17 Keeping the Americans in, the Russians in check, and the Chinese at arm’s length in:

Maximilian Terhalle

Strategie als Beruf, page 217 - 220

Überlegungen zu Strategie, Weltordnung und Strategic Studies

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4409-4, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7409-1,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
217 17 Keeping the Americans in, the Russians in check, and the Chinese at arm’s length 30 years into Germany’s reunification, the most fundamental, if unspoken, question Berlin’s allies are asking is this: are you ready to defend freedom? Globally challenged by powerful strongmen whose self-confidence has fed off of democracies’ self-doubt about the future, the latter have betrayed a tendency to fatalism of their likeliness to prevail in the 2020s. Looking ahead, Germany’s future leaders need to deliver their new narrative to the public by showing how it responds to their international vision of the future. Addressing the evolving ideological struggle of the 2020s, Germany’s future Chancellor will need to provide, most crucially, a clear sense of direction as to which fundamental challenges are threatening the Western way of life. In fact, by adapting NATO’s vision of 1949 “Keeping the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down”, Berlin’s new future vision needs to be geared at Keeping the Americans in, the Russians in check, and the Chinese at arm’s length. Such persuading of German and European publics may only succeed, though, if framed by a realistic understanding of today’s strategic landscape. For one, Trump’s disregard for global leadership has opened up a power vacuum that others have exploited, at the expense of the West. Therefore, European allies need to make keeping the Americans in, the adaptation of the Western alliance, their strategic priority. In this new vision, the West’s economic and military power needs to be joint to safeguard the one core value that sets it fundamentally apart from China and Russia: freedom. Clearly, neither Europe nor America alone can successfully take on the economic challenge posed by China, as it may outgrow them individually. However, together they can. The fundamental strategic question is, thus: does the West want to continue to economically feed the dragon? As the total disruption of economic exchanges is currently not intended (but a last resort), Europeans need to muster their immense economic power, as strength is the ultimate prerequisite for the establishment of a partnership of equals, for instance, when signing a future investment treaty. Beijing depends on open global markets and access to technology (much more than the West). Therefore, before all EU members receive Xi in Leipzig, Germany, this September, his hosting of 12 well-targeted EU members and five prospective ones in April is an opportunity to prove the sincerity of his intentions. In the meantime, the EU needs to ensure that its weaker and prospective members can withstand the temptation to be lured into the marsh of China’s realm. Here, Berlin needs to display leadership as it signals to America that Western unity, as opposed to Trump’s disregard for the European project, is the most effective way of keeping China at arm’s length. Simultaneously, it is vital to recognize the reverberations triggered by the dynamic interplay between China’s gargantuan economic growth and the scope of Russia’s military threats and blackmailing of Europe. Pointedly, China’s continued rise has structurally affected America’s strategic outlook on Europe: the more China grows (and the less prudent it goes about finding its future place in the world), the more it absorbs American capabilities away from Europe. In turn, this dynamic has already somewhat altered the psychological balance of power in Putin’s favour. A war in East Asia, to take this argument to its extreme, would create the much longed-for opportunity for Russia’s leader. As Putin would look at a Europe that, from his perspec- 218 Maximilian Terhalle | Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg tive, would be freed, for the first time in 70 years, from the iron fist that America has demonstrated, it is not at all inconceivable that his ambitions would be much less rational than many of those think, who have welcomed rapprochement, or who simply believe Russia is materially too weak to fight (an idea not rejected outright by parts of the Pentagon). Cave Putinem! The West needs to reinvent itself precisely in this strategic context. Thus, listening to the speech France’s President Macron delivered on Europe’s nuclear deterrence in February 2020, it should be clear from the outset that his goal of a rapprochement with Russia is flawed. Russia understands perfectly well that the West needs it so that America has its back safe to turn strategically more comprehensively on China. And, while Russia’s increasingly strong Eurasian leanings might make it altogether impossible to decouple it from China, there can be no doubt that Putin would want a significant prize if he did. Against this backdrop, Germany’s next chancellor ought to offer a new vision of a future grand bargain for NATO. Based on a shared economic outlook vis-à-vis China, such a bargain starts with a new way of thinking about keeping the Americans in. This would command all European nations, guided by Britain, France, Germany and Poland, to do three things: drastically raise their defence budgets to two percent of Europe’s GDP before 2025, while not duplicating capabilities; coordinate the build-up of a large, integrated and sea-based European nuclear force, initially spearheaded by Britain and France; and, demonstrably support the defense of Western interests around the globe, including in East Asia through Europe’s own military presence. Convincingly demonstrating to China that America can rely on Europe will ensure keeping the Chinese at arm’s length. America, in turn, will reassure the Europeans of the credibility of its extended nuclear deterrence. The vital side-effect of such a new German model for Western burden-sharing is that, should Putin not turn out to be the benign partner 219 Keeping the Americans in that Macron imagines, it would nonetheless deter Russia effectively; keeping the Russians in check would, thus, be a deliverable prospect. As a worst case, should America’s relationship with China dramatically deteriorate and the former’s unilateralist instincts come to guide it, those European safety valves would properly protect Europe’s NATO members against Russian revisionism. Ultimately, for the West to globally prevail in economic and military terms, Germany’s future leader and European leaders need to rally their people, with passion and determination, to vigorously remind them of what is ultimately the unique value bonding them with the United States: the defense of freedom. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Bundesminister a. D. der Verteidigung, New York/München. 220 Maximilian Terhalle | Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

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Thinking and making strategy serve states’ vital interests. Innately bound up with power, strategy devises a future that reflects vital interests, using its willpower to protect them. Unprecedented, “Strategy as Vocation” introduces Strategic Studies while also offering Germany practical strategies.

The book contains articles in German and in English.


Strategisches Denken und Handeln dient vitalen Interessen. Es verlangt den Blick auf die Macht – und in eine Zukunft, die diese vitalen Interessen entsprechend widerspiegeln soll. Dies gilt immer, besonders aber, wenn Weltordnungen im Umbruch sind. Strategie als Beruf widmet sich den zentralen Konzeptionen der hierzulande vernachlässigten, wiewohl von Deutschen mitgeprägten Strategic Studies und bietet strategischem Denken und Handeln damit erstmalig Grundlagen auf dem Stand der internationalen Forschung an. Konkrete Strategievorschläge sind integraler Bestandteil des Buches.

Das Buch enthält deutsche und englische Beiträge.

Prof. Maximilian Terhalle (@M_Terhalle) lehrt Strategic Studies an der Universität Winchester, ist mit dem King’s College London affiliiert und berät das britische Verteidigungsministerium. Zuvor hat er einige Jahre an den Universitäten Columbia, Yale, Oxford und Renmin (Peking) geforscht und gelehrt.

Terhalle's insightful, balanced, and perceptive essays bring the tools of strategic studies to bear on a range of current international issues. Theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded, the analysis will be of great value to both the scholarly and policy communities.”

Prof. Robert Jervis, Columbia University, New York

Maximilian Terhalle gehört zu den frühen Streitern für eine strategische Ausrichtung unseres internationalen Ordnungsdenkens und der deutschen Außenpolitik. Sein scharfsinniges Buch bietet eine klare Analyse der instabil gewordenen Welt. Und zieht daraus konkrete Folgerungen für die Verantwortung Deutschlands und seiner Partner für westliche Werte und Interessen.“

Prof. Matthias Herdegen, Universität Bonn

Maximilian Terhalle is a refreshing independent voice on European and German security policy. There is a pressing need for systematic, clear-eyed, and realistic thinking about Germany’s role in a rapidly changing world, and this wide-ranging collection of essays is an important contribution to a much-needed set of debates.”

Prof. Stephen Walt, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government

The Germans have, for very understandable historical reasons, long been reluctant to engage in the kind of strategic thinking that comes naturally to the Anglo-Saxon world. Maximilian Terhalle, who is one of the Federal Republic’s most innovative experts in the field, is rightly dissatisfied with this opting out of the real world. His new book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand modern German strategy, or rather the lack of it, and the need for a National Security Council in the FRG.”

Prof. Brendan Simms, Cambridge University

Drawing on wide reading and with a nod to Max Weber, this thoughtful collection of essays by Maximilian Terhalle demonstrates the importance of strategic thinking and how it can be applied to the big issues of war and peace in the modern world.”

Prof. Lawrence Freedman, King’s College London

Die NATO ist strategisch nicht hirntot. Vielleicht aber bald eines seiner Mitglieder. Wer auch immer Deutschland führen wird, täte gut daran, sich den von Terhalle vorgelegten strategischen Kompass sehr genau anzusehen. Die eventuelle Wiederwahl Trumps und der unwahrscheinliche Machtverzicht Putins und Xis bedürfen nicht nur einer erkennbar europäischen Hand im Kanzleramt, sondern auch eines völlig neuen, eben strategischen Mindsets. Terhalles Konzepte für Entscheider sowie seine konkreten Ideen für die Zukunft westlicher Sicherheitspolitik bieten genau das.“

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Bundesminister a.D., New York/München

Strategisches Denken fehlt im Land des Carl von Clausewitz in allen Bereichen. In der Politik, der Wirtschaft und der Entwicklung von Leitlinien, wie Europa in einer Welt im Umbruch gestaltet werden sollte. Prof. Terhalles Buch zeigt Grundlagen auf und gibt Anregungen in wesentlichen Feldern der Politik. Es sollte von Entscheidern gelesen und genutzt werden.“

General a.D. Klaus Naumann, ehem. Vorsitzender des NATO-Militärausschusses und Generalinspekteur, München

Can Germany think strategically?’ Indeed, and more broadly, can the European Union become a strategic actor? These questions lie at the heart of Maximilian Terhalle’s no-holds-barred assessment of Europe’s options as the continent faces mounting challenges from both partners and adversaries East, South and West.”

François Heisbourg, Special Advisor, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris

Terhalle has produced a rich and wide-ranging series of essays on some of the enduring and more recent dilemmas of international security. These subtle but piercing reflections are in the best tradition of strategic studies, from Clausewitz to Freedman.”

Prof. John Bew, War Studies Department, King’s College London

A thought-provoking and illuminating series of essays that grapple with some of the toughest and most important questions facing contemporary Germany, Europe, and the United States, written by one of Germany's most forward-looking strategists.”

Elbridge Colby, Principal, The Marathon Initiative, former US Ass’t Deputy Secretary of Defence, Washington D.C.

Das neue Buch von Maximilian Terhalle, Strategie als Beruf, ist ein wichtiger Baustein bei der Grundsteinlegung für die hierzulande vernachlässigten ‘Strategic Studies’. Der Autor bürstet kräftig gegen den Strich und stellt liebgewordene Denkmuster in Frage. Man muss Terhalle keineswegs in jeder Hinsicht zustimmen. Aber wenn Deutschland und Europa tatsächlich die ‘Sprache der Macht’ erlernen wollen, wie vom EU-Außenbeauftragten Anfang 2020 gefordert, wird man nicht umhinkommen, sich mit seinen Thesen auseinanderzusetzen.“

Boris Ruge, Berlin

For too long, Germany’s deafening silence on strategic matters has struck international academic and policy observers alike. This is about to change. Maximilian Terhalle’s realpolitik-based as well as erudite deliberations on the art of strategy, closing with novel practical ideas for Europe’s future strategic security, betray exactly that.”

Prof. Christopher Coker, London School of Economics/LSE IDEAS

In Strategie als Beruf schreibt Maximilian Terhalle mit außerordentlich klarem Blick über Fragen sicherheitspolitischer Strategie und füllt damit ein Vakuum in Deutschland. Seine Ergebnisse sind unbequem für die von der Friedensforschung dominierten Debatten. Jeder, dem die Strategiefähigkeit des Landes und Europas wichtig ist, sollte seine Ideen kennen.“

Dr. Bastian Giegerich, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

“For over a decade, Western scholars of strategy have almost exclusively focused on the likeliness of the Thucydides trap to emerge between the US and China. Remarkably, while Prof. Terhalle acknowledges their global strategic importance, he spells out what the potential trajectory of their relationship implies for NATO’s European members vis-à-vis Russia. – Realpolitik reigns.”

Prof. Wu Zhengyu, Renmin University, Peking