War by Other Means

MOSCOW/BERLIN | | russische-foederation

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.

No Success so Far

The German chancellor had suggested considering EU cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union, established at Russia's initiative, because the power struggle against Russia neither in general, nor in the Ukrainian civil war, has proven successful. In spite of massive Western support, the pro-western oriented Kiev government has yet to succeed in defeating the insurgency in Eastern Ukraine and taking complete control over the country. Quite a few observers doubt that the Kiev troops' possible immanent offensive [1] will bring a decisive military victory. There are absolutely no indications that Russia can be compelled any time soon to revoke Crimea's incorporation, as is being demanded by the West. So far, efforts to overthrow President Putin have also been unsuccessful. Putin still enjoys the greatest popularity.

First Losses

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.[2]) 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.

A Double Strategy

Therefore, prominent German foreign policymakers have now begun, to plead for pursuing a "double strategy." On the one hand, the former State Secretary in the foreign ministry - currently the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference - Wolfgang Ischinger, demands in the latest issue of the journal "Internationale Politik," that a "position of strength" be demonstrated toward Russia. For example, at the NATO Summit in September, the member nations agreed to create a 'Spearhead' interim force, which fulfills this purpose. This year, Germany is a leading participant. On the other hand, Ischinger insists, that a "second pillar for a double strategy be expanded:" Efforts to "enhance military transparency," and, in the long run, initiate also talks on the "idea of the Common European House" - a cooperation that engages, as long as the confrontation does not lead to Russia's downfall. Similarities to western strategies during the cold war are evident. "Essentially, this new double strategy is based on the idea of 'congagement' - a conflation of containment and engagement," explains Ischinger.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6])

Willing and Able

Experts explain their demand to return the power struggle to the economic realm, with the observation that a continued escalation runs the risk of becoming counterproductive. "Over the past few decades, the West has applied its political influence by threatening "excommunication" from the global economy," "Internationale Politik" explains, in reference to current western sanctions on Russia.[7] "Former colonies, such as India, China and Brazil have never found it particularly palatable for the West to be using global institutions to impose its interests." They are not only "willing, to a growing degree," but also becoming "able to circumvent international institutions with alternative agreements," as the examples of the BRICS countries' development bank and its new monetary fund [8], created last year as alternatives to the World Bank and the IMF, have shown. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9]) Because of the growing strength of at least some of the BRICS countries, one must be careful. If the West attempts to use international institutions "against Russia, these emerging powers could converge," which would not enhance the West's odds.

"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."[10]

Other reports and background information on the West's current aggressive policy toward Russia can be found here: The Alliance of the Threatened and A Monroe Doctrine for Eastern Europe.

[1] See The Usefulness of a Ceasefire.
[2] See EU's Contradictions and The Scrapped Pipeline Project (II).
[3] Wolfgang Ischinger: Eine Aufgabe für Generationen. Internationale Politik, Januar/Februar 2015.
[4] Mark Leonard, Ivan Krastev: Die neue europäische Unordnung. Internationale Politik, Januar/Februar 2015.
[5] Merkel lockt Russland mit Handel. www.tagesschau.de 23.01.2015.
[6] See A Lesson Learned.
[7] Mark Leonard, Ivan Krastev: Die neue europäische Unordnung. Internationale Politik, Januar/Februar 2015.
[8] Brasilien, Russland, Indien, China, Südafrika.
[9] See The Alliance of the Threatened.
[10] Eduard Steiner: Sanktionen gegen Russland: Kein Stein der Weisen. diepresse.com 26.01.2015.