German military study: could the worst case scenarios turn true for the EU?

Angela Merkel
Reuters / Scanpix

Several years ago few believed that British domestic discussions on their membership in the EU could turn into Brexit, thus the current debates on the EU’s future scenarios lead to little optimism as well, Eastern Europe Studies Centre (RESC) analyst Vytautas Keršanskas told, commenting on a study by German armed forces analysts, which predicts the EU may disappear by 2040.

The study Strategic Perspectives 2040 finds that the Western world order may collapse by 2040. Der Spiegel had the opportunity to view the study. The document discusses the worst case scenario where the EU begins to break down and Germany must “react”. The international order finally falls apart after “decades of instability”, value systems become irrelevant and globalisation processes cease.

“EU expansion ceases, a number of member states choose to depart the union and Europe as an entity loses its global competitiveness. The world which lacks order, chaos is increasingly prominent and conflict situations are increasingly likely dramatically changes the situation both in Germany and Europe,” the document states.

In another scenario named West versus East, a part of EU member states in the East freeze their integration, others join the Eastern bloc. In the “Multipolar competition” scenario there is talk of a new wave of extremism and attempts by some EU partners to follow the Russian political model.

The document does not deal in forecasts. The experts stress that all possible scenarios are possible and worth considering. The Bundeswehr planning service assisted in writing about them.

Little room for optimism, but the future may not be catastrophic

V. Keršanskas points out that currently a document is being proposed in Seimas at the initiative of several MPs, which describes Lithuania’s position on the future of the EU. It naively states that the past 60 years of European integration all confident consideration of where Europe will head in the next 60 years.

“This German document shows that serious analysis is unable to forecast all possible alternatives for even just 20 years because political processes are not noted for being easily predicted based on logics or repeating trends. After all few believed several years ago that what was really the Conservative Party’s internal struggle between two camps (those supporting EU membership and those seeking to exit) would turn into Brexit. Thus when considering a document of such significance as Lithuania’s position toward the EU, it is too careless to not consider all possible alternatives and proceed only based on wishful thinking,” V. Keršanskas said.

On the other hand the expert states that in 1981 likely no-one could have predicted that in 23 years Lithuania, then still an occupied part of a still stable USSR, would become a member of the EU.

“Probably even the optimistic scenarios did not foresee this, thus I view long term forecasts as a sort of intellectual exercise and not the object of serious discussion. While today’s EU is faced with a number of serious challenges, for now it is viewed as beneficial to all of its member states and thus a structure to be maintained.

Another question is whether the decisions which are currently being proposed by EU institution and major member state leaders are really leading to the resolution of EU troubles or whether they may just deepen them. In my opinion the EU must be a result of the mutual agreement of all, I stress – all, its member states, thus bulldozing through variants from France, Germany or the European Commission, but dismissing those proposed by the Visegrad states does not look viable,” he states.

Meanwhile Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) political scientist Rima Urbonaitė says that there is room for a stronger Europe, but it will take effort.

“The problem is that we do not see all the scenarios, we do not see the positive ones over the bad ones. Usually experts also consider the possibility of the former, but do not consider their likelihood or there is no public information about it.

That Europe is shaky, as displayed by Brexit, tensions in Eastern Europe, aggressive Russian foreign policy, is nothing new. However I do not believe that Brexit will lead to a snowballing, particularly if Europe will use this brief period after Brexit to show its strength and unity, will perform important reforms which would integrate member states further, would display the benefit of integration. We could then namely have an even stronger Europe,” R. Urbonaitė said.

How would Eastern Europe turn to emulate Russian policy?

In the scenario of Multipolar Competition which the German armed forces imagined, there is talk of “a new wave of extremism and attempts by several EU partners to emulate Russia’s political model.”

Political scientist V. Keršanskas says that he would like more information on what is being specifically meant with EU partners attempting to emulate Russia’s political model, but he believes it is likely linked to the rise of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe.

“Western Europe is expressing concern over certain trends. However keeping in mind that this is a long term scenario for the next 23 years, it is a question whether liberal democracy itself will remain the dominant form. We see certain systemic problems, the growth of radical forces in Western Europe, this is not just a trend in Eastern Europe.

I would not link the scenario with attempts to show that Eastern Europe may turn down the Russian path, becoming a pro-Kremlin region, supporting Russian policy or even further – modelling itself as externally aggressive states. I would link this with shifting trends in views of domestic governance. However I believe that the trends are not viewed as equal to those in Russia by the supporters of liberal democracy because both the causes and consequences are completely different,” V. Keršanskas says.

According to R. Urbonaitė the scenario posited by the Bundeswehr and its observations are linked to the trend of rising nationalism, which is viewed as a certain risk. She notes that a wave of nationalism is also sweeping Russia.

“Eastern Europe is in a dangerous zone because it is always directly in Russia’s zone of interest. Russia has instruments to influence political and economic processes, also making use of exporting corruption. These are real challenges and problems, which is likely why this scenario is being brought forward.

We can answer this with only deeper and better thought out integration, involving those states. The criticised Hungary urged the Brits to remain after all, thus we cannot claim that it is all in one direction there. Finally elections do happen in those states, governments change. The dichotomy of East and West in Europe is nothing new, however much depends on the position of the West. If the position is one of ignoring and demeaning, it causes unnecessary tensions. However it can be resolved. Thus I would not pain the blackest scenarios for Europe, even if it has entrenched challenges,” R. Urbonaitė states.

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