Germany, the EU and Russia – a cacophony?

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

Germany’s policy towards Russia, but also that of the EU, is driven back and forth between its own interests, traditional ties, foreign, above all Anglo-Saxon claims and enemy image ideologies. This is becoming ever more apparent and ever stronger. As a result, Germany and the EU are increasingly losing credibility and peace-promoting creative power. Recent developments prove that.

Gerhard Schröder, during his time as German Chancellor, has done many objectionable things. For example, in spring 1999 he was responsible for the German participation in NATO’s war of aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was against international law. But he has also expressed his opposition to war – with his “No” to direct German participation in the internationally illegal war of aggression against Iraq of the US and its “Coalition of the Willing” in spring 2003. At that time, together with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, he tried to prevent this war – there was talk of a “Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis ”.1  At the time US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created the terms “old” and “new” Europe, thus qualifying the opponents of the war as “old” Europe and the supporters of the war as “new” Europe.

Gerhard Schröder, the war in Yugoslavia and the Navalny-campaign

Looking at the governments of the European NATO states today, one sees above all that there is no longer any “old” Europe. Former Chancellor Schröder, on the other hand, has gone his own way with at least two comments. In March 2014, when all the NATO states accused Russia of having occupied the Crimean peninsula “in violation of international law”, Schröder warned against the raised forefinger in an event of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit2. He said, he himself as German Chancellor had participated in an internationally illegal war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Schröder was right. There have been few reactions to this. Now he spoke again in the Navalny campaign, again warning against hasty conclusions and measures and saying: “What is currently being done these are essentially speculations, because … there are no hard facts.”3 Schröder is right about that too. Even the SPD politician Gernot Erler, who had sharply criticised Schröder for his statements, formulated in an interview with radio Deutschlandfunk on 8 October: “If you look at it from a purely legal point of view, a purely juridical point of view, that is correct ...”, but then to add immediately: “… but not politically, of course”. What exactly Erler meant remained in the dark. Only this much could be guessed: Russian President Putin is said to be “politically” responsible if anyone uses a poisonous substance, whose origin is assumed to be that of state authorities in Russia. It had already become known during the investigations into the 2018 Skripal-campaign that more than likely not only the Soviet Union (and then Russia) were (are) in possession of poisons from the Novichok group, but also secret services of other states.4
  However that may be: If you search on Google for what Gerhard Schröder actually said, you will have a hard time finding it; because the first ten Google pages (and more) are full of the very sharp and polemical attacks that took place after 1 October against  former chancellor Schröder (“Schröder is an errand boy for Putin, protecting murderers”5) – a real “shitstorm”.

Remembering George Friedman

Pro memoria: George Friedman, the former director of the US private intelligence agency Stratfor, had said in a lecture in February 2015 at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs: “The primordial interest of the United States over which for a century we have fought war, the first, second, and Cold War has been the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united they’re the only force that could threaten us, and to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”6 So, a voice like Gerhard Schröder’s is disturbing. George Friedman’s lecture passages are widely known, but they should be remembered from time to time.
  To this day, attempts are still being made time and again to adapt German policy to the “main interest of US foreign policy”. Newspaper articles such as the one in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 8 October 2020 entitled “German policy on Russia on trial” have not least the task of working precisely in this direction. For example, when it says: “Diplomats in Berlin stated in confidence that after 15 years the chancellor is now ‘on the verge of the shambles of a German policy on Russia that is too trusting’. At the presentation of a study of the Munich Security Conference, the request was recently made that Germany must finally abandon the ‘life lies’ of its foreign policy and find a clearer and more coherent policy on Russia”. This is the way to create facts.

How high should the new wall be?

Germany is supposed to worsen its relations with its neighbour Russia, is supposed to spend about 30 billion euros more per year on armaments (already more than 45 billion euros today), the pressure is growing to spend two per cent of the gross domestic product on the military. For 20 years now, step by step one has worked towards rebuilding an impermeable wall between West and East. The plan was formulated in the Slovak capital Bratislava at the end of April 2000.7
  On 12 October 2020, the Council of EU Foreign Ministers, as it is known, “launched” new sanctions against Russia because of the Navalny case. The Council had followed proposals of the French and German Foreign Ministers. These two politicians justified the move by stating on 12 October in the public news programme tagesschau.de that “Russia has not yet complied with calls for a complete investigation of the crime. So far, Russia has not provided a credible explanation for the cruel murder attempt [...]. Therefore, it is considered that ‘there is no plausible explanation for the poisoning of Mr Navalny other than Russian involvement and responsibility’”. A scandalous reasoning from a rule of law perspective.

Sanction-circus

It is interesting to note, however, that this alone corresponds to the formulations of the German and French foreign ministries. The official decision document of the Council of EU Foreign Ministers of 12 October only briefly stated: “There was also political agreement to take forward the [Franco-German] initiative to propose restrictive measures against those linked to the attempt to assassinate Alexei Navalny.” On 12 October, the public law broadcaster Deutsche Welle sounded somewhat different from tagesschau.de. It was stated there: “German EU diplomats hope that the latest decision [of the EU foreign ministers] will also ease the pressure on the German government to stop the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in the Baltic Sea.” The German government, it was said, was “adhering to its view that this economic project had nothing to do with poisoning an opposition member”. EU foreign affairs commissioner Joseph Borell is quoted as saying “The whole world cannot be reduced to this unhappy event of the poisoning of Mr Navalny”. Then Borell is quoted in indirect speech: “The EU would have to continue working with Russia because Moscow plays an important role in many conflicts”.
  Nevertheless, on 14 October the EU concretised its sanctions plans against Russia. A few Russians, mainly members of the security apparatus, are to be subject to entry bans into the EU and asset freezes. The Russian State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology is also to be sanctioned. That is where the poison found at Nawalny is said to come from. But once again it is stated, this time on tagesschau.de: “It was above all the German government that speeded up the sanction decision, not least because it hopes that it will put an end to the debate on the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.”
  The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, so it was said there as well, had announced counter sanctions to those of the EU. This was diplomatic practice, said Lavrov. Lavrov again accused the German authorities of not having presented any evidence of Navalny being poisoned. The country was thus violating international law. Earlier, Lavrov had already warned the EU of a temporary halt of all dialogue. The officials in charge of foreign policy in the EU did not understand the need for a dialogue characterised by mutual appreciation. “Maybe we should just stop for a while talking to them,” said Lavrov.  •


1  Three years later, it was said of the new Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Chancellor does not want a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 21 September 2006)
2  see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydLINQBOF1U
3  To be listened to in a podcast of about 25 minutes on 1 October 2020; https://www.a-b-c-communication.de/podcasts/
4  cf. for example https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Wusste-die-Bundesregierung-dass-es-Nowitschok-in-Labors-von-Nato-Laendern-gab-4060347.html [Did the Federal Government know that there were Novichokin laboratories of NATO countries]
5  This is the headline with which the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung reproduces an interview statement of Alexei Nawalny on 7 October 2020.
6  Excerpts from this speech can be read at https://www.zeit-fragen.ch/en/archives/2017/no-21-10-september-2017/us-main-objective-is-to-preventan-alliance-between-russia-and-germany.html
7  see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bratislava-conference

War and Peace – from the new encyclical of Pope Francis

km. 75 years after the end of the Second World War, Pope Francis, in his new social encyclical published on 3 October 2020, entitled “Fratelli Tutti”, warned against the danger of war and spoke out for peace. He writes in his Encyclical:

“War is not a ghost from the past, but a constant threat. Our world is encountering growing difficulties on the slow path to peace upon which it had embarked [after 1945] and which had already begun to bear good fruit. […]
  War can easily be chosen by invoking all sorts of allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses, and even resorting to the manipulation of information. […]
  Since conditions that favour the outbreak of wars are once again increasing, I can only reiterate that ‘war is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment’. […]
  At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians. [...]
  We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war’. […]
  Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil. […]
  Let us ask the victims themselves, [...]and it will not trouble us to be deemed naive for choosing peace.”

War and hunger in the world

In view of the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme – a UN organisation which has been dealing with a growing problem of hunger in the world since 2015 and whose resources are far from sufficient, so that its food rations have had to be cut in recent weeks – let us add a final quote from the encyclical:

“With the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, let us establish a global fund that can finally put an end to hunger and favour development in the most impoverished countries, so that their citizens will not resort to violent or illusory solutions, or have to leave their countries in order to seek a more dignified life.”

Source: Libreria Editice Vaticana

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