Streetwise Professor

July 13, 2014

If Angela Merkel is the Bad Cop, Putin Has It Made

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Snowden — The Professor @ 8:42 pm

Germany has won the World Cup, which is somewhat annoying because they will become even more insufferable. And that is saying something given their recent behavior, especially with regards to Russia, and the spying imbroglio with the US.

Regarding Russia, it was particularly nauseating to see Merkel being quite chummy with Putin at the Cup final game. The Euros had pressured Ukrainian president Poroshenko to go as well, so that he could have a chat with Vlad. Poroshenko wisely begged off, staying home to direct the counterattack against the Russia-supported, inspired, and supplied rebellion in two eastern provinces. He no doubt realized that he would be sandbagged if he went to Rio, and for that he could have blamed it on Angela.

For despite her reputation as the bad cop in dealing with Putin (earned only by comparison with outright enablers, understanders, and collaborators like Steinmeier and Schroeder), Merkel has been putting much more pressure on the beleaguered Poroshenko than on Putin. The Euros, led by Germany, have been pushing Ukraine to negotiate directly with the freakazoid “leaders” of the “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk. Moreover, Merkel tutted that Ukraine’s counterattack should be “proportionate.”

Well, “proportionality” is usually trotted out by the friends of those who are losing to stymie the advance of the stronger side that is winning by preventing it from exploiting its advantages. In this instance, moreover, “proportionate” would involve Ukraine sending armor across the border into Belgorod and Voronezh, and supporting separatists in Dagestan and Chechnya. BUt somehow I don’t think that’s what Angela means. I think she means that Ukraine should not fight to win, and that suits Putin just fine.

The Ukrainians are fighting a rebel force that has inflicted large casualties on it; has embedded itself in civilian areas; committed (per the UN) widespread “stomach churning” atrocities; destroyed bridges and rail lines; and deployed landmines and booby traps. Under the circumstances, Poroshenko has been restrained.

But Angela is running interference for her soccer buddy. In other ways as well. For instance, she is resisting the permanent deployment of NATO troops in new eastern European member states, like Poland and the Baltics. She brought up the NATO-Russia Founding Act in order to rationalize her position, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the deployment of conventional troops: it only discusses the deployment of nuclear weapons in former Warsaw Pact states.

Then there’s the spying issue, which contrary to usual practice, the Germans are making into a major public spectacle, culminating in its request that the head CIA official in Germany depart the country.

The Germans really need to get over themselves on this one. As I’ve written before, they have earned the scrutiny they get. Indeed, their heel-dragging on Russia warrants skepticism about them. They have often worked against the US within NATO. The rejection of Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 is one example. Libya is anotherIt has contributed to the rejuvenation of the Russian military (a tradition going back to the 1920s). It is an important country that bears watching. Not just for those reasons, but because (as I have noted before) the country is well-known to have been heavily penetrated by Soviet then Russian intelligence, and its businesses are rather notorious for their use of bribery to get international sales and contracts: this summary of Siemens’ sins over the years makes for enlightening reading. Since the US can have little confidence that Germany will advance US interests, and since the US has strong reasons to believe Germany might actually work against US interests, it is definitely in our interest to know what Germany is thinking and planning.

In other words, Germany wants it both ways, in a very adolescent way. It wants to pursue an independent policy that is often at odds with US policy and interests, but it also expects the US to treat it like a country whose interests are strongly aligned with ours. Sorry. If you want to act routinely contrary to US interests, the US is more than justified in not trusting, and verifying. And that involves espionage.

One of the things that has exercised the Germans most about the current spy scandal is that the man in question, “Marcus R,” passed documents relating to a German parliamentary investigation of the Snowden allegations. Well, that brings up another thing, doesn’t it? Snowden inflicted major damage on the US, and his collaborators (notably Appelbaum and Poitras) are living large in Berlin. A good part of the German establishment has been very supportive of Snowden. All of these things are rather hostile to the US, so what, we’re supposed to shrug and say “whatever”? Given Snowden’s current location, this also plays into the earlier-mentioned problem of German enabling of Putin and Russia. German dealings with Snowden are very much a matter of American national security.

It’s also rather annoying that the Germans are getting so exercised about American espionage, but direct no outrage whatsoever at Russian activities in the country.

The linked article says that public pressure has forced Merkel to act. With respect to the most recent spying issue, that’s not much of an excuse: the public pressure is the result of Germany’s publicizing the episode.

What’s more, Germany made claims that it had uncovered a second US spy, but that story pretty much evaporated on exposure to the sunlight. It now appears that the military officer in question was in touch with the State Department, not the CIA or any other US intelligence agency. Moreover, a search of the man’s home revealed nothing. So the Germans went off half-cocked and inflamed an already difficult situation, rather than acting in a more responsible way in an attempt to tamp down the passions. Another adolescent and self-absorbed political move.

Perhaps the only good thing to come of this is that it has united Congress and the administration on at least one thing. Both are heartily annoyed at the German teenage temper tantrum.

The bottom line for the US is that its interests and those of Germany are not closely aligned, especially on issues relating to Russia. So be it. But this is precisely why Obama’s policy of largely deferring to Europe (which de facto means largely deferring to Germany) on policy towards Russia and Ukraine is so problematic. Yes, the Germans (and Italians and Austrians etc.) will squeal. But doing things their way will embolden Putin, and that will just lay the groundwork for even bigger problems in the future. If Angela Merkel is the bad cop, Putin has it made.

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22 Comments »

  1. The only cops right now, good or bad, are Ukrainian army and National Guard. Whatever their failings (and they are numerous and appaling, the worse the higher up the ladder), they seem to be on track to a hard-won victory. About Merkel: it seems to be accepted these days that German Chancellor is but that last career step toward a sinecure at Gazprom.

    Comment by Ivan — July 14, 2014 @ 12:01 am

  2. Adolphina is one step from the “black” Reichswehr and the cooperation with the Bolsheviks in developing armored warfare, combined arms, etc. as long as the “good” Germans get paid, they will look the other way – after all everything is AmeriKKKa’s fault to the left of the CD/CSU, so there is no opposition to almost any actions they will take. The saving grace for the Ukrainians is that Poland and the Balts have a real interest in keeping them alive.

    Comment by Sotos — July 14, 2014 @ 9:57 am

  3. One of the things I have noticed in my life that there exists an extremely destructive dynamic within humanity. There is a group of people. One person acts in an unacceptable way. People are upset, but don’t do anything. They complain, but never confront the person. Another person finally does, often after canvassing everyone that they agree this person’s actions are a problem. Confrontation happens. The first person begins to act even worse, but blames the second person because of it. All of a sudden, the narrative is not that the first person is a jerk. The narrative soon becomes the second person’s confrontation of the first person is causing the problem, and everyone sand bags the second person in the hope it will pacify the first person.

    It makes no sense whatsoever, but I see it happen time and time again. It seems to be a variant of the strong horse theory. People know the jerk is so awful and has no shame, and therefore will continue to always be a jerk. There is no leverage on the first person. The second person is much more reasonable. Therefore, all pressure is put on the second person to stop the confrontation, thus letting the first person triumph – despite everyone agreeing the first person needs to stop. They seem to think by sacrificing the only person brave enough to confront the jerk, they’ll save themselves.

    This is often displayed in politics, and not just personal life. The Israeli-Arab dispute is the classic international example of this. But the Putin-Ukraine dispute has the same dynamic. The EU has more leverage over Ukraine, than Russia, so they are putting the pressure on Ukraine.

    However, as an oligarch – even one of chocolate – Poroshenko knows how this game is played. One can’t rise to the top of business in the former Soviet world and not be made of tough stuff. As long as Poroshenko is just as much of a jerk as Putin, he may be able to escape the dynamic.

    Comment by Chris — July 14, 2014 @ 11:47 am

  4. Interesting theory. Being as much of a jerk as Putin is a damn high bar to clear though. Even if Poroshenko necessarily got some on-the-job training, he never studied the subject in an academic (KGB) setting like Putin did.

    Comment by Ivan — July 14, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

  5. Kremlinologists,

    Get over yourselves. Putin is Mr Evil only in your fevered imaginations. He’s a bad actor pulled from some dump somewhere. Ditto for the Frau.

    Comment by So? — July 14, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  6. This reminds me of an old Navy story about a Chief Petty Officer in the Shore Patrol. When dispatched to deal with a bar fight, he always took the smallest guy with him. When asked why he didn’t take one of the more strapping guys to help him out, the CPO said: “If I take a big guy they’ll attack me. If I take a little guy, they’ll attack him.” The Europeans are picking on the weaker guy in the fight, because they are afraid of taking on the stronger one, even though the stronger one is the aggressor.

    It’s pretty disgusting.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 14, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  7. What would you have said if Israeli soccer team won?

    Comment by Curious George — July 14, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  8. “…the US can have little confidence that Germany will advance US interests…”

    Quite so. Germany will advance German interests. The rest is then disagreement about whether the German analysis of what benefits its interests, and consequent course of action, is correctly conceived or not.

    To the extent that Germany’s interests conflict with those of the US, then obviously, obviously the US is going to say that the German approach is incorrect. Of course the US might be right in such a conclusion, but would say it anyway, which probably makes it harder to take wholly seriously.

    Comment by Green as Grass — July 15, 2014 @ 6:47 am

  9. Stalin actually built up Nazi Germany with the thought that it would help Russia conquer Europe and then world wide domination.

    Can this be a second attempt?

    Comment by jamesmace — July 15, 2014 @ 10:05 am

  10. […] Germany’s Angela Merkel has the reputation of a level-headed pragmatist, who grew up under communism, and understands Putin’s KGB Weltanschauung. True, she is constrained by a coterie of German Putin Versteher, who, due to financial and ideological interests, take Russia’s side in the battle for Ukraine. Merkel regrettably has taken to serving as Putin’s useful fool with her incessant demands for a peace settlement with separatist leaders before Ukraine, supposedly, lunges out of control. Putin has lobbied hard to stop Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation. He seems to have found an ally in Merkel. I must agree with the conclusion of the blogger, Streetwise Professor: If Angela Merkel is the Bad Cop, Putin Has It Made. […]

    Pingback by Russian Escalation Imminent As Merkel Plays The Peace Card For Putin – Forbes | Premium News Update — July 15, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  11. ####
    Stalin actually built up Nazi Germany with the thought that it would help Russia conquer Europe and then world wide domination.
    ####
    Lol, just, lol.

    Comment by So? — July 15, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

  12. Once again So? has little understanding of history. It was the USSR that assisted Nazi Germany with it’s reconstruction of its armed forces, particularly the Luftwaffe.

    Of course, So? is an uneducated Sovok with little to no understanding of anything, but there you go….

    Comment by Andrew — July 15, 2014 @ 11:29 pm

  13. Andy, you misspelled “Weimar Germany” there. That Luftwaffe training ended once the Nazis took over.

    Now Nazi Germany was a ‘bulwark against Bolshevism’

    Both Foreign Secretary Halifax and PM Chamberlain said so.

    Comment by Wanderer — July 16, 2014 @ 5:50 am

  14. Wanderer, there is also the little matter of the Moltov-Ribbentropp Pact, Moltov’s attempts to have the Soviet Union join the Tripartite Pact, and the Soviet-German economic cooperation from 1939-1941 which essentially allowed Germany to bypass the British blockade. Soviets provided 1,600,000 tons of grain, 900,000 tons of oil, 1,200,000 tons of lumber, 170,000 tons of textiles, and more than 500,000 tons of various metal ores. In addition, by using the Soviet Union as a transit area, Germany was able to import large amounts of critical war supplies like rubber, fish oil, and food from the east.

    Stalin was Hitler’s willing partner from 1939-June 22, 1941. The support he provided him was critical in Germany’s war effort. Furthermore, it was an active partnership. They split eastern Europe between them, and looked for more areas of cooperation. The two were using each other, but nevertheless was working together.

    Despite all attempts by Soviet apologists to point British as allying with Nazi Germany, there was no real attempt to do so, especially not in the critical years of 1938-1939. It was only Stalin who actually allied with Hitler, and it bit him in the ass. Many of the supposed pro-Nazi quotes of British officials were generally in the early 1930s before it became obvious that Hitler was a threat, and aren’t relevant to the 1938-1939 period.

    Comment by Chris — July 16, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

  15. So, did Putin threaten to expell XOM in response to US sactions or what?

    Comment by Ivan — July 17, 2014 @ 12:26 am

  16. “Wanderer, there is also the little matter of the Moltov-Ribbentropp Pact”

    Since the Polish government were determined to reject the idea of accepting Soviet military assistance, which both the British Deputy Chiefs of Staff and the Anglo-French military delegations in Moscow thought critical for any prolonged Polish military residtance to German attack, why should the USSR have stood by and let the Nazis conquer all of Poland?

    “Moltov’s attempts to have the Soviet Union join the Tripartite Pact”

    Under terms that would have prevented the Nazis taking over the Balkans.

    “and the Soviet-German economic cooperation from 1939-1941 which essentially allowed Germany to bypass the British blockade. Soviets provided 1,600,000 tons of grain, 900,000 tons of oil, 1,200,000 tons of lumber, 170,000 tons of textiles, and more than 500,000 tons of various metal ores. ”

    Far less than what the Germans got from Romania, Sweden, Finland, Turkey…

    And fid the West cease trading with Japan while Japan and the USSR were at war in 1938-1939?

    “In addition, by using the Soviet Union as a transit area, Germany was able to import large amounts of critical war supplies like rubber, fish oil, and food from the east.”

    Here’s an idea: If the West wanted the Nazis cut off from all this, they should have made an alliance with the USSR over the (suicidal) objections of the Poles.

    As for the Brit quotes, Halifax’s came during his visit to Germany in November 1937, and Chamberlain’s came in his letter to George VI of 15 September 1938.

    So not early ’30s at all, but in the very 1938-1939 period you mention.

    Comment by wanderer — July 17, 2014 @ 9:05 am

  17. Flash Traffic: Malaysian airliner crashed over the separatist region of Ukraine. Preliminary information indicates it was shot down.

    Comment by Blackshoe — July 17, 2014 @ 11:15 am

  18. Blackshoe, initial evidence points to the Strelkov and the Russian rebels. People have tweets (with YouTube videos) from Strelkov admitting they shot down a plane they identified as an Ukrainian AN-26. Reactions were quite gleeful. Ukraine stated they had no planes in the air. Earlier statements days ago the rebels admitted they had a BUK missile system which would give them the capability of shooting down a plane at that altitude, and the Russian Defense Ministry’s newds agency, TV Zvezda, stated the rebels had “captured” one at a base. Since it has been confirmed the aircraft was MH17, all such evidence has been deleted online, but people have lots of previous screen captures.

    If it turn out this is not a crash, but that the plane was shot down, it is clearly the rebels. I think people’s tolerance of accepting Russian lies since the fighting in Ukraine doesn’t affect them won’t last long in this case. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction of the Malaysian government and the governments of the plane passengers. We may be seeing additional sanctions very soon.

    Terrible tragedy for the passengers and crew of MH17 and their families.

    Comment by Chris — July 17, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

  19. Looks like we just got a whole new benchmark for the relative value of that Frankfurt banker’s bonus.

    Comment by Ivan — July 17, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

  20. Ukraine SBU just released intercepted phone conversation of the rebels who arrived at scene of the crash. From that it is clear that they purposefully shot down MH-17 thinking it was an Ukrainian AN-26 military aircraft. When the person at the scene verified it was a civilian passanger jet, the rebel on the other end accused them of being spies. It’s going to be hard for the Kremlin to spin this.

    If the rebels had only show down an Ukrainian jet with Ukrainian people, the world would likely just shrug. But with the reported dead including so many Dutch, Australians, Malaysians, Indonesians, British, German, Belgian, Filipino, Canadian, French, American and other nationalities dead, I doubt the world will accept Putin’s explanation that it is Ukraine’s fault because the plane crashed in Ukraine. It is going to be very hard for the Putin apologists to defend him without looking like a complete jackass.

    Russian media is still trying to spin this, but it just makes them look worse than usual. I imagine there will be a new set of sanctions against Russia very soon.

    Comment by Chris — July 17, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

  21. @Chris. See my latest post. We are on the same page. Hopefully these people will not have died in vain. Hopefully this will hasten the moment when Putinism collapses. Putin is a 21st century Mussolini. Hopefully the analogy is apt insofar as the ending is concerned.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 17, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

  22. @Chris-the spy bit jumped out at me. So, so fucking Russian.

    After their guilt in shooting down KAL007 was proven beyond cavil, the Soviets (I mean Russians) excused their actions by claiming that the jet was on a spy mission to test Soviet (I mean Russian) air defenses in the Far East.

    They are paranoid freaks about spying, but vast numbers of them fantasize about being spies. It’s pathological.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 17, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

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