The Slog page capture (left) is from February 23rd 2015, and used sources close to the region to assert that, contrary to Western old media bollocks, ‘The mainstream press would have you believe that the Minsk agreement is frail, and more sanctions plus American arms in Ukraine will follow should the child-skewering psycho Putin get any smart ideas about breaking the ceasefire.The truth is much simpler: Washington and Berlin have given up, and Putin has won.’
That is the result now emerging quietly from the so-called Normandy Four Summits on the Ukraine issue – the last of which was held in Paris eight days ago. As she did using shuttle diplomacy followed by a flight to Washington last February, Angela Merkel moved quickly to shut off the geopolitical nature of the Ukrainian crisis in Paris, dealing direct with Putin on Syria at the same time – and agreeing with the Russian leader what are alleged to be secret ‘formal’ steps to mend EU relations with Russia.
The original US encouragement of EU meddling in Ukraine was based (as always) primarily on oil and gas supplies from Russia via Ukraine to the West. Here too Merkel (along with France’s Hollande) have now pressed hard for a clear solution to gas supplies and the export sanctions against Russia.
The European duo settled the two issues with Putin. And here too, all the signals suggest that US aims on energy access have been successfully rebuffed. However, highly significant are the signs that Germany values is own energy needs (and France the exports of its farming community) far more than its at times umbilical relationship with Washington.
The threat of Russia rerouting its gas supplies away from Europe horrified Berlin. This possibility has melted away with the announcement of the North Stream 2 pipeline as a majority carrier of fuel for Europe, with Russia’s proposed Turk Stream being relegated to a minor role. Interestingly, Gazprom has done an asset swap allowing it to acquire ownership rights to pipeline hardware within the EU.
The US has failed to achieve any of its objectives; but the pipeline asset gain for Gazprom is an especially sharp stick poked in the State Department’s hawk eye. As such, it is richly symbolic, and will rightly be seen as such by commentators. Notable among leaks from officials who were present in Paris, for example, is that Brussels now wants an end to Russian sanctions as soon as possible. “The enthusiasm simply isn’t there,” admitted one mole last night, “least of all in France”.
Not only have both the EU States and Moscow gained much needed stability and increased economic certainty from this deal, Washington has effectively been frozen out…and East and Western Europe have reached a rapprochement. Two ramifications are likely:
- Putin will press on with his strategy of isolating the US both financially and politically, hoping to negotiate further with Beijing and the Brics about alternatives to the petrodollar – and furtherance of the AIIB’s aims to compete with US multinational banking.
- If introduced into the UK’s Stay/Leave EU debate, this geopolitical shift will complicate matters. Those Tories wishing to leave the EU will point to the threat a future EU/US antipathy would represent to the ‘Special Relationship’….making the Prime Minister’s tigthrope a little more wobbly. On the other hand, those around Jeremy Corbyn, will be concerned to see the EU moving closer to Putin, a man of whose human rights record they are critical.
More generally, once again America’s will has not prevailed: if (as seems likely) the Syrian issue is settled in similar style, State will begin to see that having “bet the farm” on Germany, it now needs another farm. Rumours persist that this is going to be Poland. In the meantime, events may attract the US voter towards more bellicose Presidential candidates, and the US élite may well begin to take further risks to protect its threatened hegemony.