The tenure of Angela Merkel as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany has been a disaster for her country and for Europe. That’s why it’s a refreshing change finally to have an issue where it is possible to agree with her.
Merkel, along with other voices in Germany and Austria, has denounced a bill (S. 722) passed by the U.S. Senate to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran. In particular, Merkel has observed, correctly, that the legislation, if adopted, would negatively impact oil and gas pipeline deals with Russia. She evidently objects that this would be a unilateral U.S. action that would harm the interests of Germany and other countries without even consulting them.
As declared in a joint statement by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern: «Europe's energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not the United States of America!» (Wow! An exclamation point! From Teutonic officials! They must really be angry.)
«We cannot accept threatening European companies that contribute to the development of the European energy supply [system] with extraterritorial sanctions that violate international law!» (Another exclamation point! They must be really, really angry!)
«Sanctions as a political instrument should not be linked to economic interests»... Threatening German, Austrian and other European enterprises, which take part in the gas supply projects such as the Nord Stream II together with Russia or finance them, with penalties on the US market would add an absolutely new and highly negative aspect in relations between the US and Europe». [JGJ: Oddly, Berlin didn’t seem quite so concerned about linking politics to economic interests when the interests were those of Italy, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, and other countries that would have benefitted from South Stream.]
«This issue is all about the sales of the US condensed gas [to Europe] and pressing the Russian energy supply companies from the European market. The actual goal [of such sanctions] is to provide jobs for the US gas and oil industry.» [JGJ: You mean the U.S. may be exhibiting an element of export-oriented, pro-jobs mercantilism in its policy toward Europe? Surely, Germany never conducts trade relations on such a basis.]
There’s no doubt that S. 722 – which passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2, with only Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders voting No – is a terrible piece of legislation. Its fundamental purpose is to tie President Trump’s hands so that he cannot exercise his constitutional authority to conduct relations with foreign states. Specifically, Senators of both parties want to ensure that he doesn’t have the ability to reach out and normalize ties with Moscow. To do that, a super-majority of Senators is willing to violate every principle of international law and comity, as well as damaging relationships with our top security and trade partners.
Even the broad authority for the president to waive sanctions when he deems it in the national interest, a standard feature in U.S. sanctions legislation, is denied Trump in this bill without Congressional permission. Whether this defect may be remedied in the House of Representatives is unclear. (Meanwhile, the power of Congress to decide upon war continues to be usurped by the Executive Branch without a murmur of protest. As the late Joseph Sobran once observed, the nice thing about the U.S. Constitution is that it poses no serious threat to our form of government.)
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect is Mrs. Merkel’s threat to «retaliate» if the new sanctions bill becomes law. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor! This, from someone who folded like a house of cards when she found out Barack Obama had the NSA tap into her mobile phone. The emptiness of Merkel’s threat is an illustration of the point recently made by President Vladimir Putin that Russia is one of the few states in today’s world that has the luxury of being truly sovereign. Germany does not have that luxury. The Germans’ foreign policy, their intelligence policy, and other security institutions are essentially controlled by their American counterparts. Their financial sector is extremely vulnerable to any retaliation from Washington. So what can Merkel do to us? Not much.
The sanctions bill, if it becomes law, will be just another illustration that Germany and all other members of NATO and the EU are vassal states of Washington. If the likes of Merkel were replaced by decent national leaders of the caliber of Viktor Orbán or Václav Klaus, it might be another story. (While Europe will succumb to Washington’s diktat on Russian sanctions, the European Commission – meaning Germany – is suing Poland, Hungary, and Czechia for refusing to import the migrant mobs invited by «Mutti Merkel» So much for her priorities.)
To add one more interesting twist, this week Trump met in Washington with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Natural gas seems to have been high on the agenda («Ukraine Goes On Anti-Russia Pipeline Offensive As Europe Goes Nuts,» by Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes, June 20):
«With Washington's blessing, Ukraine is going on the offensive against a Baltic Sea pipeline it deems a death knell to state controlled Naftogaz. Naftogaz is one of the most important companies in the country, and the gateway between Russian gas fields and the European market. This is the ultimate fight. Only this time, it pits Ukraine and the U.S. on one side with the Europeans and Russians – oddly enough – on the other. [ . . . ]
«Anti-Russia Senators, most of them Republican Never Trumpers, are turning the screws on Russian oil and gas firms. They have three hopes here: punish Russia for supporting anti-government forces in Ukraine; ban Trump from his constitutional duties of being able to call off the sanctions regime and help U.S. natural gas drillers and potential exporters. [ . . . ]
«Naftogaz gave a hint to its lobbying efforts in the E.U. against Nord Stream. They said in a note that the European Commission ‘should use its mandate as a guardian of the interests of the European consumers and insist on the application of the Third Energy Package to the Nord Stream II project.’ [JGJ:The Third Energy Package was Brussels’ and Berlin’s excuse to kill South Stream. Ironically, Ukraine and powerful elements in the U.S. now want to use it against the Germans themselves.] [ . . . ]
«Naftogaz is getting skillful at tugging at the heart strings of the E.U., which already has a political bias against Russia. The Congress's anti-Russia stance is counter to President Donald Trump's, but Trump has been beat up so severely on Russia that defending any sort of detente with the Kremlin seems futile. Russia is an energy rival to the U.S., but it is an energy partner to Europe. Adding Nord Stream to the bill creates more tensions. For all its talk about belonging in the European community, Ukraine has chosen Uncle Sam instead. [ . . . ]
«‘The Nord Stream II project undermines the solidarity in the E.U.,’ the company said in a statement yesterday as if that's Naftogaz's real concern».
What sense does any of this make in terms of U.S. national interests? The key is Rapoza’s observation that «Trump has been beat up so severely on Russia that defending any sort of detente with the Kremlin seems futile.» As with the worsening danger of U.S.-Russian confrontation in Syria, American policy on Europe, Ukraine, and Russia, along with related energy issues, is still in the hands of the Swamp Creatures. Nothing good can come of it unless and until Trump manages to gain effective control of the government of which he is the constitutionally elected head.