Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Germany to re-arm, Russia reacts, Poland wishes it were somewhere else

A few days ago the BBC announced that Germany was going to re-arm. As a person born to parents who lived through WW2 and Poles to boot, I had that feeling you get when a shadow crosses your path for no apparent reason. My father made a face and whispered "Not again" and my wife got very agitated. While the rest of you sit safe in your homes, in some cases thousands of kilometres away from Germany,  those of us who's souls and in some cases current property still reside in Poland along with a lot of relatives, that combination of words makes us have an  instinctive knee jerk reaction that says "You what?".  Early on about two years ago now, Russia quietly started spending money on arms and rebuilding it's professional standing army. In such a world, it was only a few minutes after this German announcement  we were laughing at a joke that goes "If a German Tank and a Russian Tank start moving at the same speed, which one will get to Warsaw first?". Some of you will recall the Top Gear ep where Jezza was road testing a Mecedes S class and the default destination setting on the satnav was Warsaw. This kind of gallows humour reminds us of our history and keeps  us on our toes, but is it a fair reaction in December 2010?

And while I still think I shouldn't trust a Russian leader as far as I can spit, I have to suspend my own prejudices when it come to Germans and Germany.  Lets review a few historic facts

1- France and Germany were enemies for several centuries and fought several devastating wars.
2- England and France were enemies for several centuries and fought several devastating wars.
3- Holland and Germany were enemies for several centuries and fought several devastating wars.
4- England and Spain were enemies for several centuries and fought several devastating wars.
5- Most recently.....Most Irish Catholics and most Irish Protestants were enemies for several centuries and fought several devastating wars.

And yet all of these nations now consider themselves good friends diplomatically, commercially and culturally. In fact if we were to draw up a list of most dangerous countries  in our respective states, we would all lead with Russia, China and various terrorist organisations and rogue states whose sole aim is to destabilise the current peace. I recognize that the person born in 1960, as I was, but in Germany, and their children, are not the same people their predecessors were. These new citizens are on the whole, law abiding, freedom loving, eco aware, open minded, well educated, tolerant people who vote pretty much like most every other Western European living and breathing today. People  with whom I would naturally have more affinity with than the modern day Russian who is just waiting for Czar Putin to crown himself and re-establish Greater Russia and wipe the bothersome dissidents out of the way, along with gays, artists, editorialists and satirists. Why should I fear a re militarized Germany? Isn't it time that Germany was fully re integrated into the great circle of Great  Nations it used to belong to? It has since WW2 rebuilt itself and and it's economy and rapidly regained it's pre-eminent role in world markets and monetary policy, welcomed it's Jews back, It has made room for the largest group of Turks and other asylum seekers in Europe,  it has become the World leader in the fight against green house gasses, it has led Europe in it's support of every Peace initiative going,  and  has led Europe in establishing norms that will stabilise the Euro and trading relations among member states and other trading partners. Germany was one of the first economies to come out of recession and not harm workers in the way that far right regimes around the world have. If anything, Germany has been a good and loyal member of Nato since 1955 often outstripping other member states in their contributions.

Why wouldn't I sleep well at night knowing that German soldiers were at the ready to defend me and my neighbours from outside aggression? The last time I was nasty to Germans, was about 4 years ago. To my shame, I reacted badly, along with it must be said , the rest of the pub, to a group of Austrians in Lederhosen. It was well into to the evening and most of us had been onto our 4th or 5th pint, being of sound mind and judgement, we started quietly at first making sieg heil noises and pretending we had tiny moustaches, building up to a low murmur they could not have helped hearing. These people just came in wanting a drink and some camaraderie and we were hostile. Otherwise rational men and some women of mixed English, Irish and other assorted Guinness appreciating peoples, allowed drink to cloud our minds and revert to instinctive tribal memory. In the end, they were served and most of us, myself included realized just how stupid we had been, some even went over to talk to them.  And that is the point. These people are not the bogey men they used to be.They are more like us than not like us. Germans and Germany should be trusted to be allowed what all other mature allied nations have taken for granted for decades.

As a person of Polish descent, I cannot help but have a reactions long engrained in tribal memory, but as a modern European and open minded person, it is my duty to set aside these feelings when I recognize the irrationality of them. This is not to say that I won't ever give up my bullshit meter and built in alarm that warns me long before the rest of you ever see it, that something dangerous this way comes. That would be irresponsible. But it is in fact this same detection system within me that tells me despite my previous views, these people are my friends and I should trust them.

While I may have reservations about giving up whole sections of sovereignty to the greater European dream, I cannot fault the goal of the dream. It says we are what we are, but we are also Europeans and if we fight each other we will fall into conflict again, if we cooperate, we will rise above the petty squabbles and achieve the unfulfilled  historical evolution we were headed towards before WW1 broke out. I would like to think that my children's children will live in a peaceful safe and prosperous Europe, precisely because we have taken the step to finally trust each other. Greece, Romania and other nations with dodgy banking practices have much to learn, but at least the tools to deal with the situation are not tanks and guns and bombs any more. It's only fair to allow Germany to achieve the same level of security Great Britain, France, Italy and others take for granted today.

I much prefer to recall the Germany of Frederick the Great over that of the Mad Adolf Hitler and his immediate predecessor Kaiser Wilhelm the II. Today's Germany is a Right of Centre coalition led by Angela Merkel, a Government  that should it loose favour, is more likely to be replaced by left of centre elements than fascists. Her Government and most parties in the Bundestag are strongly opposed to the rise of the extreme right in some parts of it's territories and is aware that the problem of the far right is a greater threat in the old Slavic Central and Eastern Bloc of nations. Even in the Simon pure West, fascist parties are on the rise, surely something we should all fear and fight against. Germany has long ceased to be an implacable enemy or even a niggling problem, they are a full ally and friend we cannot allow to be held back by old prejudices. Great Britain, France and the rest of the European Union recognize that Germany is one of the pillars of a viable modern Europe and one of the few states that has the moral authority to dictate public policy without having to blush every few weeks at the latest antics of its politicians and merchant classes.

The Only place I want to beat up on Germany, is the Football pitch.


Anonymous said...

Germany currently reduces it forces.

Mietek Padowicz said...

Reducing forces and re arming are two different things. Be that as it may,I am referring to the sort of reactions that statement made in the early 30's or had it been made in the 60's. Today we need not fear a friend, and surely that is to admit we have come a long way.

Ian Aitchison said...

Mietek I am now in Warsaw visiting the In Laws for Christmas, it's actually a bonus as it is warmer here. The one country that as you know the Poles deeply mistrust is Russia, indeed so must the Brits after it was awarded the 2018 World Cup, never trust the Bear.