Opinion

How Germany went wobbly on the West

If theres a moment that betrays Germanys wobbly geopolitical instincts, it is Berlins we-wont-think-of-fighting response to Russian military maneuvers that followed Moscows takeover of Crimea.

About three weeks after Russias flag was hoisted over Crimeas parliament building in 2014, up to 40,000 of its troops were reportedly massing along Ukraines eastern border. U.S. General Phillip Breedlove, NATOs supreme allied commander in Europe, speaking at a German Marshall Fund event in Brussels, described the build-up as “very, very sizeable, very, very ready” and “very worrisome.”

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a Christian Democrat, responded with solidarity and concern, saying that it is important for NATO countries bordering Russia that the alliance “show its presence” there.

Then she got clobbered. “The impression must not be given that were playing with military options, even in theoretical terms,” warned Sigmar Gabriel, then the Social Democrat economy minister and vice chancellor.

Rather than defend von der Leyen, Chancellor Angela Merkel stayed silent. Gabriels words — signaling doubt about a U.S. generals description of a real-time Russian threat and making clear Germanys flight from military commitment — were allowed to define Berlins position at a critical point in modern European history.

A German majority rejects the countrys pledge to meet NATOs target for rising military spending

More immediately troubling in Germanys relations with America and Russia — and arguably more important than the effect of any perceived disruption caused by U.S. President Donald Trump — is the increasingly unfavorable view of the West, and the refusal of obligations to the West, that has hardened in the German mindset.

A German majority rejects the countrys pledge to meet NATOs target for rising military spending; 69 percent of the German public want more cooperation with Russia and only 35 percent with America; a consistent German polling majority refuses to defend Poland and the Baltic states if Russia invaded them.

Now, a singular exclamation mark has been added to Germanys wobbling: Gabriel has been nominated to become chairman of Atlantik-Brücke, a nonprofit association of wealth and influence founded in 1952 as an “elite” — in its words — organization seeking to strengthen and preserve the [German] bond with the West.

This would be a miserable choice.

In contrast to Atlantik-Brückes history, the policies pursued by Gabriel reflect years of Social Democrat election manifestos calling for Berlins “equidistance” between Moscow and Washington.

Sigmar Gabriel | Alexander Koerner/Getty Images via Gruner + Jahr

Its important not to forget that Gabriel was the prime protégé of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has come to hold both the chairmanship of Gazproms Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Rosneft, Russias energy giant. Schröders jobs were enough for a Wall Street Journal columnist to call him Russian President Vladimir Putins most important oligarch — one who personally deserves a place on Americas Crimea sanctions list.

Gabriel turned up the volume of Schröders Putin-loyalty line to full blast. During his time in Merkels coalition government, Gabriel pushed, almost obsequiously, for renewed trade with Iran and banged the drum for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with a paradiddle of statements pleasing to Moscow, including a promise to block foreign “meddling” against Russia by the European Union and the United States.

Gabriel also opposed Germany increasing its defense budget to meet NATOs target of 2 percent of GDP.

When Merkel slipped into a kind of dematerialized political trance after the 2017 election campaign, Gabriel, then foreign minister, grabbed hold of Berlins foreign/secRead More – Source

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