The Foreign Policy Tool Chest

BERLIN/MOSCOW | | russische-foederation

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) - German government advisors are speculating about Russia's possible foreign policy offensives and discussing countermeasures to be taken. According to a research paper published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Russia "has continuously developed and further diversified" its foreign policy "tool chest" over the past few years. Today it includes "enhanced military capabilities, alongside numerous 'soft' tools." like "the orchestrated disinformation campaign in traditional mass media and online social networks, the instrumentalization of ethnic minorities, use of civil society organizations, economic cooperation, or economic pressure." The research paper describes fictitious scenarios, such as Russian support for extreme right-wing parties in Western European election campaigns as well as steps to ward off Russian influence. The types of international activities being ascribed to Russia are practices long in use by NATO countries - particularly Germany.

Speculative Scenarios

In its efforts to assume the consequences of the fact that German foreign policy analyzing institutions had not foreseen Moscow's strategic foreign policy initiatives - e. g. Russia's strong reaction to the overthrow of the Ukrainian government or its intervention in the Syrian war (german-foreign-policy.com reported [1]) - the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) has recently elaborated eleven scenarios, based on speculations about various, mainly offensive, Russian activities and possible countermeasures. Some of the outlined activities correspond to aspects of measures Moscow has already applied over the past few years, while others have been extrapolated into the future. For the most part, they are measures Germany, other EU and NATO countries have long since been using to achieve their foreign policy objectives. Russia has now begun to mimic these measures or, at least, SWP supposes that Russia could eventually imitate them.

The Extreme Right

According to SWP, one of Moscow's foreign policy tools is the support of - particularly right-wing - political parties in EU countries. In one of its scenario's, SWP depicts Russian electoral support for France's Front National (FN) in the April 2017 French presidential elections.[2] By helping to strengthen nationalist parties, Moscow, on the one hand, is seeking to weaken the EU's cohesion, SWP explains, and, on the other, strengthen forces seeking to reduce cooperation with the United States and rather enhance cooperation with Russia. In the past, the FN has in fact received support from Russia. However, supporting other countries' - even extremist right-wing - parties to detach them from their traditional allies, and attach them to Germany, has been one of the traditional tools of German foreign policy, which even maintains party-affiliated foundations in numerous countries on all continents for this purpose. For example, German authorities helped ultra right-wing forces in Croatia to disintegrate Yugoslavia [3] or to facilitate the February 2014 putsch in Ukraine (german-foreign-policy.com reported [4]). In Russia, German foreign policy also shows sympathy for Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician, who has repeatedly participated in rallies organized by the Russian extreme right and who is known for his racist incitement. In the fall of 2013, the leading German foreign policy establishment publication, "Internationale Politik," made a plea for promoting "groups ..., for example, from the nationalist and patriotic spectrum" by way of "dialogue forums" in Russia. They are "an important factor in the Russian society."[5]

Protecting Powers

In another scenario, the SWP outlines Moscow's "instrumentalization of ethnic minorities," particularly ethnic Germans of Russia. The scenario depicts fictitious electoral successes of a German-Russian political party, working closely with Russia, and efforts of the Moscow government to impose itself as a sort of protective power for German-Russians, thereby gaining influence over German policymaking. Moscow had, in fact, taken steps in this direction at the beginning of the year.[6] However, this corresponds exactly to an old German political strategy. Official German government institutions maintain close contacts to German-speaking minorities in numerous countries of Europe and Central Asia, by way of the German interior ministry and several front organizations, such as the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN).[7] Germany financially supports the organizations of these ethnic minorities and invites them regularly to Germany, where they discuss the situation with interior ministry representatives. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) In Poland, a seat is reserved for a representative of the German-speaking minority in the Sejm (parliament). The parliamentarian, holding this seat, usually maintains close contacts to German politicians, for example to the German government's commissioner for "questions of repatriation and national minorities." Romania's current president is the long-time leader of one of the "German-Romanian" organizations. President Klaus Johannis owes his political career to support provided the country's German-language minority by German government agencies. He has always loyally cooperated with Berlin. Shortly prior to the first round in the November 2, 2014 presidential elections - in which he was victorious - Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly came out in support of his candidature. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9]) In his capacity as an official of the "Romanian Germans," Johannis is explicitly called upon to serve as a "bridge builder" between Berlin and Bucharest. This is also meant to open special channels for the German government to enhance its influence in his country.

State Propaganda

SWP devotes particular attention to the spread of Russian media outlets in Western Europe, not least of all in Germany. Moscow disposes of "a network of loyal media outlets," "particularly the 'RT' and 'Sputnik' TV and radio stations," according to one scenario. "Only a small allocation of resources - for example, disinformation and discrediting campaigns on Russian online media -" is sufficient to tangibly influence "the political balance of power." Countries maintaining foreign service broadcasters are very common among NATO members. The USA, for example, is present worldwide with its state-financed "Voice of America," "Rado Free Europe" or "Radio Free Asia," programs. France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs operates "Radio France International," while in Germany, the "Deutsche Welle" is financed from the government budget. Other countries, such as Qatar, also maintain foreign service broadcasters. The Al Jazeera broadcaster, under the control of the Qatari ruling family is not criticized in Germany. During the upheavals in the Arab world and especially during the Syrian War, it joined sides with the West. As was recently pointed out in a brief analysis published in the University of Bremen's "Russland Analysen," the Russian state-financed media, currently drawing so much attention in foreign policy establishments and under massive attack, has only expanded its international activities "since the crisis in Ukraine."[10] Berlin and Brussels have launched elaborate countermeasures. The EU, for example, has established a PR organization ("East StratCom Task Force" [11]), according to SWP, aimed at "developing communication strategies and campaigns around EU activities" in order to "provide a positive EU narrative" - classical state propaganda.

Multipolar, Rather than Unilateral

Other scenarios of the SWP study describe measures of classical international hegemonic policies. For example, the think tank walks the reader through possible developments of the balances of power in the Middle East, should Russia include a bilateral "security agreement" with Baghdad to its already existing intelligence service cooperation with Syria, Iran and Iraq. The SWP recommends steps the EU can make to "close any political spaces" in the Middle East that Russia might threaten to penetrate. The study also discusses what reaction to take, should Moscow not accept the deployment of NATO's missile defense system in Eastern Europe and announce its own deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Western Russia. Also analyzed are - purely speculative - Russian military interventions in Kazakhstan or Tajikistan, as well as a possible merger of North and South Ossetia into the Russian Federation. All of these examples represent measures that, up to the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation or Moscow's intervention in Syria, had all been monopolized by NATO countries. However, they are now also being applied by Russia. Moscow's objective, according to SWP, is "to replace the American-led unilateral with a multipolar global order." Berlin is preparing countermeasures.

[1] See Aiming at Confrontation.
[2] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Sabine Fischer, Margarete Klein (Hg.): Denkbare Überraschungen. Elf Entwicklungen, die Russlands Außenpolitik nehmen könnte. SWP-Studie S 15, Juli 2016.
[3] See Nützliche Faschisten and The Era of Revisionism (II).
[4] See Termin beim Botschafter and Vom Stigma befreit.
[5] Stefan Meister: Mehr Mut gegenüber Moskau. Wie eine neue deutsche Russland-Politik aussehen könnte. Internationale Politik September/Oktober 2013. S. dazu Hebelpunkte gegenüber Russland.
[6] See Die Ausweitung der Kampfzone.
[7] See Hintergrundbericht: Die Föderalistische Union Europäischer Volksgruppen.
[8] See Beziehungen pflegen and Back to the Roots.
[9] See Das "Deutschtum" als Brücke and "A Bit More German Ruled".
[10] Dmitri Stratievski: Die Wirkung der Staatsmedien Russlands in Deutschland: Genese, Ziele, Einflussmöglichkeiten. In: Russland-Analysen Nr. 317, 03.06.2016. S. 13-16.
[11] See Media Cold War and The West's Two-Pronged Strategy (II).