"Peace with Russia No Moral Obligation"

German foreign policy advisors insist on escalating confrontation with Russia: embargo, exclusion from SWIFT, military intimidation.

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) - German foreign policy makers and government advisors are calling for escalating western aggression against Russia. "We must hit Russia, there, where it really hurts," admonishes foreign policy expert Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP). Experts at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) support military activities - such as "a military mission in the Black Sea" - as "foreign policy intimidation" of Moscow. Disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT global payment system should also be considered. According to EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell, the EU must "be prepared for a long and hard period in our relations with Russia." German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer claims that Moscow is already engaged in "warfare in the middle of Europe." The Russian government, on the other hand, is beginning to defend itself against the EU's sanctions and other coercive measures. At the end of last week, Moscow imposed counter-sanctions on several EU politicians. The conflict is escalating.

Russia's Counter-Sanctions

Last Friday, Russia imposed counter-measures in response to recent EU sanctions. In March, Brussels had imposed entry bans on several Russian officials and ordered the freezing of their assets located within the EU.[1] Moscow, in response, has banned eight officials from EU member states from entering Russian territory. In its reasoning, the Russian foreign ministry writes that the steady expansion of the EU's sanctions runs counter to the "UN Charter and fundamental standards of international law." They are accompanied by "anti-Russia hysterics" fueled by the Western media. The EU's sanctions leave "no doubt" that Brussels ultimately aims to restrain "the development of Russia at all cost" and to impose a "world order," which undermines international law through the constant interference in the domestic affairs of foreign nations. "The independence of Russia's foreign and domestic policies is thereby being openly challenged."[2] Moscow's new sanctions are targeting David Sassoli, President of the EU Parliament, Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the EU Commission, Jörg Raupach, Head of Berlin’s Prosecutor's Office, as well as five other officials from Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and France.

"Unfriendly States"

Just a few days prior, Russia had taken counter measures to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from several EU countries. This new conflict was provoked by allegations that Russian agents had blown up an ammunition warehouse of a Czech arms company back in 2014. No verifiable evidence for this allegation has been presented. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic and various other EU states have expelled a double-digit number of Russian diplomats and Russia has responded by revoking the resident status of a double-digit number of European diplomats. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also announced that Russia will present a list of "unfriendly states," whose diplomatic missions will be banned from hiring Russian staff. This will tangibly reduce their scope of activity, also in view of their support of sectors of the Russian opposition.[3] The list will allegedly include Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. Whether Germany will be listed remains to be seen.

Worse than the Cold War

Now also confronted with the unanticipated sharp reactions from Beijing to their increasingly uninhibited sanctions,[4] Berlin and Brussels reacted with indignation. Moscow's countermeasures were rejected "in the clearest possible terms," declared a spokesperson of Germany's foreign ministry. They have contributed "to an unnecessary further straining of relations with Russia."[5] In their joint statement EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU Council President, Charles Michel, as well as EU Parliament President David Sassoli, declared that the measures are "unacceptable;" they show that Russia is bent on "confrontation." Of course this is an inversion of the facts. With its recent countermeasures, Moscow was reacting to sanctions imposed by the EU, which Brussels has been repeatedly doing since 2014; the confrontation emanates from the EU. EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell indicated recently that Brussels is prepared to accept a renewed escalation of tensions. It is important to be "prepared for a long and hard phase in the relations with Russia."[6] Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov already sees current relations as worse than those during the cold war: back when there was at least "mutual respect, which is lacking now."[7]

"Showing Russia its Limits"

Berlin's government advisors are pushing to further escalate the situation. Until now, the EU has been unsuccessful in "showing Russia its limits," according to a recent podcast by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), therefore new measures must be taken into consideration.[8] Ronja Kempin, an EU expert at SWP, proposes that "the EU's military organs be assigned" to develop scenarios for "a demilitarized zone between Ukraine and Russia" - with the objective "of disarming both sides." "The Russian Federation should also be otherwise intimidated in its foreign policy;" Brussels, for example could carry out "a military mission in the Black Sea," preferably in the territorial waters of Ukraine or even Turkey. Of course, this could eventually lead "to a military spiral." Susan Stewart, an expert on Eastern Europe at SWP, additionally proposes, to provide Ukraine "stronger military support," and "that other instruments should come into play." Stewart explicitly mentions the option of disconnecting Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) payment system. This move is aimed at largely crippling Russia's foreign trade, and is an attempt at delivering it a fatal blow.

"Russia's Warfare in Europe"

Others are also chiming in on the push for further escalation. The Vice Chair of the FDP Parliamentary Group, in charge of foreign policy, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, demanded last week, "We must hit Russia, there where it really hurts."[9] Lambsdorff suggested "a sanctions policy" that "resembles an embargo," admitting at the same time, that Germany would also have to pay "a price," while alleging, on the other hand, that this would be "justified." Prior, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had claimed that Russia is currently "waging war in the middle of Europe," meaning, the EU and Russia are already at war.[10] On the online edition of the German weekly "Die Zeit," not only is it stated that Germany urgently needs to take a more aggressive course of action against Russia, for example, by providing Ukraine "security within NATO" and indicating "a path toward EU membership," it must also overcome its reluctances. "Particularly the cultural left" must "get over their belief" that "because of the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, peace with Russia is a moral obligation at all costs."[11]


[1] See also The Spiral of Escalation.

[2] Foreign Ministry statement on Russia's response measures to more EU sanctions. mid.ru 30.04.2021.

[3] André Ballin: Lawrow konstatiert Kalten Krieg und kündigt schwarze Liste an. derstandard.at 28.04.2021.

[4] See also Mit gleicher Münze.

[5] EU und Bundesregierung kritisieren russische Sanktionen scharf. zeit.de 01.05.2021.

[6] Russland verbietet acht EU-Vertretern die Einreise. sueddeutsche.de 30.04.2021.

[7] André Ballin: Lawrow konstatiert Kalten Krieg und kündigt schwarze Liste an. derstandard.at 28.04.2021.

[8] Ronja Kempin, Susan Stewart: Russlands Muskelspiele in der europäischen Nachbarschaft - ohnmächtige EU? SWP-Podcast 2021/P 06. Berlin, April 2021.

[9] Konstantin von Hammerstein, Christiane Hoffmann: "Wir müssen Russland dort treffen, wo es wirklich weh tut". spiegel.de 24.04.2021.

[10] Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sieht Europa "konkret und unmittelbar" bedroht. spiegel.de 17.04.2021.

[11] Alan Posener: Deutschlands schallendes Schweigen. zeit.de 30.04.2021.