As the U.S. imposes new package of sanctions on Russia and the latter takes counter measures, the relations of the two big powers have become even more strained. U.S. and Russia are sailing close to the wind. This is fraught with unpredictable consequences for the world. It is not surprising that European Union was the first to oppose the new “dose” of sanctions on Russia. Germany voiced discontent at the new sanctions as German companies will face big difficulties in their business operations with Russian corporations, in the energy field, first. What do Germany and EU think about the new package of sanctions on Russia? Can Berlin influence Washington to make it correct its policy on Russia? What impact will the new package of anti-Russian sanctions have on U.S.-EU relations? EADaily’s correspondent requested comments on the issues from Alexander Rahr, a well-known Germany political analyst.
Mr. Rahr, what is the reason behind such strong protest by Germany against the new U.S. sanctions on Russia? Previously, Germany used to support Washington’s sanctions policy. Does Germany seek to protect its economic interests or EU’s geopolitical interests have been infringed at large?
Well, the situation is different now. Germany is not interested in new US sanctions, since they indirectly affect German companies operating in Russia. With the new package of sanctions, the German firms will no longer be able to operate in Russia, especially in the energy sector with Russian state-run corporations. The same situation will be in the field of construction, infrastructure projects and others. In this light, Germany simply disagrees with Americans banning them from doing business with Russia, forcing them to leave the Russian market and dictating them how to ensure their energy security. I think Germany will keep opposing the new sanctions on Russia, but, unfortunately, Germany does not represent the entire EU.
Many other EU countries will support Washington either showing the white feather or seeking to harm Russia. Germany and France will come out against the sanctions, while other European countries will show different response. The sanctions will be approved (by president Donald Trump), undoubtedly.
Quite recently, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called to discuss EU’s possible response to new sanctions of U.S. on Russia. Can EU take protective measures and keep cooperating with Russia despite the sanctions?
I think it is possible theoretically. In fact, America controls the global financial system and will proceed with its tough policy towards Western companies operating in Russia and represented in the American market too. Things are much more complicated here. So, there are much more negative moments for Europe. The point is that the president in the United States is incompetent and the country is governed by some people in the Congress, special services and the intelligence agency. Perhaps, they are looking for a trouble and decided to spoil the relations with Russia. I am not sure that Europe will manage to get out of this situation.
Many experts believe that one of the goals of the U.S. sanctions against Russian energy companies is to force its own liquefied natural gas upon EU. For instance, Die Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, wrote that U.S. seeks to improve its positions in Europe’s energy market. Do you agree with that opinion?
It is too evident a fact to comment. Sure, U.S. seeks to oust Russia from the European market and replace the Russian gas with its own LNG. It is so evident and partakes of insolence that Germany shows serious concerns.
Donald Trump has not signed the new bill of sanctions yet. Will Germany or EU take any specific actions to protect their interests?
Germany so far makes statements and took a wait-and-see approach. Germany does not want to spoil its relations with America and hopes that either Trump will refuse to sign the bill or the bill will be elaborated so that it does not infringe the interests of Western companies. Otherwise, it will result in serious discrepancies between America and Germany. Unfortunately, Berlin will hardly manage to consolidate all the EU countries around that issue. Some countries inside Europe are ready to conflict and deteriorate their relations with Russia. I am speaking about Poland, Baltic States etc. So far, the situation in Europe is so obscure that it is hard to predict anything.
Should we anticipate a sudden chill in the relations of EU and U.S. after sanctions on Russia are finally approved without elaboration? What will happen next?
It is hard to make any specific forecasts. We live in the epoch of global uncertainty. The global situation is changing. I have already said that Germany is already extremely angry and not just over the sanctions. U.S. withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord, wages protectionist policy at home, amid aggravating conflicts in Eastern Europe and Europe’s sanctions on member-states – Poland and Hungary. The world is too instable for any forecasts. As to Russia, I am sure that all this will make it distance itself from Europe and focus on Asia.
It will exert more efforts to improve the Eurasian Economic Union. Actually, the sanctions may make the “political gap” between Russia and EU deeper and develop the Asian vector of the Russian policy. Asia is interested in all this too. The countries like India and China see how easily Washington imposes new and new sanctions and understand that tomorrow the sanctions may touch them too. So, they will be dealing with America carefully. What we see in U.S. now are signs of demise that will affect the global system dramatically.
Interviewed by Arshaluys Mghdesyan