At the present time, Germany is in a strategic position unparalleled in its history. The German state shares no borders with any potential enemies in the near future. Historically Germany has had to contend with one or more enemies sharing contiguous borders with it and rarely has Germany been able to count on outside help in combating these enemies. As a continental as opposed to maritime power this situation is unprecedented for Germany with her short coastline and long land borders. Historically Germany has always shared a border with at least one enemy whether at peace with them or not.
The list of historical enemies is short, Poland, Russia, and France, but these enemies have long historical grievances that have not all been completely resolved. There are other more recent enemies, the Czech and Slovak republics, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark for starters. All these countries were occupied or partially occupied by Germany little more than sixty years ago. The occupation and tyranny of the Nazis is not forgotten and is not soon to be forgotten; it is a constant bargaining chip used by these countries when disputes arise with Germany.
Poland currently occupies the former East Prussia, even though most of the ethnic Germans were expelled after World War II the fact remains that there are many families in Germany that lost property at the end of the war. Some of the lost properties had been in families for centuries and it is unrealistic to think that some of these families do not want their lands returned. The repeated German recognition of the Oder-Neisse Line as being the German frontier seems to have gone far to quell polish suspicions that a unified Germany wants a return of the lands of East Prussia. Â The Russian retention of Historical Konigsberg is a potential source of friction tough.
Russia has been a historical enemy as far back as the Middle Ages when both Germans and Russians contended for control of the Baltic coast. More recently, Russia has been invaded twice in the last hundred years by German armies. Â In World War II, the Russians were within a hairsbreadth of defeat before they managed to stop the Germans before Moscow in 1941. Even then, the war in the East was not decided until the German defeat at Berlin in 1945.
The French are traditional enemies of Germany, both countries have contended for control of the ethnically mixed provinces of Alsace and Lorraine as well as struggling for dominance in Europe since the rise of Prussia. These two provinces have changed hands repeatedly, most recently at the end of World War II when they were returned to France.
Since the end of World War II, Germany has reentered the community of nations in Europe and has become allies with many of its former enemies. How deep these ties of alliance are was shown in the early 1990â€™s when West Germany sought union with East Germany, which had been under communist domination since the end of the war. Although there was some talk of a resurgent Germany and perhaps a resurrection of their former continental aspirations that fear has so far proved groundless.
However, while Germany has no immediate military enemies, historical grievances have a way of returning as the Balkan wars of the 1990â€™s show. Ancient hatreds do not just go away and Germanyâ€™s wars of conquest in the last century will remain near the surface of contemporary thought for the foreseeable future. Germany is certainly vulnerable in other areas than strictly military conflict and actions against these interests could conceivably lead to military action on Germanyâ€™s part though Germany is unlikely to initiate conflict on their own.
Perhaps Germanyâ€™s largest vulnerability in the short-term is its economic position, particularly with respect to energy supply. Germany imports over 97% of the fuel required to fulfill its energy needs and Russia is by far the largest supplier of fossil fuels to Germany. Germany imports almost ten times as much from Russia as from Saudi Arabia. Historically Russia has been an enemy of Germany, in fact; the last two major wars Germany fought were against Russia. German weakness in this area was shown in the winter of 2008-2009 when Russia cut of the supply of natural gas to the Ukraine and most of western Europe imperiling heating supplies and causing deaths in some countries such as Bulgaria and Romania. Germany had enough stockpiles to last the winter but a prolonged dispute would have highlighted how dependent Germany and the rest of Western Europe is on Russia for energy supplies.
With German opposition to the Iranian Nuclear program and Russian support of their nuclear ambitions, Germany is certainly vulnerable to Russian pressure given their reliance on Russia for energy supplies. Russia is also suspicious of NATOâ€™s enlargement in Eastern Europe and the fact that Germany is a founding member of NATO puts them at risk if Russia chooses the military option to resolve their dispute with NATO if diplomacy fails.
The Baltic Sea lanes and its associated trade routes are another area of potential conflict for Germany. Germany, with its advanced economy and industrial edge is a major trading partner with the Baltic States and has an interest in seeing free trade in the region. The Baltic port of St. Petersburg is one of Russiaâ€™s few seaports that are south of the Arctic Circle and it is thus a vital link in Russian foreign trade. Germany has the potential to close this route to Russia in any future conflict as they did during World War II
Given the current political situation in the world and Germans support for the United Statesâ€™ global war on terrorism, lukewarm though it has been, Germany certainly faces threats from Islamic terrorism along with the rest of Western Europe. While terrorism is a potential threat that cannot truly be evaluated, world events in the past twenty years have shown that it is not going away and is a threat that must be dealt with. This is not a threat Germany faces alone though.
As stated before, Germany is currently in one of the best strategic positions it could be in. It seems that all territorial disputes with Germanyâ€™s neighbors are settled though they could arise in the future again. Germany along with all her neighbors are members of NATO and pledged to each otherâ€™s defense. As a member of the EU Germany has staked its future on those of its neighbors and has committed to ever-greater integration in Europe. Whether this arrangement will work as Germany and others hope remain to be seen, so far the EU seems to be a success, but the EU, like NATO has never faced a serious challenge, one that threatens its very existence. Germany seems to be poised for future peace and prosperity; however, old enmities could arise at any time and destroy these alliances. It remains to be seen whether Germany will continue down the path to greater success and security that she currently seems to be going down. With Germanyâ€™s recent history her strategic position looks to only be enhanced, not degraded in the near future.