Trump’s Russian affair spills over and upsets Europe

8 July 2017. Hamburg, Germany. German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit. (Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler).

The turmoil in the American political system, caused by President Donald Trump’s Russian affair is having spillovers in Europe. Of course, it’s not the first time that Trump and his out of control political ‘inspirations’ instigate trouble for the Old Continent and the rest of the world. This time however, the US Congress prepares new aggressive legislation against Russia, in a distinct step to counter Trump’s pro-Russian openings. In this way, the conflict between Trump and the Congress about the Russian connection, is now seriously threatening Europe’s political symmetry. Let’s try to read between the news headlines.

Unfortunately, this week, the new sanctions against Moscow which the American legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives are preparing, are bound to seriously harm the economic relations between the EU and Russia and more precisely the Berlin – Moscow energy links. Brussels and Moscow relations are not currently at their best. Western Europeans have never accepted and will not swallow the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russians. To be reminded, on 18 March 2014, in the peak of the Ukrainian civil war, the Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to incorporate the Ukrainian province of Crimea in the Russian Federation.

Precarious equilibrium

Some months before this aggressive move, Moscow plotted the capture of this Ukrainian soil by a Russian army, which bore no insignia at all. Ostentatiously, they were Crimean ‘patriots’ who wanted their county to join ‘mother Russia’. At least this is what the Kremlin had said at the time. The historical truth is though that until 1954 Crimea was a Russian province. The then Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev though suddenly decided to make Crimea a ‘gift’, to the then ‘sister’ socialist republic of Ukraine. At that time, this transfer didn’t mean much, because Russia along with Ukraine and the other socialist republics belonged the USSR, under the iron grip of Moscow.

Still, what Putin did in 2014 was a unilateral redrafting of the European map, and as such couldn’t be accepted by the two major Western European powers, Germany and France. From that moment onwards, the EU, in close consultation with the US, both imposed similar trade and other kind of sanctions on Russia and on some Russian citizens, directly implicated in the annexation of Crimea.

However, those punitive measures never questioned the huge supplies of Russian natural gas to Germany and other EU member states. In many respects those supplies are indispensable for the smooth functioning of many EU economies and despite the efforts to diversify their energy supply sources they are still dependent on Russian natural gas, especially in winter.

Scratching old wounds

Conversely now, Republican and Democrat legislators together have prepared new rules to effectively oppose President Trump’s openings to Russia, by punishing Moscow with too harsh sanctions. They have agreed to pass the new law with such a majority, as to make it impossible for the President to veto it.

The new rules among other things will punish the German firms which are currently building a second gas pipeline, transferring Russian natural gas to Germany and then to central Europe. In general, whoever collaborates with Russia will be targeted by the US authorities. When the details of the new American legislation became known, Berlin reacted strongly, threatening with retaliatory countermeasures. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t hide her frustration about that.

Brussels and Berlin

Brussels’ reaction though was more moderate. For one thing, this North Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, jointly owned by German firms and the Russian giant Gazprom has attracted criticism even within the EU, including France. At least theoretically the European Union is supposed to do whatever it takes to diversify its natural gas supplies away from Russia, to other producers. Nevertheless, Berlin doesn’t seem to bother much about that. The issue has been haunting the Franco-German relations for a long time.

Under this light, a Commission Press release spoke of “unintended consequences” from the new Senate legislation. According to Reuters, the Commission also said that “We understand that the Russia/Iran sanctions bill is driven primarily by domestic considerations.” According to the same source “EU diplomats are concerned that a German-U.S. row over the North Stream 2 pipeline being built by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom could complicate efforts in Brussels to forge an EU consensus on negotiating with Russia over the project”.

To be noted, initially, the new trade and other punitive measures were intended against Iran. Then North Korea was added to the outcasts to be punished. The Republican and Democrat legislators, though, who oppose Trump’s Putin openings, found the opportunity this week to include Russia in the bill, despite strong opposition from the President.

Unintentional catastrophe

Evidently the American legislators are now threatening, very likely unintentionally, to deeply disturb Europe and give new dimensions to an old divisive issue. The Northern Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea is a flagrant case of Germany being caught paying no attention to basic EU policy priorities. Berlin, instead of diversifying its supplies of natural gas away from Russia, now builds a second pipeline together with Gazprom to transport more Russian gas to Western Europe.

In short, the spillovers of the multifaceted issue of the relations between Russia and Trump’s team – both back in the electoral period of 2016 as well as now in government – is seriously disturbing the rest of the world. If the Congress decides that the new and harsher sanctions meant for Iran are also to be applied to Russia, the whole world will feel the heat. No need to say that Moscow has already threatened with retaliatory measures against the US and has said that this leads the relations between the two countries to uncharted waters.

 

 

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Brexit: political groups discuss options for an orderly withdrawal

A very good morning in European markets

IMF: How To Deal With Failed Banks

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into compensation for early closure of lignite-fired power plants in Germany

Rohingya cannot become ‘forgotten victims,’ says UN chief urging world to step up support

‘Nothing left to go back for’: UN News hears extraordinary stories of loss, and survival as Mozambique rebuilds from deadly cyclones

Time to be welcome: Youth work and integration of young refugees

MEPs urge the EU to lead the way to net-zero emissions by 2050

Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close?

The global issue of migration in 2017

How Pakistan is aiming for a green recovery from the pandemic

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Belgium’s €5.9 billion recovery and resilience plan

In Christchurch, UN chief calls for tolerance, solidarity to extinguish ‘wildfire’ of hate speech

Commission to invest €14.7 billion from Horizon Europe for a healthier, greener and more digital Europe

Medical students: catalysts to close the gender gap

Can autonomous cars make traffic jams a thing of the past?

Russia’s permafrost is melting and it could have a devastating global effect

Why cities hold the key to safe, orderly migration

New UN book club helps children deal with global issues

“China will strive to enhance the performance of economic growth”, President Xi highlights from the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos

Monday’s Daily Brief: US-DPRK relationship reset, ‘Horrific’ Kabul bombing, Anti-conscription plan in Syria, Climate change heat stress, Security Council in Iraq

FROM THE FIELD: Free tutorials in Mali, ‘a life-saver’ for Fatouma

European Commission Joint Research Centre opens world-class laboratories to researchers

The world condemned by neo-liberals to feed trillions to banks: the New Deal exorcised

Mergers: Commission approves the merger of Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn division, subject to conditions

What paleoecology can teach us about fires in the Amazon

The link between migration and technology is not what you think

Counterfeiters are taking advantage of the pandemic. Here’s how to stop them

3 reasons why civil society is essential to COVID-19 recovery

Panama’s fight for a delayed right: women’s economic independence

14 innovative projects helping to save the planet and make the world a better place

Italy can stand the US rating agencies’ meaningless degrading

Scale of displacement across Myanmar ‘very difficult to gauge’, says UN refugee agency

FROM THE FIELD: Niger supporting the most vulnerable, as crises mount

6 ways least developed countries can participate in the 4IR

UN chief calls for Security Council to work with Myanmar to end ‘horrendous suffering’ of Rohingya refugees

International partners pledge $1.2 billion to help cyclone-hit Mozambique recover, ‘build back better’

Commission welcomes agreement on the modernisation of EU export controls

One migrant child reported dead or missing every day, UN calls for more protection

Japan’s agro-food sector would benefit greatly from policies to boost innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable resource use

UN chief ‘following very closely’ reports of chemical weapons use in Syria’s Aleppo

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

5 ways to boost sustainable trade in the world’s poorest countries

The West unites against Mali desert rebels

Sweden gives all employees time off to be entrepreneurs

Happens now in Brussels: Green Week sets the EU and global climate policy agenda

5 surprising ways major cities are going green

“ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges”, a Sting Exclusive by China’s Ambassador to the EU

More efforts needed to boost trust in business and finance

The Swiss will pay dearly for voting out fellow Europeans

Recovery effort will fizzle out quickly if there is no long-term perspective

Global hunger is on the rise. These simple steps could help eradicate it

Women that inspire women

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into Broadcom and sends Statement of Objections seeking to impose interim measures in TV and modem chipsets markets

From low-earth orbit, ‘envoys’ of humanity join UN space forum

This surgeon runs a makeshift hospital for over 200,000 people

European Union launches WTO trade dispute against Colombia’s unfair duties on frozen fries

Inside the battle to counteract the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’

Where are the world’s nuclear weapons?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s