Our local independent movie theater was showing a film called “Meeting Mikhail Gorbachev”. In the film, Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, sits down with filmmaker Werner Herzog to discuss his many achievements. Topics included the talks to reduce nuclear weapons, the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Herzog made a clear point: without Gorbachev, there would be no German re-unification. There were a few interviews with witnesses to some of these agreements and events. One of them, an advisor to the German Chancellor indicated that Russia and Germany are now on track to become best buddies.
It is not insignificant, that a very large portion of Russia’s energy supplies end up in Western Europe (notably Germany). There has been a clear pivot to the East in German economic policy — from the Nord Stream (natural gas supply) joint venture with Russia to the new Chinese deals… even if politically Germany still seems to be in the opposing camp. Germany’s long-term goal is clearly to divorce itself from the Cross-Atlantic political/military alliance with USA and UK. To be sure, there are other European countries that wouldn’t mind changing their pivot somewhat as well.
However, Germany has to tread softly and change its pivot extremely slowly and gradually due to many factors: 1. Many conflicting points of view within Germany itself; 2. Germany is still a member of NATO and has NATO obligations; 3. Germany’s checkered history, which still looms over it and ties its hands (no one has forgotten the deaths of over 20 Million Russians by Hitler’s army); 4. US holding the majority of German Gold, and still accounting for a very large part of German exports i.e. possibly blackmailing Germany with it. (Details are scarce, but we know for sure that Germans still can’t get their gold out of the US and are being given a run around). 5. Not to mention sensitive Western political issues with China and Russia, to name a few.
Yes, it will be a slow – but definite – process.
The Germans are fed up with destructive US and UK activities of all kinds. They see the US-UK crowd as inept and corrupt. In the past 10 years alone, there has been abject bank wreckage, market rigging, endless US-UK wars (leading to streams of refugees at their borders), sanctions against Russia, Iran … you name it that all seem to backfire, sham monetary policy, economic sabotage, merciless spying (including tapping Angela Merkel’s phone), gold gimmicks (not returning Germany’s gold to it from storage in the U.S.) …. And it has all finally reached a critical level. As Angela Merkel pointed out this past week, Germany can not depend on the U.S. anymore!
There is a newly forming “EURASIAN” economic axis of power with Russia as the bridge between the two: Germany – Russia – China, with the possibility of other countries (notably Iran) participating. Notice that each of the 3 economies in question complement each other extremely well: Germany’s technology, science and high-end merchandise, Russian natural resources, energy (both conventional and budding alternative), agricultural potential, space exploration, military technology and science; China’s huge manufacturing capacity and human potential. Each country is a natural market for each other’s goods and services – with very limited overlap and competition.
During his speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a prediction that many in the West dismissed. He said the Western system of alliances — with its “one master, one sovereign” sitting in Washington, D.C. — would eventually “destroy itself from within.”
That speech has aged remarkably well. Twelve years on, as world leaders gathered in Munich again for their annual summit, the Europeans in attendance admitted that Putin had been right. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel put on Feb. 16, the global order had “collapsed into many tiny parts.”
“It’s Diplomacy 101,” Ernest Moniz, the veteran U.S. nuclear negotiator and former Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama, told TIME after attending several of the closed-door sessions with European diplomats. “If a wedge opens, you exploit it. You drive it as deep as you can.”
Russia and China both put that tactic to use in Munich. Yang Jiechi, the attending member of China’s Politburo, urged his “strategic partners” in Europe to break their dependence on U.S. technology. “We should reject technological hegemony,” he told the crowd of European leaders, appealing for support in China’s escalating trade war with the U.S. and, in particular, the dispute over Huawei, the Chinese industrial giant which the U.S. has accused of violating sanctions and stealing Western technology. “Power politics should be rejected,” Yang added.
Russia made a similar appeal. The head of its delegation, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, even suggested building a “shared European home” with Russia that would leave the Americans out. Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, then urged Europe’s leaders not to “succumb” to the bullying of the Trump Administration.
Zarif’s most immediate goal in Munich was to salvage the nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from last year. Despite intense pressure from the White House, the Europeans have stood with Iran on that issue. France, Germany and the U.K. have even continued to trade with Iran in circumvention of U.S. sanctions.
Chancellor Merkel insisted that Germany would stick with that position. She also echoed the Chinese delegate in defending free trade in a globalized economy. “We have to fight for multilateralism,” Merkel said, invoking a term that Yang, the Politburo member, used at least 20 times in his speech.
Despite fierce U.S. objections, the Europeans have continued building bridges to the East. Russia’s new gas pipeline to Germany – North Stream 2 – is expected to make Europeans even more reliant on Russia for energy. China’s global infrastructure project – known as the Belt and Road initiative – will soon bind its economy much more closely to that of Europe, an aim that Merkel intends to promote when her country holds the European Union presidency next year.
“Americans expect the Europeans to follow along,” says Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, the head of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “They will find that Europe won’t.”
Many Europeans support that approach. A Pew Research survey published on Feb. 15 this year, found that only around 10% of people in France and Germany have faith in Trump’s handling of global affairs; they are two or three times more likely to trust the leaders of Russia and China.
The visit from Vice President Mike Pence, who led the U.S. delegation to Munich, does not seem likely to change that. In a message that many in the audience perceived as a veiled threat, he warned the Europeans that they would only hurt their own security by making deals with Russia and China.
“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Pence said. But whether the U.S. likes it or not, that dependence is already growing. As their ties with the Trump Administration grow more fraught, the Europeans are finding easy friends among America’s traditional enemies.
The U.S. is making it very easy for the Russians and Chinese. As one senior Russian diplomat stated: “Seen from Moscow, there is no resistance left to a new alliance led by China. And now that Washington has imposed tariffs on Chinese exports, Russia hopes China will finally understand that its problem is Washington, not Moscow. A new allegiance between the superpowers would mean Washington would feel under attack and Europe intimidated and unsettled.”
However, the vice-president of the US Mike Pence, told the same Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East conference: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”
Quite clearly, the Russians and Germans (along with other Europeans) are forging ahead with tying the knot. And at the same time, the Russians are doing the same with China.
Chinese media proudly showed Chinese tanks splashing through the mud, while a few dozen helicopters flew in formation overhead in eastern Russia. A young Chinese military recruit explained, “I have never experienced an overseas deployment of this scale.” The scene neatly summed up the much-written-about, enormous Russian military exercises that took place in 2018. Participants included 300,000 Russian and 3,200 Chinese soldiers. This deeply rattled the West.
Importantly, there is so far no formal security pact—nothing akin to NATO in Europe—that requires China and Russia to defend each other and that could embed this relationship in a mutually beneficial package. Trade between the two increased 20 percent last year (to $84 billion) but is still dwarfed by China’s trade with the U.S. ($635 billion in 2017). In 2018, China Development Bank loaned a Russian state-owned bank over $9 billion to build infrastructure connections between the two countries. It’s an eye-popping number, but astute observers think much of it won’t materialize.
Chinese businessmen say they are hesitant to invest in Russia because it’s “riskier than Congo” and “unpredictable.” Despite some aligned economic interests, many Russians don’t like the Chinese market much. The distrust is mutual. A history of border conflicts and soured business deals has made economic relations rocky. Although the two countries’ governments sometimes resent the United States, they often differ on major geopolitical issues. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (and its militarization of the trade routes) has reduced Russia’s influence in Central Asia. China bristles at Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its military aid to regional rivals such as India and Vietnam, and its support for the Afghan Taliban.
Where does all this lead? China has traditionally eschewed formal alliances, and Xi reaffirmed that policy this April. So far, there is no China-Russia “bloc” to worry about. But make no mistake: The Trump administration’s tough line on trade and the way some U.S. politicians and members of the press seem to treat China as the new enemy is dangerously close to becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.
China and Russia will resolutely support each other if cornered. Add some “European” influence on this cocktail, and it could lead to complete disaster for the U.S. And there is every indication that Germany might in fact chip in.
A Russo-German Alliance Is A Reality
Russia and Germany have much to gain by working together. Historically, Russia could only dominate Eastern Europe when European powers were weak, or when they acquiesced.
Meanwhile, the two have several complementary interests. Economically, they go together hand in glove. Germany has excellent technology, manufacturing and a need to export. Russia needs to buy Western technology and know-how. Russia has energy commodities, and Germany is among its best customers. Russia’s deep ties to the Middle East make it the perfect partner for a Germany that needs to stem the tide of refugees into Europe. Russia has even edged its way into the euro crisis—its strong ties to Cypriot and Greek financial systems mean that it could hurt or help Germany’s economic ambitions.
Furthermore, an alliance with Germany does not require Russia to drop its alliance with China. Thus, it needs much less from Germany to make such an alliance worth its while. Germany, then, can afford to pay the price Russia requires, while the U.S. cannot. The cost-benefit calculation looks very different.
A Russo-German alliance still carries risks. Done recklessly, it could alienate much of Central and Eastern Europe. But with care, allowing Russia to expand its sphere of influence into parts of Eastern Europe would drive the remaining countries to Germany. Germany would also have to be sure it was rewarded enough to make up for the extra insecurity that would come from an expanded Russian sphere of influence.
But Germany, whether it wants this three-leg alliance or not, is being forced into this alliance. U.S. is giving Germany little choice. A major part of President Trump’s foreign policy is a withdrawal from the world. He believes the U.S. is spending far too much money intervening beyond its shores.
If America withdraws from Europe, Germany is left with little choice but to cut a deal with Russia. Economically, the EU dwarfs Moscow—but militarily, Russia is a force to be reckoned with. Right now, Europe could not stand up to Russia alone. So, what do you do if you can’t beat them? Germany (and the rest of Europe) “increasingly perceive themselves as having been abandoned by the United States and having to face the Soviet Union alone, unchallengeable in its military power and are being forced accommodate themselves with Russia.” For Germany, there are “rational arguments … in support of an Eastern orientation.”
In fact, Trump’s openness to an alliance with Russia has also made it easier for European powers to draw closer to Russia. The top leaders of Germany’s Christian Social Union (csu), part of Germany’s ruling coalition, have remained close to Russia, despite their nation’s sanctions against it. In 2016, Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer and Honorary CSU Chairman Edmund Stoiber visited Russian President Vladimir Putin. Stoiber welcomed the election of Donald Trump, partly because he believed it could help open the door for closer relations between Germany and Russia. Trump, he said, will “set a new tone in foreign policy.”
These same pressures now heaped on Germany have led to similar alliances in the past. From 1772 to 1795, Prussia, Austria and Russia divided the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth among themselves. At that point, Poland extended much farther eastward than it did today, including almost all present-day Belarus.
Shortly afterward, German generals helped modernize the Russian Army. As Leo Tolstoy noted in War and Peace, one Russian general was so irked by the commanding role Germans played in the Russian Army that he reportedly asked the emperor if he could be promoted to the rank of German.
While Otto von Bismarck united the German states, he worked hard to stay on Russia’s good side. As he famously said, the secret to politics is to “make a good treaty with Russia.”
The history between Germany and Russia proves not only that their self-interests align better with each other’s than with America’s. It also proves that self-interest is self-interest: Once one nation thinks it can gain more by stabbing its “ally” in the back, it will do so.
A China-Russia-European Alliance Will Come True
The shared interests here between the parties is so powerful that a new alliance between these three ‘regions’ is inevitable.
BREXIT ensures that Europe will be dominated by Germany. And, once a German-dominated Europe is fully established, Germany will be ready to negotiate and bargain with Russia—and behind the backs of the Western allies if necessary. Trump’s trade-war with China placates China inevitably into Russo-German arms. And, when a Russo-German Chinese deal is done, you can be sure that the doom of the United States and Great Britain is on the horizon.
Such a deal would be “a drastic change in the distribution of world power and an absolute prerequisite for the independence of the New World and the preservation of the power position of the United States. This threatens America’s most core interest of all: its very survival.