdles to the EU’s existence are acknowledged by the doctrine as the current state of affairs. The continuation of these trends, which seems like an inevitability, would likely mean the disintegration of the EU, but scenario 3 does not elaborate further on the global implications of the Union’s breakup.
Those more global scenarios are saved for the last three scenarios, which paint darker pictures of radical shifts within the global power structure. Scenario four supposes the collapse of the European Union. The United States, though “overstrained” by global strife and economic instability, would serve as the “stabilizing factor” in the West. Yet, even with the United States holding the world together with floss, the significant decline of European and Chinese economies would mean a serious hit to Germany’s top two export markets, and therefore the German economy. The Deutschland has thrived on producing superior products, but with the most immediate export markets unable to afford those goods at previous scale, Germany would see an inevitable slow in their economic production, and would need to take steps to disperse their exports more widely.
According to Geopolitical Futures, scenarios five and six would both constitute a bi-polar world, which divides the United States and some European nations against Russia, China, and other former European nations. In scenario five, military conflict is avoided only by a dependence on trade between the Eastern and Western blocs.
‘Scenario five outlines a bipolar world, where the West consists of the U.S. and Europe – not the EU – and the East consists of Russia and China. Economic competition grows between the two blocs, but while tensions are high, trade prevents major military conflicts. Dependence on fossil fuels and other raw materials drives some Eastern European countries to ally with Russia.’
The last outlook, scenario six, is essentially global chaos and uncertainty. This is clearly the worst-case scenario.
‘The sixth scenario sees a complete collapse of the European Union. The leadership in the United States is no longer able to act decisively to prevent global crises from escalating. The prevailing sentiment from the perspective of the German defense and security establishment is uncertainty.’ (GPF)
Though it is thought that this ‘Strategic Perspective 2040’ document was first written in 2015, before the mass migrations, Brexit, and stark rise in nationalist sentiment, the document has obviously been adjusted to account for these more recent developments. Germany stands to see the EU stay intact, both to maintain peace with France and to secure its largest export market, the rest of Europe. A decline in the ease of trade due to isolationism by European nations would affect the German economy for the worse, and the past has proven, twice, that financial and social unrest in Germany spell trouble for the rest of the world.
Likely allegiance between Italy, France, and Spain would pose a greater threat to German security, as would the constant threat posed by Russian might. Having let in over a million Islamic refugees, many of whom would likely pose an additional threat to German unity, the nation could be at more risk than ever should the EU fall. Far from its war machine days under Hitler, preparation for the breakdown of the EU and potential military conflicts that arise from its demise may be futile.
Under such a scenario, not an unlikely one, Germany’s alliance with the United States would perhaps be its saving grace. Perhaps getting on the same ideological page with the current American administration would be a wise start to establishing a firmer sense of trust that would be necessary for Germany to ward off threats from several fronts, including potential rebels within its own borders. Though, by the time scenarios 4 through 6 occur, who knows who will be in the White House? Whoever it is, Germany should begin appeasing America’s prevailing administration if it believes that EU collapse is a likely scenario in coming decades, if not sooner.