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Germany Can’t Give Up on Cooperation With Russia in Oil and Gas – Merkel

Sputnik – 24.08.2018

Germany has greenlighted the Nord Stream 2 project to bring Russian gas to Europe and is under strong pressure from the US, which warns that the project is making Germany dependent on Russia. Berlin insists that the project is entirely commercial.

A planned sub-sea pipeline that will bring gas directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea will not make Germany dependent on Russia for energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel told university students in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Friday, on the second day of her trip to the Caucasus.

Angela Merkel described continued Russian oil and natural gas supplies to Germany as an important factor in ensuring the country’s energy security.

”We have a decades-long history of economic cooperation with Russia, including on CO2 emissions. We have consistently been reducing our use of coal and we need natural gas coming to us via Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, that’s why we support Nord Stream 1 and 2,” Merkel noted.

She noted that Germany wanted to make sure that Russia continued delivering some gas via Ukraine even after the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was finished.

Mentioning the importance of expanding the so-called “Southern Corridor” for natural gas supplies also from Azerbaijan, she still pointed out that buying gas from Russia was cheaper than buying it elsewhere.

“Europe and Russia, then the Soviet Union, had very close energy cooperation during the Cold War. We can’t afford giving up on cooperation with Russia in oil and gas. Of course, we can have natural gas coming from Azerbaijan, but the truth is that it will not be available at the price we are paying for Russian gas,” Merkel said.

Some countries that are afraid of losing revenues from Russian gas transit, above all Ukraine, are opposed to Nord Stream 2.

The project is also facing opposition from the United States, which has ambitious plans of LNG exports to Europe.

Russia has repeatedly urged its European partners not to perceive the Nord Stream pipeline as an instrument of influence insisting that the project is an entirely economic one.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

AfD MP: ‘We Refuse to Support the US Gas Industry at Germany’s Expense’

Sputnik – August 24, 2018

Despite opposition to the Nord Stream II pipeline from some Eastern Europe states, the consortium of energy companies involved in the joint venture are going ahead with the project.

Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem spoke to Christian Blex, a representative of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party in the Bundestag, about the proposed pipeline and the untapped potential of bilateral EU-Russia trade.

Europe’s Dilemma

Europe’s growing demand for natural gas, coupled with falling production in many longstanding European natural gas exporters, such as Norway, has put the region on course to face an energy deficit unless it swiftly alters its energy mix or builds the necessary midstream infrastructure to import more natural gas from Russia.

A move away from natural gas is unlikely to happen, as it is unrivaled by most alternatives in terms of affordability, abundance, and is significantly more eco-friendly than other fossil fuels, such as coal.

Alternatively, Europe could look to make up its energy shortfall by importing US liquefied natural gas (LNG), though, as Dr. Blex explained, this course of action is riddled with drawbacks and is not in Germany’s interests.

“The position of the AfD is that Germany should make an interest-based policy and due to the current economic climate and the German government’s recent policies, we must focus on importing. As Russia currently supplies the cheapest option in the form of natural gas, it is only logical that we import from them,” Dr. Blex told Sputnik on Friday.

“Since the US cannot currently compete in terms of both price and infrastructure, the idea of seriously switching to US gas is a pipe dreams. In addition, the AfD refuses to support the US gas industry at the expense of Germany, or to solely serve Washington’s geostrategic interests.”

Baseless Prophecies

Dr. Blex expressed his support for Nord Stream II, insisting that it will benefit Germany and the wider European economy, dismissing concerns that Moscow could use Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas as leverage over the continent.

“Despite all the prophecies of doubts about the danger of a Russian monopoly position and the associated blackmail potential, as well as its alleged political uncertainty as a partner, Russia has always reliably adhered to its supply contracts with Germany over the past 30 years, which is why we regard Russia to be a reliable partner. As long as this remains so, I see no need to orient ourselves elsewhere,” Dr. Blex said.

In fact, this is more likely to be an issue if Europe swapped out Russian natural gas for US LNG, as the Trump administration has repeatedly showed itself to be an unreliable partner, with President Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and recklessly imposing tariffs against several key US trade partners in 2018.

In virtually every case of opposition to Nord Stream II, the critic has a vested interest in preventing the pipeline’s completion; Russian natural gas is perhaps the single largest barrier to US LNG taking over Europe’s energy market, while some European states are keen to hinder the project to ensure their revenue streams from existing Russian gas transit deals aren’t slashed.

Undisputed Potential & Future Relations

Although Europe maintains a fruitful partnership with Russia in the energy sector, sanctions and the contemporary political climate have inhibited both sides from exploring new avenues and benefiting from the untapped economic potential an amicable relationship offers.

Dr. Blex noted this “tremendous potential,” and voiced concerns of German and other European businesses being adversely affected by the sanctions, saying, “It is undisputed that trade between the European Union and Russia has tremendous potential. German companies in the automotive, chemical and electronic industries suffered losses due to sanctions. Normalization of relations is therefore of Russian as well as European and German interest.”

EU farmers have often protested against the sanctions, dumping their produce on the streets, as they’ve been hit hard by the sanctions.

“The AfD advocates ending the sanctions,” the German MP added.

Moreover, the Bundestag member called for a “pan-European policy” that fosters better political and economic relations with Russia, but said the current German federal government is unlikely to adopt such an approach.

“A pan-European policy that strengthens economic relations with Russia would be desirable. Unfortunately, the political will for this geostrategic reasoning does not yet exist; the Merkel government is against it.”

However, Dr. Blex described himself as optimistic “that the steady increase in power of the AfD” will shift Germany’s stance and lead to a more productive relationship with Russia.

“I therefore hope that in the long term, throughout the EU, there will be a recognition that Russia must be seen as a partner rather than an enemy,” Dr. Blex concluded.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

How NATO-linked Think Tanks Control EU Refugee Policy

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 27.04.2016

A flood of uncontrolled war refugees from Syria, Libya, Tunisia and other Islamic countries destabilized by Washington’s ‘Arab Spring’ Color Revolutions, has created the greatest social dislocation across the EU from Germany to Sweden to Croatia since the end of World War II. By now it has become clear to most that something quite sinister is afoot, something which threatens to destroy the social fabric of the very core of European civilization. What few realize is that the entire drama is being orchestrated, not by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or by faceless EU bureaucrats of the Brussels EU Commission. It is being orchestrated by a cabal of NATO-linked think tanks.

Last October 8, 2015 amid the great stream of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Germany from Syria, Tunisia, Libya and other lands, a newly self-confident German Chancellor Angela Merkel proclaimed on a popular German TV program, “I have a plan.” She took the occasion to take a sharp dig at coalition partner, Bavarian CSU head, Horst Seehofer, a stauch critic of Merkel’s open arms refugee position since spring 2015 that saw more than one million refugees enter Germany last year alone.

Since that point, with iron-hard resolve, the German Chancellor has defended the criminal Erdogan regime in Turkey, an essential partner in her “plan.”

Most of the world has looked on with astonishment as she ignored principles of free speech and decided to prosecute publicly a well-known German TV comedian, Jan Böhmermann, for his satirical remarks about the Turkish President. They were astonished as the symbol of European democracy, the German Chancellor, chose to ignore Erdogan’s imprisonment of opposition journalists and his shutting of Turk opposition media as he proceeded with plans to establish a de facto dictatorship rule within Turkey. They were puzzled as Berlin’s government chose to ignore overwhelming proof that Erdogan and his family were materially aiding and abetting ISIS terrorists within Syria who were in fact creating the war refugee crisis. They were astonished to see her push through an EU commitment to give Erdogan’s regime billions of euros to supposedly deal with the refugee flow from Turkish refugee camps across the border into EU neighbor land, Greece and beyond.

The Merkel Plan

All of those seemingly inexplicable actions from the once-pragmatic German leader appear to go back to her embrace of a 14-page document prepared by a network of pro-NATO think-tanks, brazenly titled “The Merkel Plan.”

What the newly-self-confident German Chancellor did not tell her hostess, Anne Will, or her viewers was that “her” plan was given to her just four days earlier, on October 4, in a document already titled The Merkel Plan, by a newly-created and obviously well-financed international think-tank called the European Stability Initiative or ESI. The ESI website showed that it had offices in Berlin, Brussels and in Istanbul, Turkey

Suspiciously, the authors of the ESI plan titled their plan as if it had come from the German Chancellor’s office and not from them. More suspicious is the contents of The Merkel Plan of ESI. In addition to already taking more than one million refugees in 2015, Germany should “agree to grant asylum to 500,000 Syrian refugees registered in Turkey over the coming 12 months.” In addition, “Germany should accept claims from Turkey… and provide safe transport to successful applicants… already registered with the Turkish authorities…” And finally, “Germany should agree to help Turkey obtain visa-free travel in 2016.”

That so-called Merkel Plan was a product of US and NATO-linked think tanks and of governments of NATO member countries or prospective members. The maxim “follow the money trail” is instructive in this case to see who really runs the EU today.

The ESI

The ESI came out of NATO-led efforts to transform South East Europe following the US-instigated war in Yugoslavia during the 1990’s that resulted in the Balkanization of the country and establishment of a major USA and NATO airbase, Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo.

Current ESI Chairman directly responsible for the final Merkel Plan document is Istanbul-based Austrian sociologist, Gerald Knaus. Knaus is also a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), and an Open Society Fellow.

Founded in London in 2007, the ECFR is an imitation of the influential New York Council on Foreign Relations, the think-tank created by the Rockefeller and JP Morgan bankers during the 1919 Versailles peace talks to coordinate an Anglo-American global foreign policy. Significantly, the creator and moneybags for the ECFR is American multi-billionaire and Color Revolution funder, George Soros. In virtually every US State Department-backed Color Revolution since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including in Serbia in 2000, in Ukraine, in Georgia, in China, in Brazil and in Russia, George Soros and offshoots of his Open Society Foundations have been in the shadows financing “democracy” NGOs and activists to install pro-Washington and pro-NATO regimes.

The select members, called Council Members or associates, of the London-based ECFR include ECFR co-chairman Joschka Fischer, former German Green Party Foreign Minister who arm-twisted his party into backing Bill Clinton’s illegal 1999 bombing of Serbia without UN Security Council backing.

Other members of the Council of Soros’ European Council on Foreign Relations think tank include former NATO Secretary General, Xavier Solana. It includes disgraced plaigarist and former German Defense Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg; Annette Heuser, Executive Director Bertelsmann Stiftung in Washington DC; Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference; Cem Özdemir, chairman, Bündnis90/Die Grünen; Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, German Liberal Party (FDP) MP; Michael Stürmer, Chief Correspondent, Die Welt; Andre Wilkens, Director of Mercator Foundation; pederasty defender, Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the European Parliament. Cohn-Bendit, known as “Danny the Red” during the May, 1968 French student riots, was a member of the the autonomist group Revolutionärer Kampf (Revolutionary Struggle) in Rüsselsheim, Germany along with his close ally, now ECFR chairman, Joschka Fischer. The two went on to found the “realo” wing of the German Greens.

The Open Society Foundations is the network of tax-exempt “democracy-promoting” foundations created by George Soros on the collapse of the Soviet Union to promote “free market” pro-IMF market liberalization of former communist economies that opened the doors for the systematic plundering of invaluable mining and energy assets of those countries. Soros was a major financier of the liberal economic team of Boris Yeltsin including Harvard “Shock Therapy” economist, Jeffrey Sachs, and Yeltsin liberal adviser, Yegor Gaidar.

Already it becomes clear that the “Merkel Plan” is the Soros Plan in fact. But there is more if we wish to understand the darker agenda behind the plan.

The ESI Funders

The European Stability Initiative think-tank of Soros-tied Gerald Knaus is financed by an impressive list of donors. Their website lists them.

The list includes, in addition to Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Soros-tied German Stiftung Mercator, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. ESI funders also include European Commission. Then, curiously enough the funder list for The Merkel Plan includes an organization with the Orwellian name, The United States Institute of Peace.

Some research reveals that the United States Institute of Peace has anything but a peace-loving background. The United States Institute of Peace is chaired by Stephen Hadley, former US National Security Council adviser during the neo-conservative war-waging Bush-Cheney administration. Its Board of Directors includes Ashton B. Carter, current Obama Administration neo-conservative hawkish Secretary of Defense; Secretary of State John Kerry; Major General Frederick M. Padilla, President of the US National Defense University. These are some very seasoned architects of the US Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance strategy for world military domination.

The “Merkel Plan” authors at the European Stability Initative, in addition to the largesse of George Soros’ foundations, list as “core” funder, the German Marshall Fund of the United States. As I describe in my book, The Think Tanks, the German Marshall Fund is anything but German. With its seat in Washington, as I noted in the book, “It’s an American think tank with its headquarters in Washington, D.C. In point of fact, its agenda is the deconstruction of postwar Germany and more broadly of the sovereign states of the EU to fit them better into the Wall Street globalization agenda.”

The German Marshall Fund of Washington has been involved in the post-1990 USA agenda of regime change around the world in league with the US-funded National Endowment for Democracy, Soros Foundations, and the CIA front called USAID. As I describe it in the think tanks book, “The major focus of the German Marshall Fund according to its 2013 Annual Report was to support the US State Department agenda for so-called democracy-building operations in former communist countries in eastern and south-eastern Europe, from the Balkans to the Black Sea. Significantly their work included Ukraine. In most instances, they worked together with the USAID, widely identified as a CIA front with ties to the State Department, and the Stewart Mott Foundation which gives funds to the US Government-funded National Endowment for Democracy.”

Notably, the same Stewart Mott Foundation is also a funder of the ESI-authored Merkel Plan, as is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

This all should give pause for reflection as to who and for what goals the Merkel-Erdogan deal for dealing with the EU refugee crisis is intended. Does the Rockefeller-Bush-Clinton faction in the United States intend to use it as a major social engineering experiment to create chaos and social conflict across the EU at the same time their NGOs such as the NED, Freedom House and the Soros Foundations are stirring things up in Syria and Libya and across the Islamic world? Is Germany, as former US presidential adviser and Rockefeller crony, Zbigniew Brzezinski called her, a “vassal” of US power in the post-1990 world? To date the evidence is pretty strong that that’s the case. The role of US and NATO-linked think tanks is central to get an understanding of how the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union are actually controlled from behind the Atlantic curtain.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Book Review | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Germans have a Russian hacking story after all

By Frank Sellers | The Duran | July 30, 2018

Two German broadcasters, ZDF and WDR, are claiming that they have become the victims of a new Russian cyber attack. The attack is being reported as being the work of a Russian hacking group known as ‘Sandworm’. Reports are saying that the attack occurred in June, but has no clue about what the hackers were after, or whether any sensitive information was stolen. Additionally, the ‘Sandworm’ hacking group is also suspected of having ties to the Kremlin, and played a role in the attack on the US DNC servers during the 2016 US Presidential election. Sandworm is also billed as having hacked the Swiss labs which were tasked with analyzing the sample of Novichok that was reportedly used to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4th in Salisbury, UK.

Deutsche Welle reports:

Two of Germany’s largest public broadcasters, ZDF and WDR, have been attacked by a Russian hacking group, according to reports. It remains unclear what the group’s intention was or whether any sensitive data was stolen.

A Russian hacking group known as “Sandworm” targeted Germany’s two largest public broadcasters, ZDF and WDR, according to German media reports on Friday.

Security officials told German weekly Der Spiegel that hackers had managed to compromise the broadcasters’ networks in June. Although the cyberattack was detected relatively quickly, it remains unknown what the group was after or whether any sensitive data was compromised.

ZDF confirmed the attack on Friday, adding that only 10 computers on its network were affected. WDR decline to comment for “security reasons.”

Sandworm is a hacking group believed to be run by Russia’s military intelligence service, GRU. According to US federal investigators, the group is suspected of also being behind the attack on the US Democrats’ computer servers during the 2016 presidential election.

The group first appeared in 2013 and, according to German intelligence, has targeted NATO servers, several western telecom companies and Ukrainian energy suppliers.

Earlier this year, the German government admitted that its computer network had been compromised via a piece of malware. The Russian hacking group APT28 is believed to have been behind the attack.

German intelligence warns key institutions

Germany’s intelligence service (BND) had warned two weeks ago of the potential cyber threats facing several key bodies, including the country’s public broadcasters and media companies.

The BND also said that the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, which specializes in chemical weapons research, was also among Sandworm’s targets. Its Swiss lab had been tasked with analyzing the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok that was used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

A spokesperson for Spiez Laboratory said officials had encountered one phishing attack, sent via a document used in a workshop. However, the institute itself had not been affected.

With the claim about Russians hacking the Budestag falling apart, as I reported earlier, the Germans needed a victim story to sell to the public. Germans have been the victims of Russian hackers, and since the last story didn’t pan out, here’s another one! This one even comes with an attack from a suspected hacking group that we are being told has Kremlin ties, and we are also being told that they tried to derail the Skripal investigation. What’s more, it’s some of the same fellows who hacked the DNC servers! So we can see, then, that the Russians are hacking all of kinds of things, trying to cover their tracks, and that includes hacking the Germans. But so far, after a month, there is no intel suggesting that the malicious Russian hackers managed to get their hands on any ‘sensitive data’, which makes us wonder whether they have some state secrets or something on their servers, have they been in cahoots with Julian Assange and Wikileaks, perhaps? Did the Russians manage to get access to it? Should we be worried that the Russians now have information which compromises the security of Germans and the EU in general? So far, we don’t know, but we do know that the German media which claims it was hacked by the Russians is reporting that it has been hacked by the Russians. So far, an independent investigation isn’t being reported to verify the attack or its origin, or the scope thereof.

July 30, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Neither German nor British intelligence can prove Russia is behind Skripal poisoning – German MP

RT | July 29, 2018

Failure to release any evidence of Russia’s alleged involvement in the Skripal case shows that neither German nor British intelligence services have anything on it, a member of the German Left Party, Heike Haensel, believes.

Western media and politicians still seize every opportunity to pin the blame on Moscow for the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. However, German lawmakers received nothing but the allies’ assurances about the case, according to MP Heike Haensel. Speaking to daily newspaper Junge Welt, she revealed that two requests for any proof of the allegation, from her and her fellow MP Sevim Dagdelen, were left unanswered.

“Still neither British nor German intelligence agencies have evidence of Russian responsibility for the attack in March,” Haensel said in an interview published on Saturday.

The German federal government formally responded to the Left Party’s requests only to say that the alleged evidence cannot be released as the data in question is classified. It also claimed that the British side had presented some details regarding its decision to blame Russia, and its contention that no alternative explanation seemed plausible – the mantra that the UK’s Western allies have been repeating since the Salisbury incident, without revealing any substantial details.

Still waiting for any proof to be provided, German politicians seem to be increasingly skeptical about the UK’s claims regarding Russia. In June, the German Bundestag’s Research and Documentation Services concluded that Moscow violated no international norms during the inquiry into the case. The German parliament’s agency report followed news that Berlin had not received a single piece of evidence to suggest that Russia may be behind the attack that took place in early March, according to German media.

Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations, and has complained that the results of the investigation have been kept secret. The Russian envoy to the UK has on several occasions said that London had even tried to “destroy” evidence during the probe. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also failed to establish any links to show that the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals came from Russia.

Read more:

The plot thins: How gel became a liquid and the whole Novichok affair began to smell to high heaven

July 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

The US 2019 Defense Budget Bill: Congress Defies the New World Order

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.07.2018

The House and Senate versions of the draft National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 were unveiled by Congress on July 23. Both include a provision to temporarily bar the transfers of F-35 joint strike fighters (JSF) to Turkey. According to the final 2019 defense bill, the Defense Department would be required to submit a report to lawmakers within 90 days about the relationship with Ankara, all its foreign weapons deals, and Turkey’s move to purchase the S-400 air-defense system from Russia before any more sales could go through. Until then the US would sit on any weapons transfers to Turkey. Ankara’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air-defense system, the “F-35 killer,” has greatly aggravated bilateral ties between the US and Turkey, a relationship that was already clouded by many other issues.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation this month, with the Senate taking it up in early August. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had warned Congress against punishing Turkey by cutting off transfers of F-35s in retaliation for its plans to buy the Russian anti-aircraft system, but his opinion was ignored. The State Department has been putting pressure on Ankara to try to make it reconsider the S-400 deal, in favor of purchasing the less capable, US-made Patriot system.  US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell told the Senate “We’ve been very clear that across the board, an acquisition of S-400 will inevitably affect the prospects for Turkish military-industrial cooperation with the United States, including F-35.” Turkish officials view the US demand as blackmail.

Turkey is one of twelve partner nations in the F-35 program, nine of which have received the fighters through foreign military sales. Ankara has planned to purchase the 100 F-35 aircraft it technically already owns by investing $1.25 billion into the project. US legislators fear that using the F-35 and the S-400 together could compromise the F-35 and allow Russia to gain access to the sensitive technology. As a result, the true owner has been denied access to his property by both houses of US Congress.

The bill includes a compromise waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act  (CAATSA) for the countries purchasing Russian military equipment, as long as they are taking steps to wean themselves from it.

The deal with Turkey is a part of a broader picture. The Philippines, also a long-time ally of Washington that has long relied on the United States as its main source of military hardware,  is at risk of falling under US sanctions if it proceeds with its purchase of grenade launchers from Rosoboronexport, a blacklisted Russian firm. India has been threatened with sanctions should it decide to buy the Russian S-400.

The US State Department’s Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction has announced a tender for the monitoring of open-source information about arms deals involving the Russian Federation and the CIS countries. The information will be used for shaping the sanctions policy.

This policy goes beyond weapons deals to encompass economic issues as well. One can pay off. Take Germany, for instance. It has been threatened by sanctions in the event that the Nord Stream 2 gas project goes through. The English version of the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that plans are afoot for a new LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel, a town in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.  Once the costly infrastructure to cool and liquefy LNG is in place, the German government can demonstrate that the US is wrong to accuse it of being almost fully dependent on Russian gas. There are plans to invest an estimated €450 million ($530 million). Once built, the terminal cannot sit idle. The shipments of American LNG will be guaranteed.

But indeed there is no such thing as a free lunch. If Berlin wants to get cheap Russia gas, it will also have to spend some time and effort on building the infrastructure to receive Moscow’s LNG, and at that point, paying a lot more for American sea-transported  LNG will hike the country’s overall energy expenditures

Perhaps Turkey could come to some kind of compromise with the Americans on the S-400, if it buys the Patriot as well.  Maybe India will find a way to evade sanctions, if it agrees to the US offer of THAAD..

On July 24, US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), announced that they are working on comprehensive legislation, which officially is aimed at ratcheting up the sanctions pressure on Russia. The text of the proposed legislation does not say so, but the true goal is to lean on other nations to buy US-made goods or else. Forget about the international rules stipulated by the UN Charter and WTO documents — “arms-twisting” has become an element of US foreign policy.

Nobody likes to be ordered around and blackmailed. In the long run, this policy will encourage other countries to reconcile their differences and unify, in an effort to push back against the US. Today Russia China, the EU, and many other actors face a common problem — the “do as I tell you” approach used by the US to tackle international problems, whatever they are. Those who had doubts about the merits of a multipolar world order are beginning to see things in a different light.  Any state structure needs checks and balances to maintain an equilibrium, and so does the world. The BRICS summit that kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 25 symbolizes some global changes, in which poles of power outside of the US are emerging to reshape the political world map.

July 28, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

German officials join UK and US establishment worried how Trump-Putin summit will affect NATO

RT | July 7, 2018

German politicians are nervous over the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, fearing the US president could take actions that are not in line with NATO, echoing concerns across the channel and the Atlantic.

Ahead of the meeting on July 16 in Helsinki, several German officials expressed their worry in interviews with newspapers throughout the country. The transatlantic coordinator for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, Peter Beyer, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers that “there are great concerns in the alliance about what agreements Trump and Putin could reach” during the summit, and he lamented that NATO member states had not been included in the planning.

He said that Trump would let Putin “put one over on him” during the meeting in Helsinki, using the US president’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as justification for his rather frank comment.

“Kim has only made promises thus far. We don’t know if he has stopped enriching uranium. Only Trump has billed the summit as such as a success,” said Beyer, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats Union (CDU).

Beyer isn’t alone when it comes to concerns surrounding the meeting and the apparent belief that the two leaders can’t simply meet in the same way that other world leaders meet every day – and the same way German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met with both Trump and Putin on numerous occasions.

Christian Lindner, the head of Germany’s Free Democrats, told Deutschlandfunk in an interview that he did not trust Trump, and that his actions in the areas of trade and security were not in Washington’s long-term interest.

“He is too volatile…within 24 hours, Mr. Trump can change his position by 180 degrees,” Christian Lindner, the head of the Free Democrats, told Deutschlandfunk. He called for Europe, as the world’s largest single economic zone, to take a united stance and act as a counterweight to Trump and Putin. The EU is currently in loggerheads with the US over tariffs on aluminum, steel and other goods.

And then there’s Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German envoy to Washington, who expressed concern that Trump might refuse to sign a communique at next week’s NATO summit in Brussels. “It cannot be ruled out,” he told Die Welt in a clear reference to Trump refusing to sign the document from G7 meeting in June.

Amid all this scaremongering, Merkel herself said in a Saturday video address that Germany “would like to have reasonable relations with Russia. That is why we will always have discussions in the NATO-Russia Council.” She expressed her support for NATO in the next breath, saying it is needed in the 21st century “as a guarantor of our transatlantic alliance,” and stating that it “must show determination to defend itself.”

The comments come as Trump continues to pressure NATO states to pay their fair share towards the alliance, as Washington currently accounts for more than two-thirds of all defense spending by NATO members. It is one of only six countries to meet the two percent GDP quota.

A page out of Britain’s book

The comments by German officials come less than two weeks after The Times reported that the UK also fears that Trump will undermine NATO by striking a “peace deal” with Putin during the meeting. It cited cabinet ministers who are worried that the Russian president could persuade Trump to downgrade US military commitments in Europe, thus compromising NATO countries’ defense against so-called “Russian aggression.”

Alexander Bartosh, a military expert and former Russian diplomat, told RT that such concerns would come as no surprise, as the UK “has been one of the most active supporters of a hard line towards Russia.” He added that the UK feels “a certain loss of its weight in Europe and tries to turn Russia into a kind of boogeyman, seeing the ‘Russian threat’ as a unifying factor for nations, looking for closer ties with London.”

Bartosh also noted that the meeting between the two leaders will merely include trying to find a “unifying agenda for the US and Russia because the relations of the two countries affect not only their own well-being, but international security as a whole… none of the sides will be aiming to undermine the integrity of NATO.”

Trouble on the homefront

It’s not just Europe that fears what could happen in the meeting between Trump and Putin. Even former CIA director John Brennan told MSNBC last week that Trump “is not sophisticated enough” to deal with Moscow.

“I must tell you the Russians will feign sincerity better than anyone I’ve ever dealt with in my life. So I would be very careful about being swept in and I think Mr. Trump is not sophisticated enough, unfortunately, to deal with these foreign leaders in a manner that is going to protect US national security interests. I think he’s naive in these issues,” he said.

In fact, many within the US establishment dread the possibility of the summit succeeding, political analyst and media and government affairs specialist Jim Jatras wrote in an op-ed for RT.

Jatras noted that Trump’s desire to actually get along with Russia sounded alarms long before he won the 2016 election. “US reconciliation with Russia would yank the rug out from under the phony justifications for spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually to counter a ‘threat’ that ceased to exist over a quarter century ago,” he wrote.

Journalist Neil Clark voiced a similar point in his own op-ed for RT, stating that a successful summit simply won’t do, because Russia “must always be regarded as the enemy – unless of course it does absolutely everything the West demands of it.” And while he noted that positive moves between Moscow and Washington would be celebrated by ordinary folks, he stated that defense industry lobbyists wouldn’t be nearly as enthused.

Read more:

Who’s afraid of a Trump-Putin summit? – by Stephen Cohen

US establishment in hysterics that Trump-Putin summit might succeed

July 7, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Germany’s AfD Party Passes Resolution to Lift EU Sanctions Against Syria

By Suliman Mulhem – Sputnik – July 4, 2018

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party is continuing its efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees, formally urging the German federal government and the EU to lift their debilitating economic sanctions against the Arab Republic.

Earlier this month at a party convention in Augsburg, AfD politicians passed a resolution calling for the lifting of EU economic sanctions against Syria in a bid to aid Damascus’ ongoing efforts to stabilize the entirety of the country and provide adequate public services, according to a party press release sent to Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem.

The resolution was submitted by Dr. Christian Blex and a number of other party officials who visited Syria in March to assess the situation on the ground for themselves.

Presenting the resolution at a party conference, Bundestag member Dr. Blex warned of the detrimental effects of the sanctions on the availability of healthcare for Syrians who decided to remain in their home country, especially those on low incomes and with limited resources to seek treatment abroad.

“They [the sanctions] target human beings who the European states allegedly want to protect. The EU sanctions against Syria are a cause of flight; its removal would even benefit Germany’s economy,” Dr. Blex said.

“We demand Germany be no longer complicit in the sanctions, which are an instrument of power against the current government. A prolongation of the suffering of the Syrian people to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is incompatible with AfD-principles and not in the German national interest,” the resolution reads.

Moreover, the resolution called on the German government and the EU itself to reinstate diplomatic relations with Damascus to “find a solution which secures the country’s peaceful rebuilding process,” highlighting that rebuilding Syria and reviving its national economy is firmly in Germany’s interests, as it’s necessary for the repatriation of Syrian migrants.

AfD members also passed a resolution on July 1 condemning the tripartite aggression by the UK, US and France against Syria earlier this year as a “violation of international law.”

The coordinated strikes were carried in retaliation to an alleged chemical attack which was blamed on the Syrian government, despite Damascus staunchly denying any involvement and having no motive to carry out such an attack.

READ MORE:

EU Sanctions Have ‘Disastrous’ Effects on Syria’s Civilian Population – AfD MP

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

German Protesters Fed Up With US Wars Blockade Ramstein Air Base

Sputnik – 02.07.2018

About 2,500 people gathered outside the largest US base in Germany over the weekend as the Trump administration considered a possible US withdrawal from the country.

Sputnik Deutschland contributor Marcel Joppa was on the scene for Saturday’s protest, joining people of all ages including seniors as old as 80 years old, who endured the summer heat and faced down the police to show their discontent with US military operations launched from German soil.

Organized by the “Stop Air Base Ramstein” civil group, the protest was attended by several politicians, most notably Sara Wagenknecht, the leader of The Left Party faction in the Bundestag.

Addressing the crowd, Wagenknecht spoke out on the issue of drone warfare, “which although not written about much in the big press continues to take place.”

“Kill orders are arranged at the touch of a button. These are just outrageous crimes! And it is unacceptable that they be supported here, from German soil, in any way!” the politician stressed.

Pointing out that the bombings of Iraq and Afghanistan were carried out from German territory, Wagenknecht argued that there shouldn’t be a single German region where the Germany Constitution, which does not allow wars of aggression or extraterritorial killings by drones, does not apply.

“What is happening here is a case for our counterintelligence bodies, if they are to do their jobs properly,” the politician said. “There are over 1,000 US military bases around the world, and none of them exist to ensure the security of those countries,” she added.

Demanding that Berlin pursue a more independent foreign policy, Wagenknecht criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of being too submissive to the US.

The protesters were also addressed by writer and peace activist Eugen Drewermann, who reminded them that the US had bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries since 2001.

“We are involved in these actions, and we are partly responsible. We must finally reject this policy. We Germans have every reason to press the brake, with all our might, to correct old mistakes,” he said.

Unfortunately, Drewermann noted, NATO had always viewed Russia as an enemy, emphasizing the immense disparity in the number of military bases the two countries operate internationally.

Several dozen protesters set off for the front of the central entrance to the air base, where they sat down on the asphalt and blocked traffic. The police soon sounded a warning that the protest would be broken up and that those who resisted would be detained. Participants began singing songs and shouting slogans, including “For international solidarity!” and “Why are we doing this? For the sake of our children!”

About a dozen people have been detained, including an elderly American couple.

Saturday’s protests came on the heels of reports of a US Department of Defense study on the consequences of a major drawdown of US forces in Germany. The study was initiated after President Trump expressed his interest in the pullout at a meeting with military officials earlier this year, according to officials speaking to The Washington Post. Trump was reportedly taken aback by the cost of maintaining the estimated 35,000 active-duty troops stationed in the European country.

The US has maintained a presence in Germany since the end of World War II. During the Cold War, the US presence was justified as necessary to deter the Soviet Union, which had troops in East Germany. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the last of the former Soviet contingent was withdrawn in 1994, but the US bases remained, even during a period of unprecedentedly warm relations between Moscow and Washington in the 1990s and most of the 2000s.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Immigration Divides Europe and the German Left

By Diana Johnstone  | Consortium News | June 19, 2018

Freedom of movement is the founding value of the European Union. The “four freedoms” are inscribed in the binding EU treaties and directives: free movement of goods, services, capital and persons (labor) among the Member States.

Of course, the key freedom here is that of capital, the indispensable condition of neoliberal globalization. It enables international finance to go and do whatever promises to be profitable, regardless of national boundaries. The European Union is the kernel of the worldwide “Open Society”, as promoted by financier George Soros.

However, extended to the phenomenon of mass immigration, the doctrine of “free movement” is disuniting the Union.

A German Crisis

Starting in 2011, millions of Syrian refugees fled to neighboring Turkey as a result of the Western-sponsored war to overthrow the Assad regime. By 2015, Turkish president Erdogan was insisting that Europe must share the burden, and soon was threatening the European Union with opening the floodgates of refugees if his conditions were not met.

In August 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would accept all genuine refugees. Germany had already taken in over 400,000 refugees, and another 400,000 were assumed to be on the way – if not more. Although addressed to Syrians, Merkel’s invitation was widely interpreted as an unlimited invitation to anyone who wanted to come Germany for whatever reason. In addition to a smaller number of refugee families, long lines of young men from all points east streamed through the Balkans, heading for Germany or Sweden.

The criminal destruction of the government of Libya in 2011 opened the floodgates to immigrants from Africa and beyond. The distinction between refugees and economic migrants was lost in the crowd.

Germans themselves were sharply polarized between those who welcomed the commitment to Christian charity and those who dreaded the probable effects. The differences were too highly charged emotionally, too subjective to be easily discussed in a rational way. Finally, it depends on whether you think of immigrants as individuals or as a mass. Concerning individuals, compassion reigns. You want to get to know that person, make a friend, help a fellow human being.

As a mass, it is different because you have to think also of social results and you do not know whom you are getting. On the one hand, there are the negative effects: labor market competition which lowers wages, the cost of caring for people with no income, the potential for antisocial behavior on the part of alienated individuals, rivalry for housing space, cultural conflicts, additional linguistic and educational problems. But for those whose ideal is a world without borders, the destruction of the oppressive nation state and endless diversity, unlimited immigration is a welcome step in the direction of their utopia.

These conflicting attitudes rule out any consensus.

As other EU countries were called upon to welcome a proportionate share of the refugee influx, resentment grew that a German chancellor could unilaterally make such a dramatic decision affecting them all. The subsequent effort to impose quotas of immigrants on member states has run up against stubborn refusal on the part of Eastern European countries whose populations, unlike Germany, or Western countries with an imperialist past, are untouched by a national sense of guilt or responsibilities toward inhabitants of former colonies.

After causing a growing split between EU countries, the immigrant crisis is now threatening to bring down Merkel’s own Christian Democratic (CDU) government. Her own interior minister, Horst Seehofer, from the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union, has declared that he “can’t work with this woman” (Merkel) on immigration policy and favors joining together with Austria and Italy in a tough policy to stop migration.

The conflict over immigration affects even the relatively new leftist party, Die Linke (The Left).

A good part of the European left, whatever its dissatisfaction with EU performance, is impregnated with its free movement ideology, and has interiorized “open borders” as a European “value” that must be defended at all costs. It is forgotten that EU “freedom of movement” was not intended to apply to migrants from outside the Union. It meant freedom to move from one EU state to another. As an internationally recognized human right, freedom of movement refers solely to the right of a citizen to leave and return to her own country.

In an attempt to avoid ideological polarization and define a clear policy at the Left party’s congress early this month, a working group presented a long paper setting out ideas for a “humane and social regulated leftist immigration policy”. The object was to escape from the aggressive insistence on the dichotomy: either you are for immigration or you are against it, and if you are against it, you must be racist.

The group paper observed that there are not two but three approaches to immigration: for it, against it, and regulation. Regulation is the humane and socially beneficial way.

While reiterating total support for the right of asylum including financial and social aid for all persons fleeing life-threatening situations, the paper insisted on the need to make the distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants. The latter should be welcomed within the capacity of communities to provide them with a decent life: possibilities of work, affordable housing and social integration. They noted that letting in all those who hope to improve their economic standing might favor a few individual winners but would not favor the long-term interests either of the economic losers or of the country of origin, increasing its dependence and even provoking a brain drain as educated professionals seek advancement in a richer country.

There was hope that this would settle the issue. This did not happen. Instead, the party’s most popular leader found herself the target of angry emotional protests due to her defense of this sensible approach.

Sahra and Oskar

As elsewhere in Europe, the traditional left has drastically declined in recent years. The long-powerful German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has lost its working-class base as a result of its acceptance, or rather, promotion of neoliberal socioeconomic policies. The SPD has been absorbed by the Authoritarian Center, reduced to junior partner in Angela Merkel’s conservative government.

Die Linke, formed in 2007 by the merger of leftist groups in both East and West Germany, describes itself as socialist but largely defends the social democratic policies abandoned by the SPD. It is the obvious candidate to fill the gap. In elections last September, while the SPD declined to 20%, Die Linke slightly improved its electoral score to almost 10%. But its electorate is largely based in the middle class intelligentsia. The party that captured the most working-class votes was the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), considered far right populist – largely because its growing success at the polls is due to popular rejection of mass immigration.

There are two way of looking at this.

One way, the Clintonite way, is to dismiss the working class as a bunch of deplorables who do not deserve to have their interests defended. If they oppose immigration, it can only be because they have impure souls, besmirched by racism and “hate”.

Another way is to consider that the grievances of ordinary people need to be listened to, and that they need to be presented with clear, well-defined, humane political choices, instead of being dismissed and insulted.

This is the viewpoint of Sahra Wagenknecht, currently co-leader of Die Linke in the Bundestag.

Wagenknecht in the Bundestag  (Photo – Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Wagenknecht was born in East Germany 48 years ago to an Iranian father and German mother. She is highly educated, with a Ph.D. in economics and is author of books on the young Marx’s interpretation of Hegel, on “The Limits of Choice: Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries” and “Prosperity Without Greed”. The charismatic Sahra has become one of the most popular politicians in Germany. Polls indicate that a quarter of German voters would vote for her as Chancellor.

But there is a catch: her party, Die Linke. Many who would vote for her would not vote for her party, and many in her own party would be reluctant to support her. Why? Immigration.

Sahra’s strongest supporter is Oskar Lafontaine, 74, her partner and now her husband. A scientist by training with years of political experience in the leadership of the SPD, Lafontaine was a strong figure in the 1980s protest movement against nuclear missiles stationed in Germany and remains an outspoken critic of U.S. and NATO militarism – a difficult position in Germany. In 1999 he resigned as finance minister because of his disagreement with the neoliberal policy turn of SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schoeder. He is a consistent critic of financial capitalism and the euro, calling for a change of European monetary policy that would permit selective devaluation and thus relieve the economically weaker member states of their crushing debt burden.

After leaving the SPD in 2005, Lafontaine went on to co-found Die Linke, which absorbed the post-East German Party of Democratic Socialism led by lawyer Gregor Gysi. A few years later he withdrew into the political background, encouraging the rising career of his much younger partner Sahra Wagenknecht.

Lafontaine can be likened to Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a left leader who has retained basic social and antiwar principles from the past and aspires to carry them into the future, against the rising right-wing tide in Europe.

The Wagenknecht-Lafontaine couple advocate social policies favorable to the working class, demilitarization, peaceful relations with Russia and the rest of a multipolar world. Both are critical of the euro and its devastating effects on Member State economies. They favor regulated immigration. Critical of the European Union, they belong to what can be called the national left, which believes that progressive policies can still be carried out on the national level.

The Globalizing Left

Die Linke is split between the national left, whose purpose is to promote social policies within the framework of the nation-state, and the globalization left, which considers that important policy decisions must be made at a higher level than the nation.

As co-leader of the Linke fraction in the Bundestag, Wagenknecht champions the national left, while another woman, the party co-chair Katja Kipping, also an academic of East German origin, speaks for the globalization left.

In a July 2016 article criticizing Brexit, Kipping made it clear that for her the nation is an anachronism unsuitable for policy making. Like others of her persuasion, she equates the nation with “nationalism”. She also immediately identifies any criticism of mass immigration with scapegoating: “Nationalism doesn’t improve our lives, it makes the poor only poorer, it takes nothing from the rich, but instead blames refugees and migrants for all present misery.”

The idea that social reform must henceforth take place only on the European level has paralyzed left parties for decades. The most extreme of the globalizing left shove their expectations even beyond the European Union in hopes of eventual revolution at the global level, as preached by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their joint books Empire and Multitude

According to Negri, an alarmingly influential Italian theorist who has been dead wrong ever since the 1970s, the final great global revolution will result from the spontaneous self-liberation of the “multitude”. This is a sort of pie in the sky, projecting hopes beyond the here and now to some desirable future made inevitable by the new immaterial means of production (Negri’s boneless imitation of Marxism). Whether or not they have read him, many anarchist anti-globalist notions of The End Times are in harmony with Negri’s optimistically prophetic view of globalization: it may be bad now, but if it goes far enough, it will be perfect.

Since the globalization left considers the nation state inapt to make the revolution, its abolition is seen as a step in the right direction – which happens to coincide with the worldwide takeover of international financial capital. Its core issue, and the one it uses to condemn its adversaries in the national left, is immigration. Katya Kipping advocates “open borders” as a moral obligation. When critics point out that this is not a practical suggestion, the globalization left replies that it doesn’t matter, it is a principle that must be upheld for the future.

To make her policy line even more unrealistic, Kipping calls for both “open borders” and a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.

It is easy to imagine both the enthusiastic response to such a proposal in every poor country in the world and its horrified rejection by German voters.

What can motivate leaders of a political party to make such flagrantly unpopular and unrealizable proposals, guaranteed to alienate the vast majority of the electorate?

Kipling: Globalized immigration in line with international finance. (Getty)

One apparent source of such fantasy can be attributed to a certain post-Christian, post-Auschwitz bad conscience prevalent in sectors of the intelligentsia, to whom politics is more like a visit to the confession booth than an effort to win popular support. Light a candle and your sins will be forgiven! Many local charitable organizations actually put their beliefs in practice by providing material aid to migrants. But the task is too great for volunteers; at present proportions it requires governmental organization.

Another, more virulent strain of the open border advocates is found among certain anarchists, conscious or unconscious disciples of Hardt and Negri, who see open borders as a step toward destroying the hated nation state, drowning despised national identities in a sea of “minorities”, thereby hastening the advent of worldwide revolution.

The decisive point is that both these tendencies advocate policies which are perfectly compatible with the needs of international financial capital. Large scale immigration by diverse ethnic communities unwilling or unable to adapt the customs of the host country (which is often the case in Europe today, where the host country may be despised for past sins), weakens the ability of society to organize and resist the dictates of financial capital. The newcomers may not only destabilize the situation of already accepted immigrant populations, they can introduce unexpected antagonisms and conflicts. In both France and Germany, groups of Eritrean migrants have come to blows with Afghan migrants, and other prejudices and vendettas lurk, not to mention dangerous elements of religious fanaticism.

In foreign policy, the globalization left tends to accept the political and media mainstream criticism of Wagenknecht as a Putin apologist for her position regarding Syria and Russia. The globalist left sometimes seems to be more intent on arranging the rest of the world to suit their standards than finding practical solutions to problems at home. Avoiding war is also a serious problem to be dealt with at the national level.

Despite the acrimonious debates at the June 8 to 10 party congress, Die Linke did not split. But faced with the deadlock on important questions, Wagenknecht and her supporters are planning to launch a new trans-party movement in September, intended to attract disenchanted fugitives from the SPD among others in order to debate and promote specific issues rather than to hurl labels at each other. For the left, the question today is not merely the historic, “What is to be done?” but rather a desperate, Can anything be done?

And if they don’t do it, somebody else will.


Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr .

June 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Merkel agrees with Netanyahu that Iran is a ‘concern’ for Israel’s security

RT | June 4, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s activities in the Middle East are a concern, particularly for Israel’s security. She made the statement after a meeting in Berlin.

“We agree that the question of Iran’s regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security,” the chancellor said.

Netanyahu’s European tour this week follows the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal which France, Germany and Britain have said they will continue to respect.

The Israeli leader is also expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and possibly British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss ways to stop what Netanyahu called “Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional expansionism,” Reuters said.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Western leaders back in Russia as tensions appear to ease

East-West relations seem to have changed over past 10 days, as three major Western leaders attend St Petersburg forum

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 28, 2018

East-West relations have transformed over the past 10-day period. Russia’s isolation from the West after the Maidan coup in Kiev appears to have warmed as abruptly as it began.

Three major Western leaders – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – visited Russia during the period since May 18, mainly to attend the St Petersburg Economic Forum. But they had one mantra to chant: Russia is an indispensable partner – and one offer to make – despite sanctions, economic and political ties with Russia are possible and necessary.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump’s critics, who accuse him of causing a trans-Atlantic rift, have had a rethink, since he may have instead triggered an overall easing of East-West tensions, as America’s European partners dust off their “Ostpolitik” to seek an apparent rapprochement with Russia.

Of course, the three Western leaders who traveled to Russia were not acting in concert. Merkel, Macron, Abe – each had a specific agenda with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. They were not interested in taking advantage of Russia’s tense relations with the US. Their intuition probably told them that things have come to such a pass in world politics that high-level contact between Russia and America might now be only a matter of time.

Equally, Putin was not inclined to turn the visits of three top Western leaders into an “anti-American” platform to exploit the current trans-Atlantic rift. Putin’s focus was on what these leaders could bring to the Russian economy by way of trade and investment. But in political terms, as much as Russia sizes up Germany, France and Japan as partners, the US still remains the partner of its heart’s desire.

Suffice to say, Russia grapples with the geopolitical reality that while the trans-Atlantic rift could become the “new normal,” an outright rupture between the US and its European allies or an unraveling of the Western alliance is not in the cards. Again, in the final analysis, without the United States’ participation, it is impractical to address issues such as Syria, the Iran nuclear problem, Ukraine, etc.

Macron audacious, Merkel wary

Between Merkel and Macron, the latter seemed far more eager and audacious to turn a new leaf in relations with Russia. France’s Total has taken US$2.5 billion in equity in Russian major Novatek’s Yamal LNG 2 project in the Siberian Arctic (with an option to double it). Macron promised to overtake German investments in Russia ($18 billion). He sought a new “mechanism” to solve the Syrian crisis; he stated France’s intention to protect its companies operating in Iran; and he even harked back to the defeat of Nazism to invoke France’s and Russia’s common destiny as United Nations veto powers and world leaders.

Nonetheless, Moscow is yet to figure out the potential of Macron, who began one year ago as the alpha male vis-à-vis Trump but went on to invite the latter as guest of honor on Bastille Day and become his best friend in the Western world, and is now presenting himself as an incorrigible Gaullist. Putin wore a quizzical look as Macron plunged gustily into an extraordinary speech lasting half an hour at the improbable forum of their joint press conference in St Petersburg on May 25.

The point is, Gaullism didn’t survive Charles de Gaulle. Will Gaullism-2 survive the second year of Macron’s seven-year presidency? Time only can tell. How far will Macron go out on a limb to drop the European Union’s hostile sanctions against Russia or to break loose from the West’s strategy to provoke Russia? Actually, he didn’t forget to add that France remains all the while a US ally.

As for Germany, Russia has always viewed it as the pace-setter in the EU. But there is a catch here too, since Merkel was also a midwife to the Maidan in Kiev (where it all began) and worked shoulder to shoulder with Barack Obama to erect a harsh sanctions regime against Russia. Those were halcyon days when Merkel was de facto leader of the EU and the champion of the liberal international order – “The Iron Frau” who doubled up as the “Matti” – Otto von Bismarck and Mother Teresa at the same time.

Things have changed since then. Obama has left the stage; the migrant problem became controversial and eventually diminished Merkel politically (despite the brilliant performance of the German economy); and she is besieged today by several negative factors. Brexit came out of the blue; the Franco-German axis that was integral to her pet project of European integration lost verve; and America First began incessantly battering Germany (and Merkel personally). To borrow a poignant metaphor from Mikhail Gorbachev over the sad plight of managers of Soviet state enterprises in the era of perestroika, Merkel is afraid to leave the open cage and take wing and fly into the firmament.

Perhaps her timidity is due to the fear that assertiveness may provoke accusations of Germany’s inordinate geopolitical ambitions triggering another tragic cycle of history (“German Question”), and due to a genuine distrust of Russia among Germany’s political class, which is weaned on Euro-Atlanticism. But it is there. As top Moscow pundit Fyodor Lukyanov wrote recently, in Berlin “change is feared.”

Within earshot of the visiting Western leaders, Putin again signaled his interest in a full-bodied Russian-American dialogue. But alas, Washington speaks in multiple voices. Meanwhile, bad tidings have arrived from Syria – an attempted drone attack on Hmeimim air base; a US threat to take “firm and appropriate measures” against any Syrian operations against extremist groups ensconced in southwest Syria; and the killing of four Russian military personnel in Dier ez-Zor on Sunday.

If only Russian wishes had wings, Americans should have been better soccer players. That might have just about brought them into the finale of the FIFA World Cup – and Trump to Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on July 15 in front of a capacity crowd of 87,000 fans in one of the most picturesque districts of the Russian capital with the Moskva River flowing gently alongside the stadium, and Putin sitting beside him, with no aides present, for a full 90 minutes.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment