Posted on 11-11-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy, History) by Rashtrakut

An analysis of the changing Franco-German relationship.  In someways the change is not too surprising.  Ever since the Treaty of Verdun in 843 AD unwittingly spawned the framework of Western Europe the two countries have had differing outlets for their energies.

Germany’s eyes have been drawn east for a 1,000 years.  The initial instincts starting with the defeat of the Polish King Boleslaw I Chrobry by the Emperor Henry II to the establishment of the Livonian and Teutonic Knights were expansionist.  That phase was brought to a crushing end by the newly created Polish-Lithuanian super state at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg).  After dealing with internal religious strife for the next 200 years, Germany spent the century after the end of the Seven Years War keeping the newly emerged Russian giant on its door step happy and sated expansionist instincts at the expense of Poland.  The expansionist urge returned with a vengeance in the early 20th century.  The establishment of the iron curtain shut off the eastern outlet and forced Germany to look west, but with the end of the Cold War its not unnatural that the eastern flirtation resumes.  Of course. the expansionist urges today are economic.

When not nibbling away at the German border, French interests historically drew France into the Mediterranean orbit (particularly after the Crusades created a chain of Frankish states in what is now Lebanon and Israel).  But France has always had its western (and often rocky) relationship with England, the Auld alliance with Scotland and it midwifed the birth of the United States.

The historical patterns are not guaranteed to repeat themselves, but they do suggest that the support structure forged after World War II that enabled the two nations (one recovering from military humiliation and the other from annihilation) to regain their strength together may have run its course.  The impact on the creaky new European State will be interesting to observe.

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