Monday, August 31, 2020

How should Europe respond now its American ally has turned hostile?

Guardian (Aus Ed):

How should Europe respond now its American ally has turned hostile?

As trusted friends join the ranks of predators, it could be time to take a tougher line – soft power is no longer enough

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, speaks to Donald Trump during the G7 meeting in Quebec, 2018. Photograph: Reuters

Making his celebrated return from exile in April 1917 to take up the reins of the Russian revolution, Vladimir Lenin caught a ferry to Sweden from Sassnitz, a small Baltic coastal town in north-east Germany, before taking the train to Finland station in Petrograd, the city that became Leningrad and is now St Petersburg. Sassnitz’s moment in the historical spotlight was fleeting. Now, thanks to Donald Trump’s blundering buddies, it’s back there again.

A trio of Republican senators – Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Ron Johnson – are threatening to wreak terrible punishment on Sassnitz, its elected officials and residents who make their living from the port. Luckily, Trump’s three stooges seem unaware of Sassnitz’s role in propelling the Bolshevik leader to power. Their beef concerns its present-day dealings with Russia and the almost-completed Nord Stream 2 Baltic pipeline project.

In an extraordinarily high-handed letter this month, the senators claimed the pipeline, which will import Russian natural gas to Europe via Germany, posed a “grave threat” to US security. If Sassnitz did not immediately halt its involvement, it would incur “crushing legal and economic sanctions” that could prove “fatal” to the region’s economy, they decreed. Sassnitz companies, shareholders and employees would face US government-ordered asset freezes and travel bans similar to North Korea and Iran.

The US has long opposed Nord Stream 2, arguing it will increase Europe’s dependence on Russia. Berlin has long resisted such claims, saying it alone determines national policy, in conjunction with the EU. What the feet-first intervention of Cruz and his arrogant cronies has done is turn the issue into another full-on US-Europe confrontation.

The reaction in Sassnitz and beyond is predictably furious. The Americans are accused of treating Germany more like an enemy, or a colony, than an ally. Foreign minister Heiko Maas said such behaviour reflected basic “disrespect” for European rights and sovereignty. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed “deep concern at the growing use of sanctions, or threat of sanctions, by the US against European companies and interests”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s relations with Trump were already icy after years of presidential insults and, more recently, his perverse decision to cut US troop numbers in Germany – a key part of Nato defences against Russia. Now the row risks rekindling broader resentment over Trump’s tariff wars, climate crisis denial, and efforts to divide the EU by wooing conservative eastern states.

America’s increasing resort to bullying and intimidation of old friends in place of reasoned persuasion was highlighted by another showdown last week, over Iran. US secondary sanctions have hurt European companies trading with Tehran but have failed, so far, to break the joint German-French-UK commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal jettisoned by Trump. So when the US sought to reimpose sanctions on Iran at the UN, it was roundly rebuffed.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo reacted with a classic Trumpian tantrum. Europe was “siding with the ayatollahs,” he snarled. Kelly Craft, US ambassador to the UN, was every bit as offensive, absurdly accusing America’s most steadfast allies of “standing in the company of terrorists”. The fact Trump’s Iran policy has demonstrably backfired, pushing the Middle East closer to war, and Iran closer to a nuclear weapon, does not seem to matter.

Spare a thought at this point for put-upon Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary. Raab was in Jerusalem last week, bravely attempting to put a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine back on the table following the best efforts of Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bury it. Instead, he got a humiliating public dressing-down from Netanyahu and fellow ministers over Iran. This was rude and disrespectful. Sadly, their uncouth behaviour reflects Britain’s growing irrelevance.

Achieving a two-state solution is another big area of US-Europe disagreement. Yet similar difficulties arise on other key issues. Despite its desire to “save” Europe from the Russians (and sell it expensive gas from Cruz’s home state of Texas instead), Trumpland has shown a dismaying lack of concern over the plight of Alexei Navalny, the poisoned Russian opposition activist.

Be it the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, or the uprising in Belarus, hands-off Trump has gone out of his way to avoid upsetting Russian president Vladimir Putin, to whom he seems in thrall. These are important matters affecting Europe’s security, prosperity and principles, yet scant solidarity, and often the exact opposite, is what it has come to expect from Trump’s America.

What to do? EU leaders can hope Joe Biden wins in November. But what if Trump triumphs again? Europe can expect more sanctions, selfish stupidity and brutishness where US foreign policy used to be. It would face a second-term president hostile to Germany in particular, contemptuous of the EU in general, and free to indulge his destructive instincts to the full. Nato and the transatlantic alliance might finally implode under the strain.

Even if that’s avoided for now, the possibility of such a nightmare in future is a compelling argument for strengthening Europe’s shared security, military and technological capabilities – and its protections against Sassnitz-style economic and financial blackmail. French president Emmanuel Macron urges greater EU integration, ambition and urgency, but Merkel and others are wary. Yet as Sophia Besch of the Centre for European Reform argued recently, Europe must be able to defend its geopolitical interests.

Call it “strategic autonomy”. Or simply call it survival. In a world where once trusted friends join the ranks of the predators, soft power is not enough.

Europe will not curb the depredations of major global players until it becomes one itself. Europeans must stand together. What an utter tragedy that Britain chose this dangerous moment to fall apart.


  1. A leads to B leads to C leads to D, and eventually it all becomes a mess.
    To understand the Energy conundrum Germany finds itself in, you need to trace back to 2011, when Merkel (yes, the same Merkel) announced Germany would phase out ALL its nuclear power stations by 2022.
    Later followed by the decision to phase out all Coal powered power stations by 2038.
    Henceforth Germany would sing and dance to a Green energy future.

    This was a decision driven more by emotion and politics and not by sound science and energy economics.
    I have nothing against Solar and Wind power, but the reality is , like the rest of Western Europe, Germany has many overcast days as well quiet days with hardly any wind or both.
    When these occur in mid-winter, Germany would be facing an industrial and social crisis if fully dependent on Solar and Wind.
    So...if nothing else changes Germany really does need Nord Stream 2.

    Just don't forget whose hand is on the tap at the source end - Putin.

    It would be ultra-easy for "technical issues" to arise requiring sudden shutdown of the gas pipeline anytime Western Europe policies incur Putin's displeasure.

    So...Merkel trusts Putin's gas supply more than from the damned Yankees ? NATO budgets.
    Germany spends 1.23 % of its Budget on Defence, and dragging its feet on even increasing to 1.5% let alone the NATO-wide agreed 2%
    So , Trump may be playing nasty , but he could be forgiven for thinking, why should he put GI's lives on the firing line in Germany, when Germany doesn't even want to commit to spending its fair share of the defence burden ?

    1. Do u actually know the energy policy of Germany?

      Environmental considerations DON'T just come out from just Merkel's own decision.

      Mfer, thinks about the strength of the Green party & in general the overall sentiment of the Germans against coal & nuclear power!

      Ain't u a f*cked acolyte of human choice under yr trumpeted demoNcracy? R u playing selective hypocrisy here?

      Besides, Germany is a vast country with multiple weathering zones for solar. Many German households r input, instead of offloading, the national electricity grid using their individual solar panel. Go check how long the German have been doing that & what's the percentage of the household power need comes from solar.

      Oooop… don't forget to check how much wave & wind electricity the German r getting from their North Sea coastal areas under the policy of Energiewende.

      Germany really doesn't need Nord Stream 2! But it comes in handy. Roughly half of the country's 40 million homes are heated with natural gas, a quarter with oil and almost 14 percent with district heating. District heating in Germany is mainly powered by natural gas and coal, while waste and renewable energies contribute a smaller share.

      Huge LNG import terminals in Germany's northwest coastal region — in the towns of Brunsbüttel, Wilhelmshaven and Stade complement the secured supply of heating needs.

      NATO budget?

      How ignorance r u about the distrust imbedded within NATO!

      Macron have lost faith in NATO, resulting in the call of Macron declared NATO "brain dead".

      Merkel wants NATO to stay but with reduced US influences. EU should defenses herself with Europe centric military operations. Not as an US pawn & far-away war deterrent front!

  2. angela mama only wan to sell mercedes n bmw, she wanna kiss xi ass but at the same time wan usa to help defend german against polar bear, she think trump a stupid like the british.

    1. Trump is like u guys, a moneyed mfers, thinking of capitalistic profit regardless of any consequences!

  3. This is not the first time US Senators threatened companies on the Nord Stream 2 project. Previously US Senators in December 2019 had sent threatening letter to the special ship Allseas to stop work. Around 120 companies are affected by the sanctions. This time, the latest letter provoked even sharper responses...The Greens foreign-policy politician Jurgen Trittin described the threat of sanctions as an "economic declaration of war" on the EU.

    Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared : " No state has the right to dictate Europe's energy policy with threats".

    The Mecklenburg Western Pomerania state parliament was discussing a motion on the subject calling out that " Extortion has no place in world trade." It stressed that "suitable response" should be mounted to counter such blatant extraterritorial sanctions unilaterally imposed by Washington.

    ECFR ( the European Council on Foreign Relations) had pointed out in a recent analysis that the dramatic expansion of the extraterritorial US sanctions is by no means a specialty of the Trump administration. " These policy ideas come from Congress, not the White House." Discussions in the US Congress include excluding Russia completely from the international SWIFT payment system or imposing extraterritorial sanctions on companies that trade with Chinese companies listed by Washington. If this happens the economic damage for Germany and the EU will be devastating. The fact that Congress is debating this - and is also responsible for previous US sanctions - shows that even a change of administration by this November election holds out no hope for moderation. In fact, calls for appropriate action are growing louder.

    Recently, a leading German daily newspaper, with the headline " Under America's Blackjack ", said that if 'global responsibility and supremacy' were sought, then 'this form of American expansion should be countered and that taking it lying down is not an option."

    Some countermeasures include the use of INSTEX, a European developed system of payment messaging intended to bypass US-controlled SWIFT. In the medium term, digital currencies could possibly also be used. Apart from that, it is conceivable that fines could be imposed on US companies wishing to do business in EU.

    So this latest extortion letter from that despicable American trio is just adding to the friction between Germany and the US. It’s basically a done deal, so Germany is awaiting US sanctions. And the US should then wait for the retaliations.

    There are 2 oil and 1 gas pipeline from Russia to China, and a second gas pipeline is being planned.

    There is another oil pipeline going to the Pacific to sell oil to Japan and South Korea. So are these American sanctions really working ?

    The more US sanctions everywhere, the less trust, credence and confidence to the US. Basically, U.S.A. runs a protection racket underpinned with sanctions, bludgeoning with its overpriced gas and overpriced weapons for its bloody wars.