The Washington Post reports on new fears of German power among Europeans:
For decades, Germany’s role in Europe has been to supply the cash, not the leadership. With fresh memories of war, the continent was cautious about German domination — and so were the Germans themselves.But the economic crisis has shaken Europe’s postwar model, and Germany increasingly calls the shots. As countries struggle to pay their debts, only Chancellor Angela Merkel has enough money to haul them out of trouble. And the price Merkel is demanding — more control over how they run their economies — is setting off alarm bells in capitals across the continent.
In Athens, protesters dressed up as Nazis routinely prowl the streets, an allusion to the old model of an assertive Germany. In Poland, accusations that Germany has imperial ambitions became a campaign issue in the recent presidential election.
And although German leaders have sought in recent weeks to soothe others’ fears in advance of high-level meetings in Brussels on Sunday and in coming days, the tone has sometimes sounded pugilistic.
“The question of who could accept a German model has been settled by the market,” said a spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. “We are really only talking about the details and the extent of the measures, not about their nature.”
Twice within the last hundred years, German military power was deployed in fortunately-unsuccessful attempts to become the ruler over Europe. Today, in what amounts to a world-historical irony, the economic and financial power of what is now a pacifistic country is steadily achieving the dominance the Prussians and the Nazis sought through the use of force. Adding to the irony is that the growth of German might is taking place, not because of a conscious effort on Berlin’s part, but because Germany, alone among the major European countries, didn’t pile up a mountain of debt during the bubble years.
There are two intertwined reasons for this German exceptionalism. After World War I, Germany was saddled with a huge debt — the reparations payments so soundly and correctly criticized by John Maynard Keynes in “The Economic Consequences of the Peace.” In the immediate post-war years, the only way Germany could make its payments was by inflating its currency. Once started, it couldn’t be stopped; the result was the Weimar hyperinflation. Debt and inflation are embedded in the German DNA. In an interesting twist of history, these long-ago events are responsible for the growing power of today’s Germany.