Neue Neue Ostpolitik
On June 15, the US Senate approved an act to sharply expand sanctions imposed on Russia in retaliation for its intervention in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The broadly bi-partisan move that enshrined Barack Obama’s earlier executive orders – intended as a response to Moscow’s alleged cyber interference in US elections – was a stunning rebuke to US President Donald Trump’s Russia policy, essentially taking a broad swath of foreign policy out of his hands.
In light of Trump’s stance toward Germany, the EU, and NATO, one might have expected a gigantic sigh of relief from Berlin. But this was not to be. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel reacted with immediate indignation to a provision of the bill that would allow the US to target companies cooperating in the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline project. A joint declaration with his NS2 partner, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, invoked a sort of euro-populism: “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America … Instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests.” The irony of citing such a principle in defense of NS2, considering Putin and Gazprom’s labyrinthine record of political and economic pressures on Ukraine, appears to have eluded the pair. Continue reading.