Although Germany is the owner of Europe’s largest economy and highest population, it has long exhibited a general reluctance to take the leadership reins of the European Union project. There are many valid historical reasons behind this reluctance, particularly the buildup of German power that directly (or perhaps indirectly) precipitated the onset of two world wars. However, in light of the recent conflict roiling Ukraine, many powerful voices in the international media are arguing that Germany must accept the role of union unifier — or Europe could face dire consequences.
Among the commentators calling for a stronger and more assertive Germany is George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, chairman of Soros Fund Management, and creator and chairman of the worldwide Open Society Foundations. Soros recognizes that Ukraine is ideologically and geographically trapped between two powerful international actors, the European Union and Russia. The country is in the midst of a fledgling experiment with true representative democracy, and in its fragile state it cannot afford to alienate either actor. In this complex situation, Germany can reassert itself as a decision-maker in Europe while simultaneously encouraging cooperation between Russia and Western Europe.
http://www.nytimes.com/topic/person/george-soros George Soros – The New York Times
http://www.forbes.com/profile/george-soros/ George Soros – Forbes
In order to sustain the viability of its new government, Ukraine desperately needs an injection of capital. Germany is by far the wealthiest country in Europe, and is the main state currently funding the debts of countries like Italy and Greece in southern Europe. This gives it tremendous influence over banks and lenders like the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — by using this influence to trigger investment in Ukraine, Germany can position the EU as an effective counterweight against Russian meddling and aggression in Ukraine. The EU, for all of its impressive accomplishments, has a very difficult time generating cohesive responses to international events, and Germany’s leadership may be just what the bloc needs to present a unified front to the rest of the continent.
Unfortunately, investing in Ukraine is only half of the battle. George Soros also notes that Germany needs to project its international diplomatic power in order to convince Russia to act as a partner in Ukraine’s governmental renaissance. Germany is essentially the only country in Europe that has the global clout to force Russia to the table for a open and honest meeting of heads of state. A cold war replay benefits no one, but until Russia and Western Europe engage in a meaningful and healthy dialogue, tension on either side of the former Iron Curtain will not abate.
European investment in Eastern Europe helped the region emerge from the specter of failed communist growth strategies and become an active participant in the global economy. Today, Ukraine is in desperate need of a similar stimulus package, and only Germany can marshal the necessary resources to make that fantasy a reality. The Ukrainian situation is an excellent test of Western Europe’s true passion for democratic systems of government, and the European Union’s response will depend largely on how prepared Germany is to take a leadership role in the international community again.
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