It’s long overdue but better late than never that Europe might just be back-pedalling on America’s aggressive agenda towards Russia. The business-like visit to Moscow this week by Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggests that Europe can come to its senses to seek a diplomatic resolution of the escalating tensions over the Ukraine crisis – tensions that could spark a wider continental war, or worse.
Steinmeier met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in which the pair stressed the need to find a political end to the violence in Ukraine. The German diplomat – the first high-level European envoy to Moscow in several months – also talked about normalising relations between his country and Russia and of finding a way to rescind the economic sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Moscow over recent months.
EU ministers in Brussels balked at imposing a fourth round of sanctions earlier this week, showing a growing division over the policy among European governments.
Interestingly, Steinmeier said his visit to the Russian capital was following up on positive discussions held last weekend with President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Australia. The German foreign minister said the task now was to prevent a new spiral of violence in Ukraine.
Given that Germany is the European Union’s largest economy, we can fairly say that Berlin’s political attitude is going to hold sway for the rest of the bloc.
Meanwhile, the contrast with the European attitude, as seen this week through Steinmeier, could not be sharper in Washington.
This week, the Republican-controlled Congress was pushing through a bill that will significantly increase military support to the Kiev regime. The ultra rightwing cabal, despite a fig leaf of elections last month, has clearly shown no interest in implementing the ceasefire brokered on September 5 in the Belarus capital, Minsk. Civilian casualties are mounting among the ethnic Russian population in Donetsk and Luhansk as the Kiev’s military forces continue their practice of indiscriminate shelling of cities and villages with the use of banned weapons, including cluster bombs and unguided ballistic missiles.
Never mind violations of the Minsk Protocol, the murderous offensive by Kiev consists of multiple war crimes.
Nonetheless, the US Congress is unabashed and is in fact preparing to legalise massive overt military aid to this regime whose leaders, including its nominal President Petro Poroshenko, are becoming more and more unhinged, warning earlier this week of “not being afraid of total war with Russia”.
Republican Congressman Michael Burgess, the author of the provocatively named Ukraine Freedom Act Support, said this week: “Ukraine [sic] needs weapons, ammunition, body armour and communication means. Of course, financial support is important but not as much as weapons and ammunition to fight off the Russian troops who invaded a sovereign country.”
Note the assertion of Russian invasion by the Congressman without the slightest obligation to substantiate his claim. He probably heard it on Fox News or CNN and feels free to regurgitate it as incontrovertible fact.
The Kiev regime’s reckless militarism over the past seven months has brought Ukraine’s economy to its knees, with its currency crashing and soaring international debts unpaid – chief among the creditors being Russia. Yet Washington sees the priority as not financial assistance but rather more militarism to provoke more aggression towards Russia.
After the Republican mid-election victory earlier this month, Congress is likely to pass the above bill. Henceforth, the US government will be enabled to openly supply lethal materiel, including anti-tank and air defence systems, grenade launchers, machine-guns and sniper rifles. This marks a baleful escalation of Washington’s military intervention in Ukraine, which up to now has feigned its support for the Kiev regime as “non-lethal aid”.
This is just what the US Republicans have been clamouring for. Last week, swivelled-eyed Senator John McCain said: “We want to give the Ukrainians [sic] weapons to defend themselves as the Russians are dismembering their country.” McCain, another Fox-News-regurgitating politician, was one of the main international sponsors of the neo-Nazi shock troops who seized power in Kiev earlier this year and who now openly vilify fellow Ukrainians in the eastern regions as “sub-human Moskals”.
Up till lately, Washington and Brussels have been singing off the same propaganda hymn sheet as the Kiev regime that they both railroaded into power last February in an illegal coup against the elected Ukrainian government. In an astounding inversion of reality, the US-EU axis accuses Russia of invading and subverting Ukraine. No proof is proffered and the words of the criminal, openly hostile and Russian-hating Kiev regime are promulgated as gospel truth.
Brussels has so far toed the Washington line of imposing sanctions on Russia for allegedly violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The fact that the people of Crimea voted freely and overwhelmingly to secede from the Western-installed Kiev regime in March and to join the Russian federation, followed by similar referenda for breakaway autonomy in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is attributed, through a feat of double-think, to Moscow’s meddling.
However, with the Western sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions taking the heaviest toll on an already recession-stricken Europe, the anti-Moscow nostrums are bound to be viewed with increasing leeriness. Tough talk may be cheap, even rewarding, for Washington, but not for the Europeans.
‘German exports to Russia tumble’ reported the Financial Times at the end of last month, as a result of the standoff with Moscow – the worst rupture in relations since the formal end of the Cold War more than two decades ago. Elsewhere it is reported that German industry and businesses are feverishly lobbying Berlin to revise the sanctions policy, which is threatening thousands of German jobs and the biggest bilateral trade between Europe and Russia.
As the EU’s economic powerhouse, what is bad for Germany is automatically bad for the rest of Europe.
The new EU foreign policy chief Frederica Morgherini, formerly the Italian minister, has recently expressed misgivings about the effectiveness of sanctions. Morgherini took over from Britain’s Catherine Ashton who was instrumental in the Western regime-change operation in Kiev and who had displayed a pathetic servility to Washington.
Other European states are also increasingly finding a more critical voice towards what they see as senseless and self-defeating hostility against Russia.
‘Hungary questions EU sanctions on Russia’ reported the Financial Times on October 16. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Austria have added their voices to question the official Washington-Brussels stance of trying to isolate Russia.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has defiantly said that his country will not follow Brussels’ sanctions on Russia, citing long-lasting historical and cultural ties with Moscow, even though Belgrade currently has EU accession status. Added to that are strong economic and investment ties between Russia and Serbia.
All these dissenting countries have a vested interest in developing the giant South Stream gas supply project from Russia, as well as from just maintaining decorous neighbourly relations. For them, the sanctions on Russia are tantamount to cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Perhaps the words of Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders are finally beginning to win through reason and empirical evidence, or lack of it. Speaking at the Valdai Club in Sochi at the end of October, one of Putin’s main points was that US geopolitical policy is aimed at driving a wedge between Europe and Russia out of selfish American interests. Competition for Europe’s vast energy market is an obvious objective for the US, as well as the subordination of European economic policy to Wall Street and the US Federal Reserve. In short, the subordination of Europe to American capitalist hegemony.
Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov recently said that what is primarily motivating American hostility towards Moscow is that “Russia dares to have an opinion” on the future direction of global developments. This independence is seen for example in Russia’s promotion of alternative international banking to the Washington-dominated IMF, or the use of bilateral currencies for seminal Eurasian energy trade instead of dependence on the US dollar.
Any sane person can see that Russia’s policies are entirely legitimate and even desirable for a more balanced global economy and polity. It is ludicrous for the arrogant, self-declared exceptional American nation to criminalise Russia on this basis, and that is why Washington has used the Ukraine crisis as a cover for its unacceptable imperialist agenda.
European governments would do well to contemplate the self-indicting words of US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden told a meeting at Harvard University last month that European states were initially reluctant to adopt American sanctions toward Russia. “President Obama had to embarrass European leaders into it,” said Biden with more than a hint of glee at Washington’s power at bullying Europe. How’s that for an atrocious admission?
Washington has everything to gain from plunging its so-called European allies into a new Cold War with Russia. And Europe has everything to lose.
But it seems now that a significant European constituency is at last waking up to the folly that has been foisted on its 500 million citizens by the likes of pro-American puppets Hermann Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso, David Cameron and Catherine Ashton. Will German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Francois Hollande grasp the courage to follow the diplomatic path being advocated by several courageous dissenting EU members?
One hopes that Europe is beginning to part ways with the US direction on Russia – a direction that is leading to an abyss.
American politics is arguably the most corporate-controlled, brainwashed, intellectually devoid and dangerous institution that the world has ever known. The buying of the latest Congressional elections with $4 billion in corporate campaign funds (that is, bribes) is proof that the US is not a democracy – it is a plutocracy. If Europeans have any residual democratic independence and enlightened reason, then they must find it and assert it urgently. Europe and Russia are far more natural allies than the warmongering American rulers could ever be.