Germany is only ambiguously European, and perhaps not Western at all. It can be seen as an Eastern steppe empire.
It was never, thanks to Arminius, wholly within the Imperium and remains essentially unreduced and uncolonised by Mediterranean civilisation. Indeed, one view is that persistent invasive pressure from the tribes of the German plains to the North was the necessity that drove Rome to pre-eminence within the Italian peninsula and then expansion beyond it. The Roman Imperium held the tribes back for a long while, but eventually succumbed.
For some time after, Germania was a loose collection of tribal zones, though some, the Franks, moved Westwards and formed enduring states. Those states took on Christianity, and some of the residual culture of the Imperium. They became westernised as well as civilised. The heartlands of Germany, stretching over into what we now call Poland and even to Russia, did not go down this path, only becoming Christianised and civilised with the diffusion of Catholicism. But resistance to the heritage of the Imperium as represented by the Roman Church was strong, and eventually came to a head with Luther who brought about an incomplete but highly significant disassociation. The German peoples were once again free of the influence of Mediterranean civilisation, and remain so to this day.
Though intellectually distinguished, the fragmentary nature of the Germanic peoples in the medieval period limited their economic and military significance, and the growth of the Dutch/British economy eventually suppressed the nascent power of the Hanseatic League, keeping the Germans out of the West.
Spanish/Portuguese expansion was largely irrelevant to Germany, since it went to the New World. But French expansion in the 17th and 18th and early 19th Centuries came close to absorbing the German territories into a Western, European empire. But ultimately Napoleon failed to hold the lands he conquered, and the experience of invasion that he provided stimulated a self-protective desire for unification, as a defence against the West and against Europe. The founders of modern German national feeling, Fichte, List, and others saw Germany as a non-Western, non-European state threatened by the inheritors of the Imperium, including the new British colony, the United States. They did not see themselves as part of the Western world, then dominated by Britain, and indeed had only come together as a state in order to defend themselves against it, both militarily and economically. – Fichte’s “Addresses to German Nation” were delivered in Berlin with French soldiers on the streets outside. Schopenhauer's deep identification with Eastern thought, and acquaintance with Eastern languages, Sanskrit, is instructive.
Friedrich List is a representative example of an economic thinker arguing for anti-British (and French) trade policy, emphasising territorial integrity and opposing unrestricted trade. Fichte, hugely important in German thinking still, even argued for a “Close Commercial State” quite unlike the open merchant administrations of Holland and England. That is not surprising: Germany is not a marine state, which all the other authentically Western and European states are, for example France, Spain/Portugal, Holland, Britain. Even the Mediterranean states, Greece and Italy, are more marine than Germany, though not quite ocean going.
In the 19th Century, the rest of the world, including China and Japan studied the German case carefully because they felt, correctly, that Germany’s position and history were closer to their own. They, like Germany, were on the outside, looking in on Western (Anglo-Dutch-French-Spanish, and American) wealth and civilisation, and threatened by its power. Japan bought its first battleships on the Tyne, but modelled its entire education system on the German pattern, and dressed (and still dresses) its school children in uniforms modelled on those of the Kaiserliche Marine.
The two world wars are in essence both cases of conflict between the West (Franco-British-American Imperium) and the East (Germany and the rest), with the picture confused because of German civil intrusion as far as the Caucasus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the German language being very widely spoken in those regions. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is not quite the abberation that it might seem. These two giant easterners were struggling to become the dominant regional power, and that rivalry apart they have a lot in common. One of Russia's profoundest fears today is a seeping return of German cultural and populational influence.
But this history is obscured for far-western observers by the division of Germany after the Second War, which drew a veil over the underlying non-Western character of the country, since the Prussian heartland was behind the Iron Curtain in the DDR, and absent Prussia the FDR, much of which had in fact been within the Imperium, took on many Western characteristics, not least because it was part of the EEC and the Western states were attempting to absorb it within what we now call the EU, which was, of course, a new Western imperium. This attempt, however, failed.
In spite of its poverty and misery the DDR was the Prussian heart of Germany, and reunification the most remarkable reverse take-over. Unified Germany has been for twenty years controlled not by a Westernised FDR politician, a Wessi, but by an Ossi, Merkel, who has also dominated and subverted the EU, turning it into the Eastern Imperium that the Germans have sought since before the Roman Republic.
Hence the EU’s increasingly anti-American stance and also the widespread discontent in the Western EU states, France, Netherlands, and most of all in the UK, which eventually left the EU because of German dominance. Brexit and many other important phenomena in world politics would never have happened without reunification. 1990 is a very important year.