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Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy manifesto in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine

By Gilbert Doctorow | December 21, 2022

When I first read through Olaf Scholz’s comprehensive foreign policy essay “The Global Zeitenwende” recently published in Foreign Affairs magazine, it brought to mind another sensational manifesto from an international leader in the news published by this very same authoritative journal. That was an essay ‘written’ by then Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko for the late spring 2007 issue.

There are several things these two essays have in common aside from centrality of Ukraine and of Russian malevolence in their thinking about the world. Publication of the Tymoshenko article gave rise to accusations of plagiarism against her for lifting some well known phrases from the writings of Henry Kissinger without attribution. In the case of Scholz, there is a more subtle kind of ‘plagiarism,’ in that he, like Tymoshenko, is clearly not the sole author of the text published over his name. I will go into these matters in some detail below.

Another common feature is the extraordinary way in which these essays were crafted so as to slot into the susceptibilities and preferences of the American foreign policy establishment. The authors seem to have checked every possible box whether or not it was directly relevant to their overriding argument or to the nations they represent.

A third commonality is apt timing of the publication.  In the case of Tymoshenko, her fierce denunciation of Russia in which she deployed every calumny invented by the American Neo-Conservatives came just a few months after Vladimir Putin delivered his now famous speech on Russian claims against the US-led West at the Munich Security Conference. The sheer temerity of the Russian leader whose speech was witnessed by Senator John McCain and other American political worthies seated in the front rows left the U.S. Administration of George W. Bush infuriated and confounded over how to respond. As soon as they found their footing and their voice, they initiated what has ever since been a vast Information War directed against Russia.

Tymoshenko’s article in Foreign Affairs was the first cannon shot in this war of words. The publishers were most obliging, because such service to the State Department in disseminating a document they had to know was fake was the price they willingly paid to receive privileged access to high government officials on a regular basis and thereby provide value to their subscriber base at home and abroad numbering in the hundreds of thousands that makes FA the most widely read journal of its kind.

By giving pride of place to Scholz’s foreign policy manifesto today, when the will and strength of European solidarity with the USA over the war in Ukraine is top of mind and is being questioned by some in the mainstream media, FA continues this line of service to the powers that be.

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I dealt with the peculiarities of the Tymoshenko manifesto in an essay dated 10 November 2009 that I published on my blog and then republished as a chapter (29) in my 2010 book Stepping Out of Line. In that piece, I used close textual analysis to show that many turns of speech and lines of thinking were utterly inconsistent with supposed authorship by a native Ukrainian of her generation while they were second nature to American political commentators.

In this same essay, I emphasized that the kind of misrepresentation practiced in the publication of Tymoshenko’s text by FA was not a one-off development in America’s war of words on Russia. I pointed to an Open Letter to the Administration of President Barack Obama published in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on 16 July 2009 that was signed by Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and other well known thinkers and former statesmen who were behind the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination in the late 1980s. This appeal to the American President to ensure greater U.S. attention be given to the security of their region had a number of explicitly Russophobe points, including the insistence that Russia’s policy towards their countries was revisionist and threatening. Russia was said to be using overt and covert economic warfare in pursuit of its aims.

The context for the Open Letter was Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow a couple of weeks earlier to pursue the ‘reset’ of relations and achieve a rapprochement on several issues of strategic importance to the United States. Mainstream media, including The New York Times, carried the Open Letter.

The American public took it to be a cri de coeur of freedom fighters. In reality it was concocted by a team of ghost writers under the supervision of the German Marshal Fund and its boss Ron Asmus. This later came out in an expose written by Jacob Heilbrunn for the journal The National Interest.

For all of the above reasons, my first thoughts about possible American authorship of the Scholz manifesto had to be tested. However, the verdict of two German-speaking experts who examined the texts at my request was that German, not English was the source language and that the points made here were in line with what Scholz has said in speeches he has delivered around Germany in the past few weeks. And yet, I insist, that in its particulars the manifesto was made to appeal to the American readership of FA.

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Olaf Scholz is notable for his cunning. In short order, as the days of the Merkel chancellorship faded, he leveraged his prominence as a regional politician (mayor of Hamburg) into national standing. And when the Social Democrats emerged from the last elections as the leading party, though one still without a majority in the Bundestag, he succeeded in putting together a governing coalition relying on The Greens. This fox of a man surely recognized The Greens as politically primitive and so, malleable to his purposes, whereas forging yet another Grand Coalition with the CDU/CSU, who would be peers in terms of experience in federal cabinets, would have limited his power. Indeed, the outcome has been a federal government in which the highly visible posts of Economic Affairs (Robert Habeck) and Foreign Affairs (Annalena Baerbock) were filled with utterly inexperienced and incompetent high-ranking Greens politicians whose missteps and foolish statements in public space have diminished the Greens’ weight in a government that the Chancellor dominates.

However, cunning is not the same thing as intellectuality. The author(s) of the manifesto published in Foreign Affairs magazine show a mastery of the skills required to write effective propaganda that you acquire in a political science milieu not in an administration responsible for governing one city on a day to day basis, as was the milieu of Herr Scholz for decades before he rose to the chancellorship.

Am I being unfair or pedantic in calling Scholz a plagiarist when he put his name to a paper written by a team under his direction possibly with inputs from overseas friends in the USA? Isn’t that what political leaders do regularly when they stand on the dais and read speeches that were written by their professional speech writers?

Yes, but speeches are not the same thing as contributions to a journal that is published by political scientists with academic credentials for political scientists with academic credentials.

This is plagiarism in a form that is all too widespread in German political culture. Over the past couple of decades there were a number of scandals involving high politicians there whose doctoral theses were exposed as ghost written or plagiarized in the formal sense of the word. This directly results from the high respect that Germans as a society give to the Herr Doktor moniker. Political aspirants with burning ambition are all too tempted to go for broke.

Had he wished to be more honest with his own people and with the world, Scholz could have said his manifesto was co-authored with one or more experts so that everyone could better judge where this thinking was coming from and challenges to the thinking would be less politicized. Joe Biden did as much when he published his own manifesto in 2017-2018 on “standing up to the Russians” in FA with Michael Carpenter presented as co-author.

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Now let us look at the content of the manifesto which is firstly a very carefully trimmed narrative of what over the past thirty years has brought us to the present turning point in the road, or “Global Zeitenwende,” and secondly, a road map to the future, which the author(s) say, in the subtitle to the manifesto, will enable us “to avoid a New Cold War.”

In their hands, the narrative of European and world history over the past thirty years is the story of Russian revanchism that exists in a vacuum, without context of provocations and escalations from the USA, the EU and other actors, and propelled by the animus of one man, Vladimir Putin.

The key message about Russian culpability for everything comes in a couple of paragraphs. The original sin was Putin’s evaluation of the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” From that the authors fast forward to Putin’s “aggressive speech” at the February 2007 Munich Security Conference, “deriding the rules-based international order as a mere tool of American dominance.” This was followed in short order by the war Russia launched against Georgia in 2008. And from there we are off to the races:

In 2014, Russia occupied and annexed Crimea and sent its forces into parts of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, in direct violation of international law and Moscow’s own treaty commitments. The years that followed saw the Kremlin undercut arms control treaties and expand its military capabilities, poison and murder Russian dissidents, crack down on civil society, and carry out a brutal military intervention in support of the Assad regime in Syria. Step by step, Putin’s Russia chose a path that took it further from Europe and further from a cooperative, peaceful order.

This imperial ambition imputed to the Russians culminated in the unprovoked and utterly illegal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 to which Europe, and in particular Germany must respond by breaking entirely with past efforts at accommodation with Russia. Instead Germany must rearm and become the leading defender of Europe.

The authors walk a thin line between claiming European leadership for Germany and lauding the Americans for saving Europe presently from the Russian assault. They are giving the Americans exactly what Washington has been demanding for more than a decade: the commitment to raise defense spending to 2% of GDP.  The text even finds space to go into specific procurement items coming up, such as the “dual purpose” (meaning nuclear enabled) American F-35 warplane. Such details obviously are calculated to bring holiday cheer to the Washington establishment.

It is interesting that the manifesto speaks about avoiding a New Cold War when it is patently obvious that we are in the midst of exactly that and should count ourselves lucky that it has not yet escalated to a hot war that quickly becomes nuclear war. We may assume from the text that Scholz is holding out division into hostile blocs as the defining moment for a Cold War. And while formal declaration of anti-NATO alliances has not and may never emerge, the present reality is precisely the formation before our eyes of the Global South in confrontation with the Collective West. The Russia-Iran-China axis is there for all to see even if it is not a formally constituted military bloc. Moreover, a key constituent element of the Cold War, namely an ideological dimension, has in the past several years taken definitive shape in the notion of free democratic nations versus authoritarian nations. As for declaring a Cold War, what is there more to wait for?

Scholz’s manifesto completely distorts history to the point where it even overlooks the finding by the EU, following an investigation by then French President Sarkozy, that the Georgian War was caused by the military assault by Tbilisi on Ossetia, not by some unprovoked Russian attack on the Georgians. More importantly, it is totally blind to where his thinking would and may yet lead Germany and the world.

First, within Europe, his claim that Germany will be the leader of European defense and have the strongest military on the Continent goes directly in the face of a similar ambition of the Poles, the front-line state in the confrontation with Russia that will be receiving the greatest assistance of Washington, because the Poles, unlike the Germans, are putting their bodies on the line in the fight with the Russians over Ukraine.

The German leader’s hopes to become Washington’s closest ally by unquestioningly signing on to the American propaganda line also runs up against the ambitions of the French. It is no accident that the manifesto was issued so as to compete for attention with the visit of Emanuel Macron to Washington, in the knowledge that Macron was bringing to the overlords Europe’s complaints over unfair trading practices embedded in the latest Congressional legislation.

The biggest problem with Scholz’s road map at this Zeitenwende is that it is blind, as is Washington, to where the armed conflict on Ukrainian territory is taking us all. Ukrainian military victory is simply unattainable and sooner or later Kiev will fold. Scholz’s manifesto makes it plain that what lies ahead is what all sides are now calling a ‘long war.’

Yes, Germany will greatly expand its military spending and make amends for the pitiful forces of the present day Bundeswehr. However, the Russians will not go back to their bear caves and hibernate when the fighting stops in Ukraine. Indeed, what I now see is that progressively, over the past 300 days of warfare, Russian society has moved from consumerism and consolidated around patriotism. The ‘fifth column’ Liberals have now mostly left the country and moved to where their assets have long been kept in the West. Russian industry, under state direction, has risen to the challenge of supplying the army with equipment and munitions that are being expended at the highest daily rate since WWII. This trend will only accelerate going forward, as the Russian economy reorganizes on a war footing. Moreover, and most importantly, the small professional army that Russia built up from the start of Putin’s tenure in the presidency has been replaced conceptually by plans to develop an army scaled to offset the whole of European conventional forces. This means, as we have heard repeatedly from the host of the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov talk show, a standing army of three million men and women. And, against that coming force, Mr. Scholz’s Bundeswehr will be as pitiful in the future as it is today when facing Russia. Meanwhile, hopes for an even partial return to normality in relations between East and West on this Continent will be in vain, to the great loss of all sides.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

December 22, 2022 - Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , ,

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