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The New German Question

What Happens When Europe Comes Apart?

Über alles: Alternative for Germany supporters at a rally in Berlin, May 2014 Thomas Peter/REUTERS

Many have been lamenting the dark path that Europe and the transatlantic relationship are currently on, but there hasn’t been much discussion of where that path leads. European weakness and division, a strategic “decoupling” from the United States, the fraying of the European Union, “after Europe,” “the end of Europe”—these are the grim scenarios, but there is a comforting vagueness to them. They suggest failed dreams, not nightmares. Yet the failure of the European project, if it occurs, could be a nightmare, and not only for Europe. It will, among other things, bring back what used to be known as “the German question.”

The German question produced the Europe of today, as well as the transatlantic relationship of the past seven-plus decades. Germany’s unification in 1871 created a new nation in the heart of Europe that was too large, too populous, too rich, and too powerful to be

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