Both the US and Germany are making noise about ratcheting up sanctions on Russia. Kerry told the Russians to disarm separatists “within hours” or else. That was hours ago, and nothing has happened.
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, has raised the prospect of broader economic sanctions against Russia, just two days before an EU summit at which her hardening stance against Moscow is expected to steer the diplomatic agenda.
One theory is that Merkel and Steinmeier are playing good cop, bad cop, with Angela in the role of the heavy. If Merkel is the bad cop, Putin and his clique have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Merkel has talked (relatively) tough before, but has always found some reason to back off. This time, no doubt Putin’s transparently phony call for his senate (and it is his, in the same sense that his dog is his) to repeal the authorization to invade Ukraine will give Merkel the excuse she needs to keep her finger off the sanctions trigger. That plus Putin’s typically convoluted (and contradictory) support for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, the war of subversion in Donbas goes on, transparently supported by Russia. Only those who will not see don’t understand this.
But Angela has found someone to sanction: the US, or more specifically, US telecom Verizon. German outrage over the Snowden revelations was a major reason for the decision.
Yes, there is reason for outrage here–outrage directed at Germany. Here is a nation that bends over backwards to find reasons not to sanction any Russian company. Even the pathetic sanctions it has meted out (as part of the EU) are directed primarily at individuals, most of whom are nobodies. Talk of sanctioning Russian companies elicits howls of anger and pain from the German business community. There is constant talk of the need to “understand” the Russians, with the result being described by the French proverb “to understand all is to forgive all.” All including the anschluss in Crimea and the ongoing subversion in Ukraine. There is even a German phrase to describe this lot: Putin Verstehers. Putin understanders. Germans-and Merkel in particular-look for the slightest sign of compromise by Putin, and when they see it, they back off doing anything to penalize him, Russia, or any Russian company. Russia/Putin get the benefit of every German doubt.
But evidently the US does not get the benefit of any German doubt. So they sanction Verizon (not my favorite company, by the way) in their very narcissistic pique and outrage over US surveillance of Germany. No attempt to understand the US whatsoever, let alone an attempt to be as understanding as the Germans are with the corrupt autocrat and oligarchic thugs and espionage-crazy security service in the nation to their east.
But oh, there is a lot that the Germans need to understand about why they are a surveillance target, and not given the same deference as the Five Eyes nations. (I will let pass in silence the fact that Germany’s intelligence service the BND has long cooperated with the US.) One thing to understand: the fact that 911 hijackers made themselves at home in Germany. Another thing to understand: German politics and government has long been penetrated by Soviet, and then Russian, agents and collaborators. And yet another thing to understand: the fact that the German business community and government have clearly been suborned by Russian money. German companies (notably Siemens) have been deeply involved in corrupt dealings in Russia. And yet another thing: although it has cleaned up its act some lately, for a long time German businesses assisted Iran in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
In brief: Germany has earned the scrutiny that it has received from the NSA. Indeed, its continued enabling of Putin’s behavior just provides further evidence that it is an unreliable partner and uncertain ally that needs watching.
Germany only has the luxury to engage in its moral preening and biting American ankles and corrupt canoodling with the Russians because the US kept out the Russians for 45 years. And I thought the French were ingrates.