European Commissioner for External Action Josep Borrell landed in Moscow today. The eastern countries and France, but especially the US, are pushing Germany to halt the final section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline works and see the opportunity for the Commission to mutualize the decision by dressing it up as retaliation against Russia. For now, the visit is providing evidence that tensions within the EU and NATO are not smaller than those pitting Germany against Russia.
1 Everything points to Biden continuing Trump’s policy toward Europe. On the one hand, as Trump already did, he is freezing the departure of US troops from the country as a gesture of goodwill. On the other, his Secretary of State, Blinken, vowed to use congressional sanctions against Nord Stream 2 if needed. This was to be expected: Biden himself had already promised to do everything in his power to prevent the pipeline from being completed.
2 The German bourgeoisie is aware of the extent to which the economic prospects of Russian capital depend on the pipeline. Russian oil companies are having serious problems on the border with China… and the state budget depends on gas revenues. So Berlin believes Russia needs Nord Stream 2 to a greater extent than Germany does. Approving the construction of the final section in January was merely a move toward a closer relationship with Moscow in which Berlin feels it can call the shots. The justifying argument in the face of domestic critics – the factions most aligned with the US – has been that the real alternative for Germany to Russian gas is US fracking gas, or what amounts to giving up on accelerating the Green Deal… which is the great hope of German capital.
3 Over the past two years nothing has proved more capable of straining German relations with France, Poland and the US than this pipeline. The approval of the last stretch could not go unnoticed. And both Navalny’s arrest and the crackdown on demonstrations in his support served to put the Russian question on the table. The fire was opened by Poland, immediately seconded by the Baltic countries, Italy and Romania. France mobilized all available forces in the European Parliament to close the argumentative noose around Berlin while Macron turned directly to Merkel to ask her to put an end to the pipeline project.
4 But German diplomacy also knows its way around Brussels. The announcement of Borrell’s visit to Lavrov today did not calm the waters, but served to kick the can down the road: Borrell himself, while arguing that vis-à-vis Russia the EU should be more assertive, pinned the European summit at the end of March as the moment to take any retaliatory action. The protests of the Baltic and Eastern countries, trying to get Borrell to cancel the trip, came to nothing. Germany furthermore, following the new article duly published in The Lancet, gave credibility to the Russian vaccine and would be willing to treat it as part of the solution to the disaster the vaccination process is turning out to be.
What’s the takeaway from all this
The new U.S. narrative portrays Russia as the Cold War antagonist it once was. Listening to Biden and his team it would seem that they fear seeing the Russian military parading through Berlin any day now. This is possibly true, they fear the Russians in Berlin, but not as conquerors, but as Germany’s allies. Therefore, the more the imperialist tensions increase between the EU members on the one hand and between Germany and the US on the other, the more blows Germany will receive… in Russia’s face.