Revenge for Nord Stream 2: EU sanctions against the US is a matter of time

At the turn of 2019-2020, the leading financial media of our overseas partners were surprised to find that Berlin was not enthusiastic about American sanctions against companies involved in laying Nord Stream 2.

The Wall Street Journal points out that Germany will have certain opportunities to retaliate against the United States in 2020.

The fact is that in 2020 Germany will not only be the de facto political leader of the European Union, but will also become the holder of the transitional EU presidency, which gives Berlin additional leverage in terms of setting a common European agenda. Due to the need to coordinate serious foreign policy and foreign economic steps at the EU level, a twofold situation is created. On the one hand, the desires of some German politicians in terms of retaliatory damage to the United States are limited precisely by fears, vulnerabilities and political addictions of other (albeit less politically significant) EU countries. On the other hand, if Germany manages to push some kind of solution, then it will be implemented right away at the level of the entire EU, which means that its consequences will be much more widespread than any German initiative.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the German position fits into the overall conflict context of transatlantic relations and adds a new dimension to the many existing problems:

“German politicians called on Europe to take protective measures against US sanctions after Washington managed to stop the completion of the construction of a new underwater gas pipeline linking Russia directly with Germany. <…> This move by the United States provoked indignation in Germany, prompting senior officials and politicians to urge to a coordinated approach in protecting the strategic interests of European Union members from future US sanctions. Europe needs new tools to be able to protect itself from not consider these are the rules of extraterritorial sanctions”, – German Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen tweeted last week. These wrangles increase tension in the Western alliance as the Trump administration took a series of foreign policy steps, including the withdrawal of troops (from Syria), and trade tariffs ( v. EU) and the rejection of certain international agreements, without consultation with the allies. 

The hope of all skeptics who believe that there will be no response from the European Union or that they will prove ineffective comes down to two (admittedly, serious) arguments. First: the EU will not want to “take revenge for Russia”, because the idea of ​​protecting the Russian gas pipeline from American sanctions will be incredibly toxic from a media and image point of view for any European politician, including Angela Merkel, who has suffered enough criticism for the very desire to build the Nord Stream – 2.

The second argument is historical. Although the EU was able to create a clearing mechanism to circumvent US sanctions against Iran – INSTEX, and the leading EU countries Germany and France took part in its creation, having secured the support of the UK (despite Brexit), not a single transaction on this mechanism (at least according to American media) failed to carry out. From this, it is concluded that the American economy is so important that there are still no European and Chinese companies willing to deal with countries that fall under some version of the “hellish sanctions” by the United States, even if the political leadership The European Union or China provides the necessary protection mechanisms.

Let’s start with the second argument. The situation with Iran, China and the European Union just shows how it will end if the European Union decides to go all the way in terms of protecting its own energy and economic interests, and it would be extremely bad for the European economy without available Russian gas and oil, and that’s exactly what Russia different from Iran in terms of the EU.

China, for which the supply of Iranian oil is of great strategic interest, has moved much further than the European Union in creating sustainable cooperation schemes with countries that have fallen under Washington’s sanctions. A good example: US intelligence agencies found a Chinese bank (Bank of Kunlun), through which the PRC allegedly engaged in financing and paying for the import of Iranian oil into the Celestial Empire. The Americans took advantage of the fact that the company that owns the bank placed its shares on the US stock markets, put pressure on it, and now – at least, according to the American press – the bank does not serve the import of Iranian oil, and the supply of black gold from Iran to China shrank to insignificant volumes.

From the point of view of supporters of the idea of ​​American hegemony, this means that if Washington was able to break the knees of the Chinese “oil bootleggers”, then the State Department will cope with the European Union without any tension at all. There is only one problem in this story (part of which was retold as an example of the futility of the fight against American sanctions by The Wall Street Journal): it is not entirely true. The media and political festival of “forcing China to comply with anti-Iranian sanctions” lasted about two months, that is, exactly until the relevant Western media discovered an alternative explanation for the official reduction in Iranian oil imports. In October 2019, Bloomberg Business Information Agency published a sensational article entitled “China disguises the import of (Iranian and Venezuelan) oil by pumping it between ships”. Journalists claim that the supply of Iranian and Venezuelan oil continues, it is simply recorded in statistics as “Malaysian or of other origin”.

It is worth noting that the method of payment for this oil has not been accurately and reliably identified. This with a high degree of probability means that American sanctions are effective exactly until the moment when a serious geopolitical player decides to create a full-fledged and opaque alternative system of economic interaction with other countries. For obvious reasons, China and Russia have advanced quite a bit along this path, although much remains to be done. The EU began to act in this direction only last year, so it’s premature to judge what it can achieve in this regard. Most likely, the creation of mechanisms by the European Union to circumvent sanctions is only a matter of time.

The argument that the EU’s response, aimed not at protecting against sanctions, but at punishing the United States, will never be taken due to the media toxicity of any attempts to protect Russia from the United States – it’s valid. But only if we assume that among European politicians whose predecessors were engaged in intrigue back when the Indians and bison ran around the modern USA, there is not even a single competent diplomat. It is significant that even the newspaper The Wall Street Journal, quoting the obvious move of European politicians in this party, did not appreciate the destructive opportunities that open up if applied:

“What if the EU parliament imposes sanctions on the Keystone pipeline for environmental reasons?” – a senior German diplomat in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, referring to the pipeline connecting Canada and the United States, opposed by environmentalists in both countries asked”.

The Americans have demonstrated many times on their own example that the stated reasons for some action (for example, the bombing of civilians in Yugoslavia or Iraq) do not coincide with their true goals and objectives. And there’s a good cover. By the way, environmental sanctions against the United States fit perfectly into the agenda of the official political program of the new head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, under which all European leaders have already signed up and which provides for punitive measures of economic influence on other countries precisely in the framework of the struggle for everything “green” and against everything bad. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is well versed in European politics, recently told Politico that the EU’s introduction of “carbon tariffs” (that is, in fact, “carbon sanctions” because the effect is similar) against the US is not a matter of probability, but a question time.

If European politicians begin to realize their economic and diplomatic threats precisely under environmental cover, we can safely assume that Washington expects a rather unpleasant 2020.

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