Analysis: The Meaning of The King of England's First Visit To Germany
In the events that developed after the Russian attack on Ukraine last year, we continue to experience the unexpected results of the strategies followed, which we can call the "indirect effect" in international relations. As it is known, one of the best aspects of the critical method is that it manages to direct the research in the right way without changing anything from its first principles. “Foresight”, which means predicting and understanding the future situations of events, gains importance at this stage.
The term called "Elimination Effect" is the situation in which the parties use more force to increase their security in the current conflicts and after escalating the conflict, they are actually less secure in the face of the increase in power on the other side (Köni, 2016: 19). In this sense, it is necessary not to analyze the first foreign visit of King Charles of England to Germany as an ordinary news, but to analyze it well in terms of "international politics approach", as we put forward in our previous article (Rosecrance, 1962: 2).
In fact, the English King Charles was going to make his first overseas visit to France after his accession to the throne, but due to the strikes and protests against the "pension reform" in France, the country of his first visit changed. Even this in itself can be considered as a strong indication that there are some problems in the middle. There have been problems in England for a long time, and perhaps it is necessary to go into the strategic depth of this in order to be able to connect with the past. For this reason, it is thought that it will be useful to briefly examine the developments that have taken place starting from the world of the 1900s until today.
England had grown from 10 million inhabitants at the beginning of the 1800s to 40 million by the end of the century. In the same period, France had reached 40 million from 27 million, and Germany had doubled to 50 million (Robert, 1996: 438). This population growth in England naturally had some consequences. With the machine power that England created in this period, it was able to produce a large number of weapons as standard and rapidly. While more than 200 thousand bullets could be produced per day in just one factory in the 1860s (Ponting, 2011: 708), the superiority of wooden ships in the seas was ended thanks to the bombs developed in these years.
In the 1900s, more than 350 million people lived under the rule of the British, who controlled almost a quarter of the world, while the French ruled over 50 million people (Ferguson, 2004: xi).
The discoveries of the West turned into colonialism in an unplanned manner (Uslubaş and Dağ, 2007: 320). Nobody built empires to enrich their colonies. During this period, 350 million people spoke English as a first language and 450 million as a second language. The number of countries that spoke French instead of their own language was also not small. According to some, the westernization of the world was completed in 1914. However, it would also be seen that this world built on suffering would begin to collapse as a result of its own contradictions (Latouche, 1993: 25).
In reality, Europe had undergone a strategic shift in the balance of power and had already been divided into competing parts. Although England was a world power, it was overtaken first by the USA and then by Germany in industrial production. At the time when Gladstone was wasting British power on other things, the American ground army was in 14th place in the world, behind even Bulgaria. Naval power was also smaller than in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. America was a second-class state, not participating in international conferences. In the 1880s, the Americans, who did not have as much power as the Chilean navy, had reached the capacity to build 14 warships and 13 cruisers at the same time by the 1900s, as a result of diligent efforts.
But at that time, under the power poisoning, there were no British statesmen with the capacity to understand them. After being born in an ordinary family as one of five siblings with psychological and spiritual problems (Checkland, 1971: 381), Gladstone (1809-1898), who later became wealthy and served as prime minister for four terms, was a family member of the Evangelical Church and was a strict follower of the teachings of this church.
Gladstone had learned Hellenic in his youth and firmly believed that Hellenic culture was the foundation of European culture. He was in power from 1868 until 1894. England lost its supremacy during his reign. The reason was his attitude based on sentimentality, not logic, and he had England unnecessarily engaged in the Islamic World during his period (This period can be compared with the USA losing its time and being the only power center by dealing with the Islamic World after the Cold War Period).
As an Evangelical, during the Gladstone period, he abandoned the "policy of supporting the Ottomans against Russia" and worked to weaken the Ottoman Empire and support the separatist elements in it with a strict anti-Muslim hostility. However, this weakened him as well and caused England to lose its position as the center of power. Power ceases to be power when it is used, and it will be seen from now on that the country that makes this mistake the most is England.
It was completely impossible for England to unite with the Russians due to its interests. In fact, the Russians sided with Germany at the beginning in both world wars. All this clearly reveals the inconsistency in the policies pursued by England. As a matter of fact, German Chancellor Bismarck, in a letter he wrote to the German Emperor in 1883, said about Gladstone's inconsistencies, "If there were men in England who understood European politics, our job would be easier."
Even if the USA and Japan, which were countries outside the region, joined later, in fact, World War I could not be called a "World War" since the war mostly took place in and around Europe, rather than a "world war", and it was a purely European war. At the end of this war, stability will not be achieved, and a second war will be started 20 years later. This mistake will pave the way for the United States to become a global power.
An operation is envisioned in advance. No one anticipated that this order created by England would change (Attali, 2007: 15). The world had changed a lot when Gladstone was fixing England with his emotional moves. The Battle of the Somme, which took place in France in 1916, was the best example of this.
During these battles, the Germans covered their fronts with barbed wire and dug positions up to 15 meters deep. The British still dreamed of a victory by cavalry charge. However, the horses could not advance in the deep pits opened by the cannons, and then the machine guns cut the horses down. In this war, the British tried to use tanks for the first time, but the use was tactically atrocious, and they were far from effective, with speeds of less than 2 kilometers. In these battles, the British and French were able to advance only 5 kilometers, although they lost more than 700,000 in three months. Later, the British and French would suffer more than 300,000 casualties in just one engagement.
During the war, the British became bankrupt, unable to pay for the ammunition they bought from the USA, and their resources were exhausted. The biggest loss was in France. He mobilized 8 million people, 60% of whom were killed or injured (James, 2011: 300-304). Almost half of all French men aged between 20 and 30 in World War I died in battle. During the war, the French commanders even had their own soldiers fired at them with artillery just so that the soldiers would not escape. The cost of the war was 37 billion dollars for England. France spent 34 billion dollars and the USA 26 billion dollars (Lucas, 1953: 826). After World War I, European production fell to 1/4 of the pre-war period. An English economist said, “We have gone beyond what we can bear” (Roberts, 1996: 612). England was exhausted. However, apparently, more than 1/3 of the world's geography and population was under British and French domination, and it was impossible for this situation to continue in the same way. While Istanbul was under occupation, inflation in England rose to over 22% in 1922, the business world was in great trouble and there was a danger of a communist coup. In such an environment, it was very difficult for England to continue the war. It has already happened.
The British had now lost their initiative. Nobody wanted war, but war was inevitable. In 1933, the Oxford University students' debate club held a debate among themselves. They had not forgotten the 20 million people who died in the war, and they made a decision that they would never fight for the king and the country again. Hitler knew about this event. He analyzed very well the situation of the British people and their reluctance to respond to the war. Many of these students died in the war (Nye and Welch, 2011: 34).
Starting and ending the war was no longer under British control. II. Upon the threat posed before World War II, the French asked the British to prepare a large army. But at this time the British still had debts and were struggling to borrow from the United States. The British budgets and stocks were large enough to sustain a war of at most 3 years. As a status quo state, the British, just like in the first war, had come to a new stage of decision even if they didn't want to.
In May 1940, German armies attacked France via the Netherlands and Belgium. Unlike the first world war, this time they broke through the front in a short time. The 150-kilometer fortified Maginot line, which the French trusted so much, did not work, as the Germans circulated from the side and from the rear. Already, due to the losses in the first world war, the French soldiers fled without much resistance. British civilians saved 350,000 French soldiers from destruction by transporting small fishing boats from England 80 kilometers away for a week. For some reason, everyone was surprised when the French surrendered in a month or so.
In the war, not only the defeated, but also the winning European states were devastated. France and England were in a state of exhaustion. More importantly, the states on the European continent were no longer self-sufficient in peace and war.
Unable to understand that Britain was no longer a superpower, Churchill lost the first election after the war, despite his high prestige. From the end of World War II to 2022, Queen Elizabeth remained on the throne.
Queen Elizabeth, as a well-bred and well-educated royal representative, seemed to have put on an excellent run, with some exceptions. Royal expert Dr. According to Ed Owens, Elizabeth based her reign on "devotion to duty and family," and these two concepts were instrumental in winning her popular support. However, it could not be said that all family members applied these principles, which he applied in a disciplined and uncompromising manner. At least 3 of his 4 children were unsuccessfully married.
Although Elizabeth seemed to play a representative role like the head of state, she had the power to influence the country's politics to a certain extent with her personal authority, except for the tense relations during the Margaret Thatcher period. Since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne after her father and was not queen by marriage, she held all military and political power. However, the period in which he was in power was a period in which England also lost power due to the developments in the world. His stay in power for a long time blocked the way for those who would come after him. The Suez Crisis, which emerged 4 years after Elizabeth's accession to the throne, had definitely removed the great state status of England and France (Kissinger, 2006: 503). When other events in the Elizabethan period are evaluated in a healthy way, it can be said that this process was a period of complete disappearance for England.
In 1956, British soldiers, together with France, tried to carry out their last experiment in power without US approval. However, upon the reaction he received, he left Egypt and lost his remaining limited supremacy in this region to the Americans. On October 29, 1956, when Nasser decided to nationalize the company that operated the Suez Canal, the French and British reacted. Israel began its occupation of the Sinai Peninsula on October 29, 1956. Then, the British and French attacked, defeating the Egyptian troops and easily seizing the canal. But in a way that was not uncommon during the Cold War years, the United States and the Soviets reacted simultaneously. America did not welcome and did not support British and French intervention in Suez so that the Arab States would not fall under full Russian control. Left alone, the French and British were forced to withdraw, albeit reluctantly. Britain immediately withdrew its 80,000 troops stationed along the Suez Canal. He couldn't have stayed here without American support. After this event, "The ultimatum placed Britain and France, no longer great or powerful, in their rightful place," said Egyptian leader Enver Sadat on 19 November 1956.
As a result, France and England had to accept being a medium-sized state, even if they had nuclear powers. These countries also gave up attempts to manufacture weapons such as rockets, missiles, and aircraft carriers in large quantities due to their high costs. After this date, while France sought its greatness to develop good relations with the United States and to work on the European Union alongside Germany, England, apart from this formation, accepted the superiority of the United States and tried to be influential on the decisions made in Washington.
By the 1960s, the European Empires and their power had come to an end.
The British merchant marine fleet was more than half the world's fleet in the early 1900s. Although it continued to grow until 1915, its share gradually decreased, falling to 42% in 1914. The decline accelerated during the Cold War Era. This rate would decrease to 11% in 1970, 7% in 1978, and 1.5% in 1991 when the Cold War Period ended (Özgüç and Erol, 1995: 516). In this state, it has now regressed to 16th place in the world. History was unforgiving of mistakes, and the British made that mistake themselves.
When Queen Elizabeth died in 2022, at the age of 96, her eldest son, III. Charles inherited the throne. Charles achieved the title of the eldest “Monark” to come to power in England. The post-Elizabethian king, who ascended the throne at the age of 74, is 75 years old and his wife is one year older than him. For many, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the monarchy to survive. The support of the royal family, especially among young people between the ages of 18-24, has fallen below 30%. However, in the surveys in 2019, this rate was 46% (the results of the survey that YouGov makes every year).
Despite being overshadowed by his mother, the new King was the longest reigning intern in history. He had been preparing for this position for quite some time as heir to the throne (Hardman: 2022). If his mother had abdicated the throne and had given him this chance in advance, perhaps some of his practices could have been checked and corrected by the old queen from time to time. However, it did not. Yet at his proclamation as king, he had declared that he would be a responsible ruler, following his inspiring examples, and now he had to demonstrate this to all by his practice in a difficult time in England and Europe.
In fact, similar periods have occurred in the past. Before the start of World War I, British diplomacy, who wanted to maintain their current situation, sent its best diplomats (Lord Haldane) to Germany, and mistakenly thought that it had solved big problems. In fact, the feeling that relations were improving was so strong that when news was received in Sarajevo that a Serbian terrorist had shot the Archduke of Austria, 4 British warships had come to Kiel, on the Baltic Sea in northern Germany, for a courtesy visit, and British and German sailors were marching together along the promenade. (Nye and Welch, 2011: 143). We do not know if we can compare the current situation with this event, but it cannot be said that there is no similarity. It is necessary to examine and make sense of this trip, which was made at a time when Europe was faced with the energy crisis and fear of Russia, as well as the economic difficulties, and the strikes and social events began to experience more and more.
About a month after Queen Elizabeth's death on September 8, 2022, on October 24, 2022, Indian-born Rishi Sunak was appointed as the Prime Minister, without going to the UK elections. So much so that with the appointment of Sunak, England brought a third prime minister to power in two months. Moreover, at the age of 42, Sunak also held the title of the youngest prime minister in modern British history (approximately 33 years younger than the King). Not long after, this time in March of 2023; Hamza Yusuf, a Muslim politician for the first time in the United Kingdom, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was elected in the voting held in the Scottish Parliament and took the oath.
At this point, it is necessary to remember the UK's Brexit process. The British initially did not want to be part of the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community (EEC). However, at that time they had lost their position of being the center of power, but the British rulers, who were not aware of this, still thought of the British Commonwealth consisting of their former colonies and the USA as more attractive partners for them. Realizing this over time, Britain applied for membership first in 1961 and then in 1967, but this time, due to historical rivalries, it was vetoed both times by France led by Charles de Gaulle. After that, Britain was only able to start membership negotiations after De Gaulle's resignation in 1969. Britain's exit (Brexit) from such an organization, which later became the European Union (EU), was based on the reasons for not taking part in such organizations at the beginning.
However, the post-Brexit situation cannot be said to be very encouraging for the UK, at least for now. In the process, “England” turned into a less open economy and lagged behind. It came as no surprise that a survey of 500 companies commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce found that most were still struggling to cope with the new system. In this period, although events such as the pandemic and the energy crisis make it difficult to make a definitive judgment, the only developed country economy that remains smaller and poorer, at least compared to the pre-pandemic period, seems to be England. After leaving the EU, from 2021 onwards, companies trading with the EU faced new rules and bureaucracy, the variety of exported products decreased, the increased bureaucracy caused withdrawals from doing business, and moreover, the UK's exports to the EU decreased. According to experts, although there were some improvements, if the separation had not occurred, perhaps England would have been in a more advantageous situation.
It is known that the British economy, which grew by 0% in the last quarter of last year, narrowly escaped the recession. However, production is still below pre-pandemic levels, unlike other developed countries. The economy contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter. The country continues to grapple with strikes and double-digit inflation. While British Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt warned, “We are not on the flatline yet”, the Central Bank drew attention to the continuing danger of recession for the current year. According to forecasts, the economy may enter a long period of recession that will last for five quarters if measures are not taken. The British need to come up with urgent solutions to this.
On the other hand, troubles are not only experienced in England. In addition to the economic and security areas, many countries in Europe are experiencing a second crisis before they can recover after the pandemic, due to the energy restrictions from Russia last year. Moreover, it is unclear how long the situation in Ukraine will continue, leading experts to pessimistic predictions about the future of Europe. The visit of King Charles of England to Germany took place at such a time.
In this sense, the visit and the messages that were tried to be given during this visit should be reviewed.
The king was compelled to start his visit from Germany instead of France. It was stated that the decision to postpone was taken by the governments of the two countries after a phone call between King Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron. German President Frank-Walker Steinmeier invited Charles to Germany during the funeral of Queen Elizabeth last year.
The British government makes the final decision on such state visits to the UK. Many Experts state that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave the green light to this proposal, “in the framework of the effort to re-establish relations with Europe”. Moreover, the visited Germany, which was the 5th trading partner of the UK last year, is now down to 11th place.
For King Charles and his wife Camilla, during their visit to Germany, 21 artillery shells fires at Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER), and they were greeted with a military ceremony in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife. A military ceremony was held for the king in Pariser Square in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
The name of this square was also important because after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, when the Prussian soldiers captured Paris with their allies, this square was named "Pariser Platz" to symbolize this victory. Another important point is that after the establishment of the Federal Germany, a military ceremony was held for a foreign state representative for the first time.
After the ceremony, Charles chatted with the people who came to greet them for a while, which was interesting as it showed the direction of the King towards attracting sympathy in the new period.
Afterwards, it was passed to Bellevue Palace, which is the residence of the President of Germany. Here they attended an event on "Energy transformation and sustainability" and a dinner hosted by President Steinmeier in his honor. Camilla, Consort Queen Elizabeth I and II. She attended with Elizabeth's crown. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel accompanied the British royal family at the dinner. Veteran politician Merkel chatted for a while with Charles, who was sitting next to her at dinner.
This visit was also important for Germany, which felt the troubles in Europe closely. It was important to rekindle relations that seemed to have been broken for a while and to get British support in the field of security. One of the countries most affected by the crisis between Russia and Ukraine was Germany. In fact, the troubles started with Russia's invasion of Crimea in 2014, and that year, Germany's exports to Russia decreased from 35.8 billion euros to 29.3 billion euros, compared to the previous year. Despite the increase, this rate could not be reached again. However, in 2021, Germany's exports to Russia, despite the covid epidemic, increased by 15.4% compared to the previous year and reached 26.5 billion dollars.
In the last quarter of 2022, the German economy shrank by 0.2 percent compared to the previous quarter, due to the energy crisis and record inflation. The main reason why the German economy contracted in the last quarter was high inflation slowing down private consumption. Economists expect GDP to fall further in the first quarter of this year, as Europe's largest economy is in recession.
Germany's exports fell more than expected in the last month of last year, as market uncertainty put pressure on the German economy, driven by high inflation and the Russian-Ukrainian war. According to the data of the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), Germany's exports to Russia are gradually decreasing. Exports to China, the country's most important trading partner, are also declining. Only in December of 2022; Exports to the USA decreased by 10 percent to 12.3 billion euros, exports to China decreased by 14.2 percent to 7.6 billion euros, and exports to England decreased by 24.3 percent to 5.6 billion euros. In January this year, Chinese Ambassador to Berlin Wu Ken warned that Germany's new strategy against Beijing reflects the Cold War mentality and that the German government could put relations between the two countries at risk. According to the ambassador, the German government's attitude towards China is irrational and self-contradictory. China is Germany's largest trading partner for the last 6 years and its high trade volume supports Germany's longest sustainable growth. More than 5,000 German companies operate in China, and the German business community warns they "can't do without China". Likewise, Germany's relations with Russia and its extremely hostile attitude seem to be increasingly damaging to Germany. The statements of Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also show that the hybrid war in Ukraine will continue for a long time, and it is not difficult to evaluate that the prolongation of the war will be devastating especially for the European economy and will make the functioning of the system difficult.
Before the visit to Germany, it was stated in the statement made by Buckingham Palace that there would be contacts about the problems faced by the two countries such as "sustainability and the Ukraine Crisis". German President Steinmeier described it as an important "European Gesture" that King Charles and his wife chose France and Germany for their first state visit ahead of the coronation scheduled for May this year. Then, as if to express the weakness of the relations between them, he said, "As two countries, we are opening a new page in our relations today, exactly six years after the UK started the process of leaving the European Union."
The phrase "Europe's security is under threat", stressed by the King of England Charles in his address to the German Bundestag, was also important. The King's speech in the Bundestag; German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, ministers and heads of constitutional institutions as well as deputies listened, while former German Presidents Christian Wulff and Joachim Gauck watched the speech from the audience.
Speaking before the King, President of the Bundestag Baerbel Bas, pointing to the friendship of the two countries, "Britain and Germany are and will remain close allies and reliable partners." said. In his speech, the King summarized that the occupation of Ukraine caused suffering to many innocent people and that freedom and human dignity were brutally trampled on. "We must act together against threats to our values and work together to ensure the security and well-being that our people deserve," he said.
Germany has announced that it has allocated 12 billion euros for military support to Ukraine until 2032. In a statement, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that 4 billion euros out of 12 billion euros will be re-purchased by the German Armed Forces for weapons and other materials given to Ukraine. Federal Parliament Budget Committee member Andreas Schwarz told a television channel that they would support Ukraine as long as it needed help. He shared the information that it was related to the purchase of air defense, armored vehicles and protective equipment. According to the news of the German News Agency DPA, it was stated that 3.2 billion euros of this aid amount will be used in 2023 and the remaining 8.8 billion euros will be used until 2032. During his visit, the King said that Britain and Germany, which are among the countries that support Ukraine the most in Europe, played a leading role and praised Germany's wide-ranging support to Ukraine and said: we can take courage.”
According to him, Germany's decision to provide such large-scale military support to Ukraine; It was brave, important and gratifying.
As a result, although the visit of Charles, who became king of England at an advanced age after a long wait, to Germany at a time when England lost its position as the center of power and had economic and social difficulties, and the messages given were quite important, but as of today, it is a fact that it is far beyond changing the situation the UK and Europe are in.
The messages given during the visit seem far from ending the crises that have shaken Europe in every way. Moreover, it is as if messages are closer to turning the current crises into chaos. As it stands, it seems to increase the situation of instability rather than ensuring peace in the continent. Leaders need to have the foresight to adapt to different situations and understand them. Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn from this visit is that for peace and stability, Europe, as it stands, needs leaders who solve problems and pave the way for the continent more than ever. We are going through a period where we need strategic solutions to solve problems, not temporary successes.
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