Book overview: Last Chance

A structured overview of a pre-war book on geopolitics by Gregor Schöllgen and Gerhard Schröder.

Version française / Deutsche Version


Note on the republication

Some books on geopolitics are prescient. Others are promptly refuted by real world events. In the case of Last Chance, it will seem to many that we are dealing with the second category.

What happens with the ideas of a refuted book? If they weren't mere exercises in wishful thinking in the first place, they go underground and wait for better circumstances. We see this happening all the time in the Great Game, or Game of Nations as others have called it. It will continue as long as people study history and read maps.

Basic information

Title: Letzte Chance: Warum wir jetzt eine neue Weltordnung brauchen
Translation of the title: Last chance: why we now need a new world order
Authors: Gregor Schöllgen [1952- ] Gerhard Schröder [1944- ]
Date of publication: 25 January 2021
Publisher: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt
Language: German
Pages: 257
Index: names and abbreviations
Bibliography: none, no sources given
Timelines: none
Graphics: none

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Author information

Gerhard Schröder

Gerhard Schröder chairs the supervisory boards of Rosneft and Nord Stream AG and has his own podcast, Die Agenda (the agenda), launched in the spring of 2020. Supported by a Socialist and Green coalition, he was Chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005. He became an international consultant and lobbyist after 2005, with close ties to Vladimir Putin. He currently resides in Russia and is embroiled in a legal dispute with the SPD over permanent privileges attached to his previous chancellorship.

Gregor Schöllgen

Gregor Schöllgen is a prominent academic historian whose research and teaching focuses on German foreign policy. He taught history to diplomats in training at the German Foreign Ministry. He wrote numerous popular biographies of German politicians (including Gerhard Schröder) and entrepreneurs and has long been a proponent of a more assertive German foreign policy.

Main idea: the West is geopolitically dead and Europe needs a post-NATO army

Systemic risk narrative: NATO & Western arrogance are bad for Europe

Although the West remains for now an island of stability in an increasingly unstable world, the international alliance between the USA and Europe that forms its core has become a dysfunctional system incompatible with European political stability and economic growth. This situation stems from the unilateralism of the USA within the NATO alliance, and from insufficiencies of the political compromise on which upon the EU rests.

Within Europe, the cohesion that supports Western-centric institutions is based on a false narrative according to which 1) Russia poses a fundamental systemic risk and the Cold War has resumed 2) non-Western sovereign powers require humanitarian moral education and disciplinary pressuring. Post-1991 NATO expansion and humanitarian arrogance towards non-Western sovereign powers generate in turn responses that guardians of the Western-centric status quo wrongly interpret as confirmations of their narrative. Europeans are thus in danger of being trapped in a vicious feedback loop that reinforces both their false sense of moral superiority and their poor grasp of geopolitical realities. The West hast lost its credibility and this constitutes a major factor of systemic risk for Europe.

Systemic risk theory: understanding the world requires geopolitical intelligence

90% of the book consists of historical analyses of local national and regional situations across the world. The underlying theory of the authors throughout these analyses is that the main drivers of conflicts across the world are geopolitical rather than ideological: control over key resources, demography, and badly designed states. These material drivers of geopolitics are essentially absent from the idealistic Western-centric narrative. Although this underlying theory may be said to guide the book's organisation, the authors do not attempt to elevate it to the level of a system of geopolitics. This book offers no grand narrative.

Another implicit theoretical point of the authors is that, when possible, becoming a supranational sovereign system is the optimal way to manage systemic risks such as military conflicts, piracy, insecure maritime rights, terrorism, climate change, resource access denial, resource depletion, socioeconomic insecurity, uncontrolled immigration, pandemics, and foreign data oligopolies.

Furthermore, on page 28 the authors briefly consider the possibility of a symbiosis between the principles of market and planned economies.

To be clear: this is not a theory book. The authors are interested in taking a fresh look at the facts, not in formulating hidden laws, grand narratives of history, or economic theories. They do not make use of historical analogies that would go beyond the geopolitical patterns mentioned above. They do emphasise the importance and generality of these patterns, for instance when they write on page 161 that bad material living conditions are a driver of terrorism. But the question of whether a change of the world order might have anything to do with big economic or civilisational cycles is of no concern whatsoever to them.

Systemic risk management agenda: Europe needs full supranational sovereignty

Europeans need to seize the initiative by adopting a new, supranational basis of cohesion: their common structural geoeconomic interest in securing access to natural resources across the globe within the framework of international law, combined with a shared sense of responsibility for the bad state designs that may affect foreign countries as a historical consequence of European imperialism. EU members need to exit NATO and build a supranational army based on a Franco-German core. Further supranational integration of EU members will drive economic growth and enable more efficient management of systemic risks.

Overview of supporting ideas

Keywords by chapter

  • Chapter 1: "Sidelined: Europe's stagnation"

The rise of the West ; European integration ; French decolonisation ; 1950 Franco-German reconciliation ; 1963 Élysée Treaty ; German reunification ; 1992 Maastricht Treaty. ; Norwegian energy independence ; Brexit.

  • Chapter 2: "No regard for losses: the USA in the world"

American imperialism ; Aftermath of World War I ; Nine-Power Treaty ; Adolf Hitler's rise to power ; US involvement in World War II ; US-Soviet Alliance ; Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ; NATO ; Enlargement of NATO ; Nuclear proliferation ; Prague Spring ; Vietnam War ; 1971 Nixon shock ; United States involvement in regime change in Latin America ; Yugoslav Wars.

  • Chapter 3: "The teetering giant: Russia at the crossroads"

1812 French invasion of Russia ; Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ; Operation Barbarossa ; Cold War ; Collapse of the Soviet Union ; Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation ; Nord Stream ; the French position regarding Nord Stream 2 ; Sino-Russian rapprochement.

  • Chapter 4: "Pure dynamism: China on its way to the top of the world"

Sino-American rapprochement ; Ascendancy of China ; OBOR ; Political status of Taiwan ; Xinjiang conflict ; 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests ; Territorial disputes in the South China Sea ; Geostrategic expansion of China.

  • Chapter 5: "A giant awakens: the Asian crescent"

Korean War, North Korean nuclear program ; 1976 Reunification of Vietnam ; Sino-Indian border dispute ; Kashmir conflict ; Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts ; German military mission in Afghanistan ; American failure in Afghanistan.

  • Chapter 6: "Dangerous neighbours: the Kurdish quadrangle"

Iranian Revolution ; Iran-Iraq War ; Gulf War ; Failure of the UN Security Council to prevent war ; Iranian nuclear program ; Syrian civil war ; Role of Turkey in the Syrian civil war ; Role of Kurds in the Syrian civil war ; Wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan ; Turkish ambitions for regional supremacy.

  • Chapter 7: "The mother of all crises: the Arab-Israeli Conflict"

The Holocaust ; Arab-Israeli Conflict ; Suez Crisis ; France-Israel relations ; Germany-Israel relations ; Arab Spring.

  • Chapter 8: "Gateways to the world: the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea"

Iraq War ; Houthi Movement ; Chinese military presence in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf regions ; Demography of Egypt ; Sudanese civil wars ; Demography of Ethiopia ; Somalian pirates ; Atalanta mission ; American drone warfare in Somalia ; Migration from Africa to Europe.

  • Chapter 9: "The heart of darkness: Central Africa"

Rwandan genocide ; Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide ; Congo Wars ; Operation Barkhane.

  • Chapter 10: "Wells of life: the struggle for resources"

Antarctic Treaty System ; Central Arctic Ocean fishing moratorium ; United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ; Russian continental shelf extension ; 1973 oil crisis ; 1979 oil crisis ; Gulf War IV ; Cod Wars ; Six-Day War ; Southeastern Anatolia Project ; Water politics in the Nile Basin ; Chinese water politics ; Chinese rare earths monopoly.

Sovereign Systems not on the Schröder-Schöllgen agenda

Second-best systems: European national sovereign systems are likely here to stay

Full European supranational integration is less likely than stagnation and, ultimately, fragmentation. This is why the book's title is "last chance": if France and Germany don't pull off federal integration soon, the opportunity window will close. Even though the authors prefer not to focus on that scenario, they do ask on page 227 if "we even need organisations like the EU in the future". The message is clear: up or out.

The authors also prefer not to give any consideration to one of the key issues that divide France and Germany: nuclear power. Gerhard Schröder continues to this day to proudly claim credit for his role in getting Germany out of nuclear power. At the same time, he and Gregor Schöllgen are clear regarding the necessity for a supra-nationally integrated Europe to control her own nuclear deterrent. They seem to be pinning their hope that this will actually happen on Emmanuel Macron.

Not-on-the-map systems: extranational sovereign systems are completely on the outside of the Schröder-Schöllgen narrative

Hypothetical crypto-powered network states do not feature in the Schröder-Schöllgen narrative.

Document versions

Current version

3.0, published 16 January 2023

Other versions

2.0, published 15 September 2021

1.0, published 15 September 2021