By Tom Luongo
Vladimir Putin’s proposal to bring United Nations Peacekeepers into the Donbass is having its desired effect. Germany is making all the right noises in response as we approach the German elections in two weeks.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, now the most popular politician in Germany, has spoken favorably multiple times since the proposal was introduced about lifting sanctions on Russia. Even Mrs. Merkel herself recently acknowledged reality saying that Europe’s security concerns must involve Russia.
“I advise all participants not to say that we won’t do this because not all of our demands are met, but to openly discuss with the Russian Federation the conditions of a UN mission,” Gabriel said.
The deployment, if successful in bringing about a lasting ceasefire, would pave the way for political settlement, Gabriel said, adding that “then, we will be able to begin lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.”
It’s been my long-held belief that Martin Schultz was made the SPD candidate to ease the path to Merkel’s re-election. He’s a weak, out-of-touch EU technocrat who belongs in a political museum.
Gabriel, on the other hand, would have provided a strong counter-point to Merkel’s intransigence on her core value – the EU at all costs. Her pursuing legal action against Poland and denying Hungary its due for its real costs of her immigration policy for the EU are tempered by Schultz’s simpering.
Mrs. Merkel’s Miscalculation
So, Merkel the ultimate political cockroach, cut a deal to remove Gabriel as her main rival while allowing him to gain popularity as Foreign Minister and say all the things she doesn’t want to say about relations with Russia until after the election is over where the real negotiations begin.
Anyone watching the twists and turns over the Nordstream 2 pipeline know that Germany is trying to skirt a confrontation with the U.S. while ensuring the pipeline goes forward. Merkel knows she has to turn back towards Russia in the end because the U.S. is becoming unhinged politically.
And Germany’s growth economically will happen with Russian gas and a reopening of German markets in Russia.
Moreover, Trump is actively pursuing the strong euro/weak dollar dynamic to 1) make U.S. LNG cheaper for Europe and 2) put huge pressure on the EU’s banking system. Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schauble don’t seem to understand that the type and kind of austerity they have enforced on the rest of the euro-zone is what has caused their current political problems and their vulnerability to aggressive dollar diplomacy.
And they realize now that sanctions on Russia at the behest of the Obama administration have harmed them more than Russia. And, having hitched sanctions relief to the failed Minsk-2 agreement which was never tenable in the first place, they are now trapped between exploding internal politics, ephemeral economic growth and a looming sovereign debt crisis in 2018 thanks to a stronger euro.
A’Changin’ the Times Are
So, Putin’s proposal for UN Peacekeepers, while seemingly dangerous truly isn’t. This is a move to isolate the U.S. in the UN and within the Security Council. Putin is offering an olive branch on the eve of a renewed Ukrainian Army assault now that Trump has approved more weapons for the UAF.
It’s obvious that the U.S. is looking to break the stalemate on the contact line or force Putin to recognize Malorussia as independent and sign a treaty. This gives him political cover to intervene for an ally.
But, that would torpedo any possible rapprochement with Germany as Merkel, politically, could not be seen cozying up to an “Imperialist Russia.” It’s politically untenable, which is exactly why the U.S. neoconservatives are pushing this policy and why Putin’s counter-move is so strong.
Sigmar Gabriel is telling Putin this is the path to sanctions relief and a normalization of relations. Merkel needs a way to save face to settle the diplomatic problems of Crimea and Malorussia. She can’t recognize Crimea and lift sanctions without the Russians offering up something to allay fears of its expansionist intentions. We know these are all a lie, but that doesn’t matter in the world of realipolitik only optics matter.
Minsk-2 is dead. It was dead the moment it was signed.
This is the first real step in the right direction.