The Ukraine crisis dominated the weekend’s Munich Security Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel playing host to European and American leaders, as well as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Merkel had just returned from Moscow where she reportedly had a four-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin along with French leader Francois Hollande. Respective spokesmen described those talks as constructive but would not divulge any details, suggesting that an earnest dialogue is indeed underway between Moscow, Berlin and Paris to find a peaceful settlement to the Ukraine conflict. Hollande said, with urgent tone, that the peace bid was a last chance to avert “total war”.
The BBC reported that Merkel, Hollande and Putin were “upbeat” on the latest tripartite peace efforts succeeding. Well, “upbeat” may be a bit premature, if the Americans have anything to do with it.
What has probably galvanised the European leaders to push the diplomatic envelope is the reckless proposal from Washington earlier in the week to send more military weapons to the Kiev regime. Notably, Berlin and Paris said they were against supplying any more arms into the Ukraine crisis. Even the British government, normally a stalwart ally of Washington, voiced objection to the latest American weapons proposal. Moscow also warned Washington of the gravity, saying that if the US were to step up its military support for Kiev, that would result in “colossal damage to relations”.
Everyone except the gung-ho Americans and the swivel-eyed neo-Nazi Kiev junta realise that a stepwise increase in US weapons to Ukraine would mark a rubicon moment, where the US is piling into open war on Russia’s vital interests.
While Merkel and Hollande were earnestly endeavouring to find a peaceful way out of the impasse with Putin, it was apparent that a significant divergence between Europe and Washington had emerged.
The absence of US Secretary of State John Kerry from the meetings between Merkel, Hollande and Putin was a glaring sign of this divergence. The Western media were trying to spin a sort of American association with the peace effort, saying that Kerry welcomed the latest peace initiative as “helpful”. The New York Times ran this hollow headline: ‘US and Europe Working to End Ukraine Conflict’. But Kerry’s absence from the Moscow meeting between Merkel, Hollande and Putin told another story.
Back in Munich, American Vice President Joe Biden seemed to be doing his best to provoke Russia with more outrageous slander. Biden was telling delegates that “Russia was escalating the conflict” and “Ukraine was fighting for its very survival”. He also said European questioning of US-led sanctions against Russia were “annoying and inappropriate” and that Europe must stand firm against Russian threats to “redraw the map of Europe”.
John Kerry, meanwhile, was provocatively saying that “Russia must end the bloodshed or we will send arms to Ukraine”. He described Russia as “the biggest threat” to Ukraine.
This is the Americans delivering a self-fulfilling ultimatum to Moscow. Russia has no control over the violence in Ukraine because, despite NATO propaganda, it is not involved, beyond diplomatically supporting the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine in their fight against the Western-backed Kiev regime. It is the Kiev regime that controls the violence. It launched the war in the first place and has refused to enter into a mutual dialogue with the separatists in order to bring an end to the violence, which has claimed over 5,400 lives in the past 10 months.
Kerry’s stated refusal this week to meet with the leaders of the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk is grist for the Kiev mill of continuing hostility. So, from the US-Kiev dynamic, the violence will continue, unfortunately, and Washington will present that as further “proof” of “Russian-backed insurgency”, which will be used to justify supplying more American weaponry, which will lead to more violence, and so on.
The threat of American military escalation is being articulated as “keeping all options on the table”. The US State Department earlier this week said that proposals from various Washington officials, including John Kerry and incoming Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, for increasing military supplies to Kiev were being considered. “We reserve the right to keep a range of options on the table,” said Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman.
The same formula of threatening words was reiterated by NATO Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove at the Munich Security Conference. The American four-star general told France 24 in an interview that “all options” of using military force must be kept open with regard to the Ukraine crisis and defending against “Russian aggression”.
Breedlove’s choice of words and policy shows how much NATO is really an instrument of Washington, and not “the alliance” between America and Europe that its grandiloquent name pretends.
Of course, Breedlove, like his political colleagues in Washington, was saying that his priority was for diplomacy. But it is clear that the Americans, despite their words of support for dialogue, are pushing a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine.
“Keeping all options on the table” with regard to whether it was going to send lethal military equipment to the Kiev regime is an aggressive ultimatum.
In the same breath, Washington says it doesn’t want a proxy war with Russia and that it is giving priority to diplomatic means to resolve the nearly year-old conflict in Ukraine. No-one can possibly believe the weasel words that habitually come out of Washington. A proxy war is exactly what the Americans are pushing – for all intents and purposes, whatever the cynical rhetoric about “diplomatic solutions”.
But here’s the thing: the Europeans seem to be waking up to the fact that they stand to lose far more than Washington if the latter’s agenda for escalating violence continues.
An all-out war on the European landmass is an obvious calamity for the European Union. But even as it is, before an all-out war erupts, the EU is suffering far more from US-led hostilities than America would ever incur. With EU-Russia trade standing at ten times the volume of US-Russia trade, the Europeans have much more to lose. And are losing already –painfully.
Germany is the biggest EU loser from the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. German exports to Russia are projected to fall by 20 per cent this year compared with the previous year. That amounts to a gaping shortfall of €8 billion to the Germany economy. And what’s bad for Germany is equally bad for the economic prospects of the whole EU, mired as it is in recession and increasing unemployment across the 28-member bloc.
Eckhard Cordes, Chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, said of the deteriorating impact on the Germany economy from the US-led trade sanctions on Russia: “We estimate that in Germany 300,000 workers work for Russian exports. As exports have gone down by almost 20 percent...in this respect [we] lost 60 000 jobs. So we expect a further decrease of exports with a negative impact on jobs in Germany,” added Cordes.
American politicians may be talking peace out the side of their mouths, but their full-throated bellicose “all options” threat to Russia speaks of a very different agenda – one of escalating hostilities.
Like the American self-righteous license to endlessly print worthless dollars and run-up trillions of unpaid national debt, Washington expects the rest of the world to bear its insufferable recklessness over Ukraine and toward Russia and Europe. There are growing signs, however, that the Europeans are at last beginning to wake up to the cataclysmic danger of kowtowing to Washington.
The latest peace bid from Merkel and Hollande engaging Putin without the Americans involved is a clear sign that Europe is becoming increasingly wary and despairing of Washington’s drive for war.