MOSCOW/BERLIN (Own report) – Prominent German foreign policymakers are proposing that a “double strategy” be applied in the West’s power struggle with Russia. According to Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, the West should continue to demonstrate a “position of strength.” However, because, at this time, Moscow obviously cannot be subdued by a policy of pure confrontation, a new phase of engaging Russia should be initiated. Talks on EU cooperation with the newly established Eurasian Economic Union could be envisaged. Such a cooperation would return the rivalry “between Russia and the West to the economic field, from that of the military,” according to experts. Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel had already floated such an option. At the same time, aggression against Russia continues. A US rating agency has just downgraded Russia to “junk level.” Additional measures are in discussion.
Berlin has already had to suffer painful losses, due to the power struggle with Moscow. Moscow’s scrapping of the “South Stream” pipeline project has been a setback for major German strategies for securing gas supplies for Germany and the EU. Gazprom has also scrapped its plans to expand trade with Germany, all the way down to the end consumer, in exchange for permitting German companies, such as Wintershall, access to new Siberian gas fields – a heavy blow for Wintershall. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Last week, the Chairman of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, Eckhard Cordes, confirmed that, last year, Germany’s exports to Russia slumped by 18 percent- a loss of six billion Euros. Since Russia is increasing its imports from China and Latin America, Germany’s position in those markets is at risk, in the long run. Even though, this year, losses in Russian trade can be more than compensated for by the expansion of exports to the United States, members of the economic and political elites are worried about the impending loss of the Russian option.
Choice of Weapons
“As the first step,” to usher in the new phase of “engaging” Russia, Ischinger suggests that the EU cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Other experts publishing in the current issue of “Internationale Politik” are agreeing. An EU-EEU cooperation could merely be considered a “contest between two integration projects,” with which the power struggle can be returned to the level of “economics” and away from the military, according to the journal. In the meantime, the German government has begun working toward the objective of waging the power struggle at the economic level, as long as it cannot be won in open confrontation. Last week, Chancellor Merkel called for literally “exploring … within the larger realm of the European Union and the Eurasian Union, … possibilities of cooperation in an economic area” extending “from Vladivostok to Lisbon,” as soon as possible, once a “modicum of stabilization,” has been established in Eastern Ukraine. This could possibly also help “solve EU association difficulties with Ukraine,” explained Merkel referring to accords reached back to September 2014. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.)
“This Means War”
In spite of this debate, advocates of open confrontation are escalating attacks against Russia. Recently, the US Standard and Poor’s ratings agency downgraded Russia to a “junk level,” threatening to further weaken the ruble and push Russia deeper into the crisis. A proposal to cut Russia off from the SWIFT global interbank system – as had been done earlier to Iran – is also being circulated. Russia is one of the countries most using Swift for payment transactions. Moscow has attempted to develop an alternative system, but so far, this has been unsuccessful. Shutting Moscow off from Swift would be tantamount to halting all relations between the USA and Russia, warned Andrej Kostin, president of Russia’s second largest bank, the VTB. “In my personal opinion, the introduction of these sanctions would mean war.”