The audience roars as the stage lights reveal the panel of judges. Smiling broadly and bumping fists, Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus, and Flannery O’Connor wave at the crowd. The cameras then cut to a figure, jutting his chin nervously and shifting in a chair across from them. A deep voice purrs: “Welcome to The Celebrity Nihilist, with tonight’s guest, Donald Trump.”
Given the headlines over the past year, this scenario is less surreal than it first appears. Typing the words “Trump nihilism,” a quick Google search uncovers more than 200,000 results. From the Washington Monthly’s “Trump and the Epitome of Post-Policy Nihilism,” Esquire’s “Trump’s Raging Nihilism” and The American Interest’s “The Nihilistic Populism of Trump,” to The Huffington Post’s “Trump: The Nihilist We Deserve,” the Washington Post’s “The Dangerous Nihilism of Trump Voters,” and the Wall Street Journal’s “The Nihilist in the White House” -- oops, sorry, that was Peggy Noonan on Barack Obama -- Trumpism has become the new nihilism.
Understandably, commentators are scrambling to find the words to describe a phenomenon as unprecedented as it was, at least until now, unthinkable. Equally understandable is that they are invoking the notion of nihilism in order to do so. Few isms, after all, carry connotations as dark and dim. But they may well be missing the target. As unsettling and unwholesome as Trumpism is, it has little to do with what one of the panel’s judges, Nietzsche, called “the uncanny guest.” By getting the meaning of nihilism right, we will better understand what is wrong with Trump -- and, perhaps, with our own selves.
Derived from the Latin nihil, or “nothing,” the term was popularized in 1862 with the publication of Ivan Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.” Embodied by the novel’s hero, Bazarov, the term first signified the rejection of the leaden and oppressive political and social systems of Czarist Russia. “We repudiate everything,” Bazarov announces. As for what follows, he couldn’t care less: “That is not our affair: the ground must be cleared first.”
A year ago, presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping stood next to each other and declared that neither the U.S. nor Chinese governments “will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.” Despite a great deal of warranted skepticism about the agreement initially, much of the heat surrounding cybersecurity in the bilateral relationship has dissipated. It is Russia, and the alleged hacks of the Democratic National Committee and World Anti Doping Agency, that now dominates the headlines and drives much of U.S. cybersecurity policy discussion.
When he announced the agreement, President Obama warned “We will be watching carefully to make an assessment as to whether progress has been made in this area.” The available evidence suggests that the overall level of Chinese-backed hacking has gone down. FireEye released a report in June 2016 that claimed the the number of network compromises by the China-based hacking groups it tracks dropped from 60 in February 2013 to less than 10 by May 2016. Absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence, and the Chinese may be becoming more stealthy and sophisticated in their attacks. Indeed FireEye noted that decline in number of attacks may be accompanied by a rise in the sophistication of attacks. U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin confirmed the company’s findings that attacks were less voluminous but more focused and calculated. Chinese hackers may have shifted their focus to other targets. Kaspersky Labs reported Chinese hacking of Russian defense, nuclear, and aviation industries rose nearly threefold in the first seven months of 2016
A month after signing the agreement with the United States, China inked a similar deal with the United Kingdom, and, in November 2015, China, Brazil, Russia, the United States, and other members of the Group of Twenty accepted the norm against conducting cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. The United States and China have also held two round of cyber talks between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the first in December 2015, the second in June 2016. At these meetings, Washington and Beijing agreed on the guidelines for requesting assistance on cybercrime, discussed establishing a hotline, and conducted tabletop exercises. In August, the Ministry of Public Security reported that the hotline between DHS and MPS was up and running.
The shift in Chinese hacking seems to have been driven by external and internal forces. Over a two year span, the United States mounted an aggressive naming and shaming campaign, indicted five People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hackers, and, in the weeks before the September summit, hinted it would sanction Chinese individuals or entities that benefited from cyber-enabled theft. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign and the clamp down on criminal use of state resources as well as efforts to modernize the PLA and bring cyber operations under more centralized control may have also produced the decline in hacking.
The U.S. involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan and in four wars in the Middle East—Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria—has led to a necessary focus on the military dimension and the tactical need to defeat given extremist movements and “enemies.” This focus, however, cannot bring stability either to the country at war or to the countries around it, and this leads almost inevitably to questions such as “how does this war end?” It also leads to talk about how to shape the “end state” of a given conflict.
The United States and its allies do need to look beyond the fighting, and beyond tactical victory. They also, however, need to understand that they cannot control the end state, that conflict termination agreements almost never shape the aftermath of a conflict even when it actually ends, and that the real world challenges of moving from conflict to stability are far greater and involve far longer time periods.
“End States” are a Historical Myth
In broad terms, efforts to control the “end state” of conflicts have almost always failed. Serious wars almost inevitably change the states involved in ways that none of the participants ever anticipated. They change social structure, economics, and interactions between different ethnic, sectarian, and other groups within society. Political stability and effective governance is often difficult to impossible to achieve, and anger, revenge, and opportunism create major patterns of post-conflict instability.
Roughly 500 years ago, Nicolaus Copernicus theorized that the Earth revolved around the sun, a fact that Galileo Galilei confirmed a century later. The breakthrough helped usher in a new era of scientific discovery, sparking numerous technological revolutions in the following centuries. The advent of the printing press and Galileo's challenges to the church represented inflection points in the advance of science and technology. From then on, technological growth was no longer incremental but exponential, as new ideas, technologies and theories emerged at an ever-increasing rate of speed.
Today, the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Advances in areas such as nanotechnology and materials science, smart factories, additive manufacturing, autonomous cars, gene-editing techniques, and battery technology stand to alter life on Earth, not only for individuals but also for the nations they inhabit. The world's countries will experience the radical transformation that disruptive technologies bring at different times and to different extents, some more favorably than others. But technological development and diffusion do not happen at random; geopolitical factors play a determining role in the process. Recognizing which countries are best situated to take advantage of emerging technologies can help us understand what the geopolitical order will look like two decades from now.
A country's geopolitical constraints and national strategy dictate what technologies it will develop or adopt. For example, as a vast territory whose major borders with Europe are largely indefensible, Russia has historically been susceptible to invasion. The country has long prioritized maintaining a large and capable military to mitigate the risk of invasion, devoting much of its efforts in science and technology development through the years to military and intelligence applications. By contrast, Japan has shifted its focus over time, gradually diverting its research and development resources from military to commercial applications to become a world leader in consumer technologies. But these factors are not immutable, nor are they the only considerations determining when and whether a country will adopt a new technology.
KRASNODAR — Ljudmila Voltshenko, who appears to be in her 50s, points to her house's charred roof and beams. "Bandits set it on fire," she says.
For Voltshenko, bandits refers to Russian civil servants, judges and local landowners — people she accuses of helping themselves to the 190 acres she and her husband own in Starovelitchkovskaya, a rich farming village near the southwestern Russian city of Krasnodar.
The couple is not alone. Many farmers in the region are facing the same problem.
"Around here, the authorities protect the bandits and we've been fighting each other for 12 years," says Voltshenko's husband, Mikhail, a former driver in the region's kolkhoz, or collective farm, during the Soviet era.
The Obama Administration’s stalled effort to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, the Clean Power Plan, was back before the courts on Tuesday. Even if it survives the process, the Clean Power Plan and the United States may miss a chance to catch up with China, which is building a transformative platform set to dominate global carbon markets.
In 2014 the United States and China made a bilateral announcement on their commitments to carbon reduction, paving the way for the Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan anchors the U.S. commitment, with a goal to reduce carbon from the electricity sector 32 percent by 2030.
Thirty-two percent may seem daunting, but a shift from coal to natural gas and renewables has already pushed carbon emissions down 21 percent from baseline 2005 levels. PJM Interconnection, one of the nation’s largest operators of the electrical grid, analyzed the Plan and concluded it can accommodate the effort with no impact to reliability and minimal impact to price. States are obliged comply with the Clean Power Plan individually, and the majority are on track to meet the first targets in 2022.
While this is good news for carbon emissions now, it raises questions for the long term. If states believe they can meet their goals independently, they may not build interstate mechanisms for trading emissions credits. Creating a national platform for emissions credit trading is what could put a national price on carbon and eventually transition the United States beyond fossil fuels.
Pal Sarkozy had always dreamed that one day his son, Nicolas, would become president. Not president of France, the country over which the younger Sarkozy presided from 2007-2012 and hopes to lead again. Instead it was France’s sister republic on the other side of the Atlantic.
“I’d have been really proud,” Sarkozy père declared soon after his son’s election in 2007, “if one of my sons had been president of the United States.”
We will probably never know if this wish, like a splinter, lodged itself deep in the psyche of Sarkozy fils. (For the record, Pal Sarkozy believes his son’s psyche was already damaged: “To become a politician, you need to have complexes. Nicolas has several.”) But if the nature of Sarkozy’s re-election campaign is any indication, it seems clear that, like his father, he has the American presidency on his mind.
Or, more precisely, a presidency à la Donald Trump.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will visit Russia and China to “open alliances” with the two states.
Since his election, the Filipino leader has made invective-laden speeches against Western partners and their leaders, including US President Barack Obama, decrying them for interfering in Philippine domestic affairs.
At the heart of this emerging dispute is not some fundamental geopolitical clash, but the issue of human rights.
What foreign policy issue is receiving short shrift from both presidential candidates?
Whoever wins this election probably on their watch, probably by 2019, 2020, the head of the CIA is going to stroll in…
Or run in
Or run in and say, ‘Madame President or Mr. President, we now believe North Korea has learned how to miniaturize nuclear warheads and put them on missiles with sufficient range and accuracy that they can reach the continental United States.’ And that president is going to have make what I believe is a truly fateful decision about whether we're prepared to live with that. I can't tell you every crisis that's going to come into the President's inbox, but this one you know. This one is coming. And you better be ready for it.
Europe has a new country. Or at least that is what a tiny territory between Serbia and Croatia is claiming. The Free Republic of Liberland (commonly known as Liberland) has failed to get international recognition, but its leaders are actually claiming control of a land that no other country seems interested in owning. While Liberland is unlikely to become anything more than a curious geographic anecdote, its existence raises questions about the meaning of statehood.
Since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, Serbia and Croatia have each claimed several territories along their border, including some islands on the Danube River, that have been put to international arbitration. But in early 2015, Vit Jedlicka, a Czech politician and activist, found a small parcel of land on the western bank of the Danube that is not claimed by either side. And so on April 13, 2015 (Thomas Jefferson's birthday), Jedlicka proclaimed the birth of Liberland, Europe's newest nation. Its name may sound impressive, but its territory is not: Liberland’s area is about 7 square kilometers (2.7 square miles) and is mostly covered by forest. It has no residents, and according to local media it has only an old house that has been abandoned for decades.
Jedlicka designed a flag for Liberland, which consists of a yellow background (representing libertarianism) and a black horizontal stripe (representing anarchism). He claims the country will be ruled by only a handful of laws, and taxes will be paid on a voluntary basis. Liberland's website describes its government as a "constitutional republic with elements of direct democracy" under the motto "to live and let live." Through his website, Jedlicka is offering passports from Liberland — open to anybody except Nazis, communists and "extremists" — and inviting people to invest in the new country. He claims to have a plan to turn Liberland into a financial center and a tax haven.
A meeting of international donors, foundations, and multilateral funders opened in the Serbian capital Belgrade on September 21 amid growing concern from young grassroots and philanthropic organizations that the Western Balkans are drifting backward. And in a dangerous way.
It is a backwardness characterized by growing corruption, increasing intimidation of the media, and political elites across the region who pay lip service to reform.
With the EU now focused on ensuring security, controlling its external borders, and stemming the flow of migrants reaching Europe, the union is paying little attention to the negative trends taking place in its immediate backyard. The emerging message from the Balkan Donors Forum, spearheaded by the European Fund for the Balkans and the Open Society Foundations, was that donors and NGOs need to rethink their role in this part of Europe.*
The decision by Britain in June 2016 to quit the EU has dealt a blow to reformers in the Western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. For reformers and those who support the region joining the EU, Brexit will mean a weaker Europe. Brexit also robs the EU of a strong advocate of further enlargement.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were meeting separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, giving each candidate fresh foreign policy talking points on the eve of their first presidential debate.
Clinton met Sunday evening with Netanyahu for less than an hour in Manhattan, according to Clinton campaign officials. Her meeting came after Trump sat down with the prime minister at his residence in Trump Tower in the morning, Israeli and Trump campaign officials said.
Reporters were barred from covering either meeting.
Clintons' campaign said in a statement that the two had an "in-depth conversation." She stressed that "a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States" and "reaffirmed unwavering commitment" to the relationship.
In Donald Trump’s Aug. 15 speech on foreign affairs, the Republican presidential candidate expressed a mercantilist view of foreign policy, stating that, “In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils.” Yet in those old days, the United States embraced a much different view: Washington believed that strong alliances and close economic ties created a global tide that lifted all boats, resulting in greater prosperity for the United States than that produced by an inward-focused mindset. While many Republicans remain committed to the principles that supported the U.S.-led construction of an international security order following the end of World War II, Trump has vowed to discard many of the policies that allowed for unprecedented levels of economic growth in the United States and around the world.
Trump’s rhetoric paints a view of a world in which there is a finite amount of wealth and one succeeds only by taking from someone else. Many of Trump’s positions do not reflect the core lesson of modern capitalism that a product I own might be worth more to you, while you might have a good that provides more value to me. Trump’s perspective instead seems to fit with the pre-Enlightenment, mercantilist view of global trade and security, in which countries took resources and constructed security arrangements that focused only on the direct immediate benefit to themselves. In the centuries before the American Revolution, European countries built empires that primarily focused on resource extraction: Establish a colony in Latin America, Africa, or Asia, take the local goods back to Europe, build a navy and army to defend that extraction method, repeat. However, the Industrial Revolution then unfolded, free-market thinkers such as Adam Smith and David Hume advanced economic theory, and it became clear that specialization and trade would best create global prosperity.
Which approach was right? According to U.C. Berkeley professor J. Bradford De Long’s work, average real global per-capita gross domestic product increased by 38 percent from 1600 to 1800. Over the next two centuries, as free-market ideas and practice took root, global GDP per capita increased by 3253 percent. Populations also became dramatically healthier: British scholar Angus Maddison estimates that average global life expectancy increased from 26 years in 1820 to 66 in 2002, after barely moving in the prior eight centuries from 24 in the year 1000. Finally, technological breakthroughs enabled by trade in goods, services, and ideas during this period -- such as the telephone, steam engine, and railroad -- made it far easier to move about and understand the world.
A zero-sum, mercantilist approach also ignores the benefits that the global security architecture, without which prosperity could not occur, has brought about for everyone. Trump’s rhetoric on NATO exemplifies this misperception. By reducing the threat of invasion by a foreign power, such as Russia today or the Soviet Union during the Cold War, NATO has helped cultivate a European economy that has not only brought prosperity to millions of its own citizens but has also directly benefited the U.S. economy. Europe is America’s largest trading partner. Without the European continent as a destination for the products of U.S. companies, many more Americans would be out of work. The U.S. Trade Representative estimated that exports to the European Union supported 2.6 million U.S. jobs in 2014. We benefit from imports from Europe in many other ways as well -- for example, how many more Americans would be sick or worse without the medicines of such companies as Novartis, Roche, and Sanofi?
The scene at Bratislava Castle last week was a familiar one: European leaders gathered for another summit in a typically idyllic setting, where the natural beauty of their surroundings belied the deep imperfections of the union they were struggling to salvage. But now, in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the Continental bloc, delusion steeped in the ideals of an "ever-closer" union is wearing thin, and the realists in the room seem to be gradually gaining ground.
The shift in the summit's tone was to be expected; closet Euroskeptics can no longer hide behind the United Kingdom as they assert national rights and tamp down Brussels' principles. They realize that the longer Europe's leaders avoid the hard questions, opting instead to continue extolling the "spirit" of the European Union as a way to survive, the more the bloc's guardians will have to react to — rather than shape — the enormous changes bubbling up from their disillusioned electorates. As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (who has tied his own political fate to a referendum in October) testily noted, the Bratislava gathering amounted to little more than a "boat trip on the Danube" and an "afternoon writing documents without any soul or any horizon" on the real problems afflicting Europe.
Tempering Ideals With Realities
The same frustration was palpable in several conversations I had during a recent trip to Slovenia, a country that tends to stay below the radar in Europe but is nevertheless highly perceptive of ground tremors. Slovenia lies, often precariously, at the edge of empires. Under the weight of the Alps, the former Yugoslav republic has one foot lodged in the tumultuous cauldron of the Balkans while its other foot toes the merchant riches of the Adriatic Sea. All the while, its arms are outstretched across the Pannonian Plain toward Vienna, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slovenia is a land where the Slavic tongue is spoken with Italian gaiety, where German and Austrian freight trucks fill the highways, where quaint Germanic timber homes and Viennese boulevards are dotted with Catholic iconography, and where German bratwurst mingles naturally with Balkan cevapi, Turkish burek and Italian gnocchi on restaurant menus. Slovenia's medieval castles, dramatic scenery and dragon folklore are the stuff of fairytales. But sober-minded Slovenians know from a troubled past that even after being accepted into the European Union, their country should not hold its collective breath for a "happily ever after" in such a fluid corner of the Continent.
The foreign policy positions of third-party candidates haven't received a great deal of media attention in the 2016 presidential election, but that could change in the weeks ahead as polls continue to tighten in crucial battleground states.
“[M]ost voters think/assume that Clinton is going to win. That can de-motivate turnout, or shift votes to [third] parties,” tweeted elections analyst Nate Silver.
RealClearWorld had the opportunity this week to discuss a variety of foreign policy issues with Joe Hunter, communications director for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. This email interview has been edited for clarity and length.
RCW: Gov. Johnson said in a recent interview with NY1 that U.S. policy in Syria has led to the violent and sectarian situation on the ground in that country. The governor has also proposed working with Russia to bring violence there to an end. What is the long-term solution in the country? Should President Bashar Assad remain in power, as Moscow would prefer?
When Moscow deployed forces to Syria last September, the move appeared to be part of its wider global policy of restoring Russian power outside the old Soviet sphere, rebalancing its international relations to America's detriment, and increasing its presence in a region where the current U.S. administration seems eager to disengage. To succeed, this policy requires a military victory on the ground, which can only be obtained through collaboration with Iran and its proxies in Syria, negotiations with Turkey, and arrangements that limit the U.S. role in the war.
A JOINT PROJECT WITH IRAN
Iran and Russia need each other in Syria. An August 30 article in the London Daily Mail cited claims by "activists" that Iran controls around 60,000 Shiite fighters in Syria; whatever their true numbers, these forces are indispensable for launching offensives because Syria's regular army is worn out and unable to recruit effectively. Russia's powerful air force plays a crucial role in supporting these ground forces. As the recent fighting in Aleppo showed, Shiite militias, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Russian air power complement each other well in helping Bashar al-Assad's regime win battlefield victories.
In addition, Tehran and Moscow are more or less dividing Syria into two de facto zones of control: the southwest for the Iranians and the northwest and Palmyra for Russia. Although Iranian proxy forces are of course involved in the northwestern campaigns, Russia rarely intervenes in the south. The only major exception occurred this January, when it provided air support for the operation to retake Sheikh Maskin on the road to Deraa. This action worried Israel because Moscow had promised that its forces would not support pro-Iranian militias south of Damascus.
World leaders are converging on New York City for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, which is set to officially begin Sept. 20. The following are the key players and bilateral meetings we will be watching this week:
Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping the summit so he can oversee the results of the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections and prepare for a budget battle in the Kremlin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will instead be the main Russian player to watch in New York. Last week, Moscow was busy setting the next stage for its broader negotiation with the West in implementing cease-fires in Syria and Ukraine, two theaters that require Russian collaboration for de-escalation. However, the Syrian cease-fire has effectively collapsed, and the Ukrainian cease-fire remains on shaky ground. Lavrov is nonetheless expected to advance the dialogue with the West to exchange cooperation in Syria and Ukraine for concessions, such as easing sanctions when the Europeans vote on trade restrictions on Russia early next year.
Specifically, Lavrov will be holding meetings throughout the General Assembly with representatives from the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom and will likely press his Western counterparts to persuade Kiev to deliver on political concessions in eastern Ukraine. Meetings between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as between Poroshenko and U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, both scheduled for Sept. 21, will therefore be important to watch. Poroshenko, for his part, will try to persuade the West to maintain pressure on Russia in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, particularly through sanctions. (Poroshenko already met with the French and German foreign ministers in Kiev recently.) A possible meeting between Poroshenko and U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland could also provide clues on the status of this negotiation.
Obama, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and Lavrov are scheduled to meet Sept. 21 to discuss Syria. This meeting is supposed to focus on the progress, or lack thereof, of the current cease-fire so far. On Sept. 20, Obama will present to the assembly a new U.S. plan to resettle more than 100,000 refugees, 40,000 of whom are from the Middle East and South Asia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meanwhile tout the efforts his country has made to manage the migrant situation in Syria and will try to lobby for greater international support for its plans to create a safe zone in northern Syria. With or without international endorsement, the Turkish military is forging southward to the strategic city of al-Bab, relying on close coordination with the U.S. military to mitigate any potential clash with Russia on the battlefield.
International newspapers took considerable interest in the local election in Germany's largest city, with the reaction focusing on the historically poor showing by the two largest parties, the Social democrats (SPD) and especially the conservative CDU under Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Like the CDU, the Social Democrats gained their lowest share of the vote in Berlin ever," wrote The Guardian in England. "In the history of modern Germany, no party has previously won an election with a similarly poor result…(But) the result will hurt Merkel's CDU most. After defeats for the Christian Democrats in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Rhineland-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, the Berlin result is the fourth blow in a row for the centre-right party."
Dutch commentators attributed the CDU's poor performance and the 14 percent showing by the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to dissatisfaction with Merkel's welcoming stance toward refugees.
"This result is another serious warning sign for the German chancellor," wrote De Standaard in the Netherlands. "The chancellor doesn't want to reverse her 'generous' refugee policies, but she won't be able to avoid pressure growing from within her own Christian Democratic Party."
According to Interior Minister Evariste Boshab, "14 civilians involved in looting" and three police officers were killed and one of the police officers was "burnt alive." News videos from the scene show protestors clashing with security forces and at least one protestor being carried away after gun shots are heard. The heavy clashes erupted in the capital ahead of a planned mass opposition rally.
The protesters were marching against President Joseph Kabila's perceived bid to extend his mandate. There has been growing local and international pressure on Kabila to step down when his term legally ends in December. Opposition supporters have accused the sitting president of wanting to extend his rule by not holding elections originally scheduled for November as required by the constitution. His supporters deny this charge.
Georges Kapiamba, director of the local NGO - Congolese Association for Access to Justice - said that demonstrations also took place in other parts of the country, including Goma, Bukavu, and Beni. Dozens of people died in similar protests against Kabila last year.
"I have seen offices of President Kabila's party as well as offices of other political parties allied to the president's coalition burnt down," said Patrice Chitera, DW's correspondent in Kinshasa.
My apologies for constantly returning to Germany but for the moment it is the pivot of the world. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world, the largest economy in Europe, the lender of last resort and the foundation of European stability. If Germany weakens or destabilizes, Europe destabilizes, and it is not too extreme to say that if Europe destabilizes, the world can as well. I am confident in saying I am not making too much of a small thing. In Sunday’s state election in Berlin, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) got 21.6 percent of the vote. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) got 17.6 percent. A party called Die Linke (or The Left) got 15.6 percent and the Greens got 15.2 percent, while the liberal Free Democrats garnered 6.7 percent. The anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 14.2 percent.
The difference between AfD and the party that got the highest percentage of the vote was just 7.4 percent. Three other parties were jammed between these two. In other words, the electorate in the Berlin region is completely fragmented. Put another way, the mainstream SPD and CDU together got a little over a third of the vote. The rest went to anti-establishment parties, with the two left-wing parties, Die Linke and the Greens, getting over 30 percent combined and the anti-immigration party getting just under 15 percent.
Berlin does not represent all of Germany, but it is the capital. Therefore, the fact that the mainstream parties were together repudiated by the majority of voters is significant. In Berlin at least, the German political system has shattered. Even a coalition of the SPD and CDU wouldn’t be enough to rule. Adding the Greens (a sort of establishment party) wouldn’t give them a majority either.
If the Berlin results are replicated on a national level, Germany is going to become ungovernable. This assumes that Berlin is a leading indicator of party support, that in a national election the establishment parties wouldn’t get more votes to avoid this outcome, and that Germany’s political and economic conditions won’t improve. Having said all that, this result, taken at face value, indicates that the European foundation, Germany, is moving toward a major political crisis that will resonate.