Streetwise Professor

June 26, 2014

Understand This: Germany Won’t Sanction Russian Companies, But Will Sanction American Ones

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Uncategorized — The Professor @ 3:13 pm

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.

Germany’s Merkel has also toughened “sanctions talk.”

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.

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  1. because the US kept out the Russians for 45 years.

    And then when The Wall came down, the Russians came rushing in. One of those Russians was Angela Merkel. Her East German history is not a secret, although it doesn’t get much shrift in the mainstream press. How a Communist with close ties to the Soviet Union is capable of holding office in unified Germany is telling. Merkel, perhaps, is doing her comrade’s (Putin’s) bidding. Admonishing rhetoric to make it look good from a PR perspective with no teeth to back any of it up.

    But, Germany’s not the only country. American Big Oil is ignoring the sentiment of the sanctions as well.

    Comment by Cold N. Holefield — June 26, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

  2. I am so tired of Merkel, she’s an empty skirt.

    Comment by Tom Hend — June 26, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

  3. The Soviet “threat” was an American fiction to keep the euros down. The Resource Federation controlling Germany would be like the tail wagging the dog.

    Comment by So? — June 27, 2014 @ 6:21 am

  4. My german perspective:
    Ukraine and so forth are simply not our problem. Your are confusing Germany´s own interest with being a dog to Russia. I agree, that Germany should try to be more independant of Russian gas, but this is a long-term process (mainly hopefully aided by new technologies and better usage of carbon energy); current alternatives (gas from Iran? Saudi-arabia?Africa?) are politically unstable and not really reliable. Russia provided gas even at the hight of the tensions of the Cold War… in contrast to the terror financing Saudis.

    About the Verizon contract: Snowden´s revelations have made it clear, that most American hightech and tech infrastructure firms provide direct access to the NSA. Switching to non American providers (hopefully non Chinese) will not lock out the NSA (NSA has far too many non published exploits and hacks for that) but at least it will provide systemadmins a chance to protect against foreign spying. I dont really know what the fuss is about. There is no reason (for Germany) to use e.g. Microsoft products in important areas, the NSA has direct access to every windows system.
    (cf )known even prior to Snowden.

    About the Hamburg connection of the 911 terrorist: Those terrorist also lived a long time in the US, thus domestic spying is ok, i guess?

    Btw.: The NSA is fighting the good fight by e.g. taping all telecommunication of the Bahamas (a hotbed of Al Qaida?)
    My perspective on the NSA is that they are completely out of control (spying on everybody, congress, judges, etc) and a threat to freedom and liberty (not only in places you dont like (germany,europe, asia, rest of the world) but also domestically (USA, USA, USA, now everybody: USA USA USA)

    (English is not my 1. language, so excuse the bad wording/diction)

    Comment by Huitzilopochtli — June 27, 2014 @ 6:47 am

  5. The Resource Federation controlling Germany would be like the tail wagging the dog.

    This is a bit too cryptic. Elaborate and clarify, please.

    Comment by Cold N. Holefield — June 27, 2014 @ 7:24 am

  6. The Soviet “threat” was an American fiction to keep the euros down.

    Aye, those Soviet tanks in Berlin were inflatable.

    Comment by Tim Newman — June 27, 2014 @ 8:24 am

  7. Aye, those Soviet tanks in Berlin were inflatable.

    Just like Putin’s cheeks to hide the wrinkles. What’s up with his appearance as of late? It doesn’t even look like him any longer. Is it a doppelganger, or is botulism really that hideously magical in its transformative ability? Either way, this version of Putin looks like it’s been prepared by the Undertaker for the Wake.

    Comment by Cold N. Holefield — June 27, 2014 @ 8:35 am

  8. There is a pattern across France and Germany of using national and EU policy to hamper U.S. firms. The competition authorities in Europe are extremely aggressive in backing up the complaints of also-ran European companies trying to build businesses on the back of American platform innovators (e.g. Google, Apple, Microsoft) and pretty blind to the dominant position of the likes of SAP in enterprise computing. Ditto the “privacy” rulings from EU courts and regulators, whose general thrust is to try to shift all burdens onto U.S. providers of information services (admittedly without understanding that the incidence of costs in a marketplace is not the same as where the regulators want to put them–some of this is likely to backfire). Then there is the GE-Alstom mess, where the French government simply ignored every treaty principle of the WTO and EU to discriminate against the U.S. suitor to favor the German one.

    As to Huitzilopochtli: It’s hard to take German claims of seeking energy independence from Russia over the long term when the decision is taken to shut down nuclear power. Perhaps U.S. coal exports will grow in the future as the U.S. continues its policy of exporting carbon emissions to the rest of the world.

    Comment by srp — June 27, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

  9. This fixation on Putler, Obumpkin, etc.. Is laughable. These people are figureheads, nothing more.

    Comment by So? — June 27, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

  10. @srp

    I dont think SAP´s “dominance” in enterprise computing is nearly as strong as the strength of Microsoft (in the past) and Google in the present in their respective fields. I think Oracle is equal or stronger than SAP in most of the contested markets. In addition to that there are numerous strong competitiors in enterprise systems…

    Germany does not really have any uran/plotonium resources , thus energy independance relying on nuclear power is pretty naive. Futhermore, nuclear power has potentially negative aspects (cf: Fukushima and Tschernobyl). German reactors might be safer than Russian ones, but a significant risk remains. This risk is different for big countries like the US or Russia. If a reactor exploded in Russia or the US, you will just erect a quarantine zone and rebuild 500 miles to the east /west/ whatever. Germany is a small county, if you move 500 miles east, you invade Poland. … A reactor catastrophe would be far more damaging in Germany compared to the US. So exiting nuclear power is not so irrational if you look at it from a German perspective. (BTW the German nuclear power switch off and the turn to regenerative energies was badly managed, but that is another topic)

    Concerning Alstom: I am German, thus my natural inclination is not to defend the “cheese eating surrender monkeys (brilliant line by the simpsons)” France, but you do realise that GE has won the “battle” for Alstom? The French state has decided that the GE offer was superior to the German offer.
    i really like the blog, best regards.

    Comment by Huitzilopochtli — June 28, 2014 @ 11:38 am

  11. @Huitzilopochtli “My german perspective: Ukraine and so forth are simply not our problem. Your are confusing Germany´s own interest with being a dog to Russia.” – Sie täuschen sich, mein Freund. If you had started reading this blog sligtly earlier, you would have, no doubt, noticed this quote:

    “…The Krupps, the Thyssens and the Stinneses, all future supporters of Hitler, pressured their government to maintain good relations with the new rulers of Russia in order to secure German hegemony over the country. …”

    They also thought this was not their problem and that they were acting in their own interest – and we all know how this one played out, don’t we? It is indeed the Kremlin’s strategy to use this greed-driven self-deception to split the West into Anglo-Saxon (plus “new Europe”) enemies and the “old Europe” allies. If they succeed, by the time you are forced to admit it actually is your problem, it will quite probably be too late.

    Comment by Ivan — June 29, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  12. I think the comparison of Putin with Hitler is not valid. Putin is an “ordinary” dictator, basically dime a dozen, if you have a look at the middle east for example. I do not like Putin or his politics, but Krimea´s history, population, etc are basically Russian and if you take a look at the new Ukrainian government there are quite a few with a facist background. Like the conflict between Russia and Georgia (who did start their war in 2008), its not our problem. Germany/Europe /Nato/etc should especially keep out of the Caucasus, where every valley has its own language, bloody history and conflict with other ethnics groups. The idea floated e.g. by Mccain ( to admit Georgia into the NATO is madness. If you take a slightly cynical view, Russian is behaving in Belarus and Ukraine just like the US in Latinamerica in the 19/20 century ….

    The division of old europe and new europe was also used by Rumsfeld during the Iraq war. Not participating in that war was the best decision of a German politican since re-unification.

    Comment by Huitzilopochtli — June 30, 2014 @ 3:25 am

  13. @Huitzilopochtli

    > I think the comparison of Putin with Hitler is not valid

    The comparison was not with Hitler, but with the Bolsheviks. And of the current German business with the German business of the day. Just read the posting I referenced, it’s worth it.

    > Putin is an “ordinary” dictator, basically dime a dozen
    > Krimea´s history, population, etc are basically Russian
    > Ukrainian government there are quite a few with a facist background
    > Georgia (who did start their war in 2008)

    All of the fragments above is ordinary Russian agitprop tripe, indeed a dime a dozen. Good enough if someone is truly desperate for a fig leaf to cover ordinary venality.

    If you take a slightly cynical view, it’s not so much of a problem if Germany sells to Russia a rope on which the latter hangs it, to paraphrase one well-known Russian. The regrettable part is that those two usually reduce the rest of Europe to rubble in the process. And I’m also not so sure the Yanks are up to the task of rebuilding it this time around.

    Comment by Ivan — June 30, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

  14. 1. SAP was over twice the size of the next-biggest firm in ERP as of 2013, with 25% of market revenue. Apple’s iOS has less than a 20% unit market share but has been harassed by EU agencies.

    2. GE only won the Alstom deal by engaging in a series of bizarre concessions to the French government giving it veto power over a host of new “joint ventures” involving “sensitive” parts of Alstom’s portfolio.

    3. The absurd anti-nuclear talking points presented could be left as an exercise for the reader, but it’s hard to resist noting that breeder reactors (as in France) eliminate the fuel-importation problem even if that were a real issue; that the greater size of the U.S. is nearly irrelevant to the damage from nuclear accidents since the plants are not placed in the middle of nowhere but near dense, high-value areas of settlement; that if the same cost per kilowatt-hour now paid for wind and solar were applied to nuclear then super-safe containment structures would be affordable; and that even the Fukushima event (assuming tsunamis somehow came from the Baltic) would hardly be a catastrophe if it happened in Germany. Instead, Germany is burning lignite (!) and importing Russian gas and French nuclear-overflow. It’s hard to make much sense of this policy mix except as the resultant vector of Green romanticism summed with pro-Russian delusions.

    Comment by srp — June 30, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

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