When US President Barack Obama embarked on his European tour this week there was the usual sycophantic Western media image of the American leader as a benefactor. Obama, so the story went, was coming to unite and support Europe in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
With tiresome florid speechifying, Obama claimed that the US and Europe have together historically built up institutions of international law and democracy and that the “allies” would now stand together against Russian “brute behavior” just as they had done during the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
The facts are the opposite. The US has sought to divide Europe from Russia and sow conflict in Eurasia ever since the end of the Second World War nearly 70 years ago. That is a continuum to the present day. The main objective for Washington is to prevent Europe developing closer relations with Russia. Central to the problem, from the US point of view, is to curb Europe and Russia becoming strategic energy partners.
This is what the current crisis over Ukraine is really about. Washington took the lead in inciting regime change in Kiev at the end of last year. And it is Washington that is taking the lead in rushing through Congress-approved finance and IMF loans to shore up the unelected anti-Russian junta in Kiev.
Russian security measures in Crimea and on its borders with Ukraine have subsequently led to the worst diplomatic crisis between European capitals and Moscow since the end of the Cold War more than 20 years ago.
In this current crisis it is Washington that has been the most strident in calling for punitive sanctions against the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin.
As the Washington Post reported this week:
“President Obama attempted Wednesday to rouse Europe to confront Russia’s military seizure of Crimea, framing the West’s dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a clash of ideologies lingering from the Cold War.”
The American media have also gone into a frenzy of demonizing Putin as a mad dictator, while it is US military forces under the NATO flag that have mobilized on the Western borders of Russia. All in all, the US propensity is to incite tensions.
Admittedly, some European politicians, such as Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande, appear to have gone along gung-ho with the US adversarial agenda towards Moscow. But there again several other European states, including Italy, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Finland, have sought to de-escalate tensions. Most notable is Germany, Europe’s largest economy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week pointedly rejected the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia in spite of much American pressure to do so.
If we strip off Obama’s schmaltz and pseudo-history rhetoric, it is patent that the US stands to gain most from conflict between Europe and Russia – just as it always has done in past decades.
While Obama was this week endorsing “unity” between the US and Europe and “isolation” for Russia, he was also pushing for two major American interests – under the guise of American benevolence of course.
Those two interests are, firstly, the long-term replacement of Russian energy supplies with American exports of natural gas. The renewed US fossil fuel industry is a leitmotif of recent years in an attempt to boost the stagnant American economy. America needs to find export markets for its projected natural gas production. Currently, Russia supplies some 30-40 per cent of Europe’s fuel consumption. The US wants this lucrative chunk of the global energy market.
The second major strategic interest from stoking conflict with Russia is to give Washington a continuing military, and therefore political, role in the affairs of Europe as the lead NATO power. That’s not new, to be sure, but such a role always needs renewing.
Already this week the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia are reportedly doubling their military spending on the back of US-instigated Ukrainian and Russian tensions, which no doubt will entail sales of US-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as missile systems and warships.
Historically, the Cold War conflict in Europe was not a natural tendency. The US fomented the hostility with the Soviet Union, which included originating the threat of nuclear weapons and the covert arming of Nazi saboteurs behind Soviet lines in the aftermath of WWII. The Soviets responded by imposing the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe, which the US planners gladly welcomed for the strategic reasons of justifying American militarism in Europe and thwarting Eurasian relations.
Despite this hostile backdrop, however, relations between Moscow and the rest of Europe managed to grow cordially. This was especially as a result of the wise West German leadership under chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmudt Schmidt, who developed an “Ostpolitik” policy of outreach towards the Soviet Union – to the disapproval of Washington and its trusty British minions.
Over the two decades since the Cold War that strategic energy relationship between Europe and Russia has continued to grow. Other trade relations have also prospered. Today, bilateral trade between Europe and Russia is about ten times the volume between the US and Russia.
Germany is the lynchpin in this strategic relationship between Europe and Russia. More than 6,000 German businesses have invested in long-term partnerships with its giant neighbor to the East, with a total bilateral trade of some $100 billion. Millions of jobs on either side bind these two countries together in a mutual dependence. And what is good for Germany is good for the rest of Europe. This is precisely what the US wants to sabotage for its own selfish strategic interests.
It is significant that one of the early casualties in the commercial relation between Europe and Russia over the latest Ukraine tensions is the South Stream natural gas project. This pipeline is planned to transport gas from Russia into southern Europe and to become operational by the end of 2015. The route would complement existing Russian supply lines through the North Stream, from Russia directly to Germany, and through the existing network of Gazprom pipes via Ukraine.
However, business press reports this week say that the South Stream gas route is now in danger of falling through because the Russian owner of one of the companies involved, Gennady Timchenko, of Stroitransgaz, is on the sanctions list drawn up by Washington last week. Interestingly, Timchenko is not included in a similar sanctions list against Russian individuals drawn up by European Union. That selective targeting of the South Stream gas project by Washington is indicative of the ulterior strategic purpose.
As Christof Lehmann, editor of nsnbc international, points out if Europe and Russia were to develop a long-term strategic trade and energy partnership that would then spell the rapid demise US global hegemony. A closer working relationship between Europe and Moscow would greatly undermine the role of the US dollar as a reserve currency and it would obviate the need for Washington’s military presence on the European continent and the relentless expansion of NATO eastwards around Russia.
“The development of ties between Europe and Russia would leave the US politically, culturally and economically isolated within no more than 25 years. It would also mean that Washington would become increasingly isolated in terms of its militarist and strategic encirclement of Russia and China. The dollar would collapse earlier than that.”
In other words, in order for US hegemony to survive Washington needs conflict to persist and to be continually stoked between Europe and Russia. Despicably, that divisive American logic is a dangerous warpath that puts millions of lives at risk from a possible nuclear conflagration.
What Europe needs is real political leadership instead of the American “yes puppets” we see in the pathetic shape of Cameron and Hollande.
Europe needs to wake up to how it has been and continues to be played for a fool and a stooge by Washington, where potentially good neighborly relations with Russia are abused to the point of war.
A cheeky admission of that divisive American influence was let slip by Obama during one of his European speeches this week when he told an admiring audience in The Hague: “We [the US] have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong co-operative relationship with them.”
Instead of “co-operative relationship” Obama really meant to say “coercive relationship”.
And there’s no need for the US to invade in order to coerce when it can just cast a continual specter of conflict and war over everyone.