Out of the Rubble: Tracking Germany’s Ascent to Power

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the rise of a united Germany.

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the rise of a united Germany.

In the dark streets of Berlin on November 9, 1989, crowds flocked to the Berlin Wall, eager to tear down the physical manifestation of German disunity. Less than one year later, the formerly occupied nation emerged once again as a single political entity and country to be reckoned with.

Fast forward roughly 25 years, and the remnants of Nazi Germany have been transformed into the world’s fourth largest economy, second largest exporter, and the home to the second lowest unemployment rate in the European Union. The key to this rapid prosperity: political commitment coupled with the fruits of industrial labor and a diversified economy. Agenda 2010, the brainchild of Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005, steered Germany away from becoming a welfare state and stimulated the economy by bargaining with unions, eliminating unnecessary regulatory practices, and providing work to a large number of the unemployed. A testament to this program’s success can be seen during the recent economic recession, when Germany’s unemployment rate actually decreased by 1.4 percent from 2007 to 2011, while the number of jobless soared in other industrialized nations such as the United States.

Germany’s economic prosperity has translated into political clout as well. In the midst of the Eurozone crisis, Angela Merkel, Germany’s latest chancellor, emerged to take a leading role in the process of bringing economic stability to Greece. In order to pay for expenses such as the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece borrowed large sums of money from nations such as Germany. However, when the 2008 economic crisis hit, Greece found itself struggling to pay back the loans that now had interest on them. In an effort to stem the tide, Germany led a coalition of European Union countries to bail out Greece by providing billions of dollars worth of more loans on the condition that Greece cut its spending and institute other reforms. Currently, in the wake of Greece increasing taxes and cutting pensions, discontentment has risen, with Germany as a main target because of its heavy involvement in the crisis. Despite claims of Merkel manipulating Greece’s situation to bolster German ambitions, Germany’s leadership in taming the consequences of the Eurozone Crisis cannot be underestimated.

Shifting from Greece to the East, Europe finds itself desperately needing German aid in combating increasing Russian aggression. After Russia violated international sovereignty through its meddling in Ukraine, particularly in the Crimean region, Germany spearheaded Europe’s response. A staunch opponent of militarily involvement, Merkel has opted for diplomatic and economic means, as she has coordinated the two Minsk agreements, which enabled Ukraine and Russia to begin to negotiate, and has taken the lead in imposing economic sanctions in an effort to deter further Russian hostility. Although many criticize Germany’s unwillingness to utilize military force, Merkel has demonstrated an ability to engage in productive dialogue with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, something necessary for bringing the Ukraine conflict to a conclusion.

Currently, with economic and political tension at a high and with influence from England and France waning, Europe needs Germany to assume a continued leadership role. While about twenty-five years ago Germany itself was divided, with Merkel at the reigns, Germany is leading a more united Europe into a new era.


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Brenner, Yermi. “Germany: 25 Years Later and No Looking Back.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. .

“East and West Germany Reunite after 45 Years.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. .

Rattner, Steven. “The Secrets of Germany’s Success.” Foreign Affairs. N.p., July-Aug. 2011. Web. .

“Thefalloftheberlinwall1989″ by Lear 21 at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thefalloftheberlinwall1989.JPG#/media/File:Thefalloftheberlinwall1989.JPG

Speck, Ulrich. “Stopping Putin: Can Merkel Succeed Without Force?” Newsweek. N.p., 2 Apr. 2015. Web. .

“What’s Going on with Greece and Its Economy?” BBC News. BBC, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. .

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