In the course of Europe’s economic crisis, Germany has pushed its neighbors into a new fiscal treaty, demanded that other governments take tough austerity measures, forced losses on private investors who hold Greek bonds and helped shove uncooperative politicians out of office.
For demanding that other nations accept that painful medicine, Berlin has paid a price of its own: potentially $600 billion in loans, guarantees and other payments to help keep the euro zone intact.
Germany is Europe’s economic engine and the political power at the heart of the 17-member euro region. Without its checkbook, the experiment in a common currency would be doomed, but Germany has too much riding on it to see it fail.
The single currency has provided Germany with a ready export market free of shifting exchange rates and other risks. Much of what Germany has offered is in the form of loan guarantees that may never cost the country a nickel and that so far have had little effect on its government budget or credit rating.