Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Europe is No Help, Or, Okay, Now What?

 

Even if President Obama demonstrated an appetite for imposing serious sanctions on Russia, it’s not at all clear that the European Union would support him. Why? From the London Spectator:

[T]he gaping rift between the EU and America stands exposed. The Washington hawks gained almost no traction in western Europe, where there was little appetite for conflict. Even if Russia didn’t supply a third of Europe’s oil and gas, other commercial ties still bind. EU trade with Russia was £280 billion in 2012. America’s total was a twelfth of that, little of it in hydrocarbons. No wonder the hawks have been frustrated that the EU won’t do more.

Upheaval in Ukraine has also seen Germany emerge as a major international player. Berlin, its diplomacy so often hobbled by residual 20th-century guilt, has moved decisively to protect its interests. The Russo-German axis, we realise, is strong and getting stronger. With great determination, many German firms have built lucrative Russian trading links over the last two decades. Along with the likes of VW and Siemens, thousands of ‘Mittelstand’ — small and medium-sized — outfits now operate in Russia’s far-flung regions, making everything from machine tools to plasterboard. Russia has become Germany’s biggest single-country trading partner — a relationship that has much further to run.

Such commercial links put the idea of a united western world baring its teeth at Moscow firmly in the last century. Berlin has staunchly resisted meaningful sanctions, ensuring the EU follows suit.

All this brings to mind an episode from the old days.

Not long after President Reagan took office, he imposed a ban on technology transfers to the Soviet Union, in effect making it impossible for American companies to help build the new Soviet pipeline to Western Europe then under construction. Who opposed this measure so fiercely that the President was ultimately forced to back down, lifting the ban?

Prime Minister Thatcher.

If even Margaret Thatcher insisted on doing business with the Russians, then David Cameron, Angela Merkel and all the rest will most certainly simply shrug off American efforts at real sanctions. The military option is off the table–and, really, who would want to see us start a fight over the Crimea?–and now imposing effective sanctions looks mighty difficult, too.

Dealing with Russia is going to prove…tricky.

Good people of Ricochet, your advice for President Obama?

There are 52 comments.

  1. flownover Inactive

    Better to arm the Ukraine today than fight in Warsaw tomorrow . Failing that , to fight in London next week.
    How does one help a drunk lying in the gutter hugging a bottle ? Break the bottle or gently lift him into a cab ? 
    The germans idiotically shut down their nukes (as did the Japanese-so wait for that too) locking themselves into Russian energy for years to come. 
    Just keep the better restaurants, hotels, and museums open please. 
    And let your new masters burn the immigrant suburbs at night . Imagine what the Russians would do to the car burners in France !
    As for Blighty, I remember being in Harry’s 5 yrs ago and the crowd was mostly Russians with their girls, they took over that as they plotted taking over the City and FTSE , same deal-let’s see how they deal with Brixton , unless they just want to keep Mayfair .

    • #1
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:07 PM PST
    • Like
  2. Dr Steve Member

    Engagement (Thatcher) doesn’t have to mean appeasement (Chamberlain). Yet, economic leverage is a troubling thing. Recall, for example, that levers work both ways. If Merkel can remind Putin (or the other oligarchs), somehow, that it is in Russia’s greater economic interest to stop this movement to the dark side, it may be worth trying. It is better than finger wagging, which seems to be all the US government spokespeople are able to muster. So, Peter, how did the Thatcher engagement work out? Did it tear down any walls?

    • #2
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:25 PM PST
    • Like
  3. Dr Steve Member

    By the way, I will be flying into Russia a week from tomorrow. Staying two weeks. Four cities: Kaliningrad, St. Petes, Arkhangel, and Moscow. Any chances for a Ricochet members meet-up? 

    Of course, I will post some reflections when I return.

    • #3
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:31 PM PST
    • Like
  4. The Mugwump Inactive

    We do nothing until U.S. credibility is restored under a new administration.

    • #4
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:35 PM PST
    • Like
  5. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Dr Steve:
    By the way, I will be flying into Russia a week from tomorrow. Staying two weeks. Four cities: Kaliningrad, St. Petes, Arkhangel, and Moscow. Any chances for a Ricochet members meet-up?
    Of course, I will post some reflections when I return.

     I, for one, will read them greedily.

    • #5
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:40 PM PST
    • Like
  6. Dr Steve Member

    The Mugwump:
    We do nothing until U.S. credibility is restored under a new administration.

     Curiously, and sadly, if you replace “nothing” with “everything,” you have stated the “Putin Doctrine.” 

    • #6
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:41 PM PST
    • Like
  7. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    The real question is not “what can we do?” Rather, the question is how much of the old empire (Soviet or Russian, I’m still uncertain which he’s seeking) is the world willing to let him reconstitute before we all stand up and do something about it? If annexing your neighbor suddenly becomes acceptable behavior simply because it doesn’t upset economic interests too much, then we’ve already determined what kind of world we are, and all that’s left is haggling about the price.

    • #7
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:41 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Dr Steve Member

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Dr Steve: By the way, I will be flying into Russia a week from tomorrow. Staying two weeks. Four cities: Kaliningrad, St. Petes, Arkhangel, and Moscow. Any chances for a Ricochet members meet-up? Of course, I will post some reflections when I return.

    I, for one, will read them greedily.

     My traveling will be under the aupices of a Fulbright grant, so it is officially “hosted” by Russia. I will be pretty coddled (and told not to make waves), but I will try to make as many mental notes as I can. 

    • #8
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:44 PM PST
    • Like
  9. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Peter, this piece by Paul Gregory of the Hoover Institution should buck you up. The sanctions are beginning to have an effect; the Europeans are following in their lead. They have admitted Ukraine to associate status in the EU. They will be sanctioning the same kleptocrats that we have sanctioned, and they intend to see to it that there are international observers on the ground in Ukraine to investigate charges of Russian interference and of the mistreatment of minorities. Those who bank at sanctioned banks have discovered that their credit cards do not work. Russian deposits in Switzerland are being blocked. They may soon be excluded from the SWIFT money transfer system, and the Germans, who have extensive storage facilities and can get gas from Norway, are thinking about foregoing purchases of Russian gas. Putin is have trouble keeping the business community on board.

    • #9
    • March 21, 2014, at 4:47 PM PST
    • Like
  10. Steve MacDonald Inactive

    I have spent 64 years living overseas and believe that the USA is a country that most people enjoy throwing stones at – such is human nature towards the big guy on the block. Obama has seriously weakened our position in mistreating allies, ignoring previously close relationships and prominently displaying weakness. This has increased ever present resentful attitudes and decreased respect and willingness to follow our lead. Even at home, the continual automatic fall back to lies has taken a serious credibility toll.

    My advise to the President: Leave, with your Vice President, and let someone new clean up the mess. Failing that, hire people that have a clue and listen to them.

    • #10
    • March 21, 2014, at 5:06 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Larry3435 Member

    “The Washington hawks gained almost no traction in western Europe…”

    Hawks??? There are hawks in the Obama Administration? I sure hope we never find out what doves look like.

    • #11
    • March 21, 2014, at 5:58 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    This would have been a comment but Ricochet blew up my browser.

    • #12
    • March 21, 2014, at 5:59 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Aaron Miller Member

    Many good comments. All I can add is that arming an ally is not a passive, innocent action. For at least a year before the US officially entered WWII, the Germans were sinking our merchant vessels because we were supplying the British. Providing supplies to a war-bound nation might not be exactly an act of war, but it’s close enough for an enemy to respond.

    • #13
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:08 PM PST
    • Like
  14. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    This too would have been a comment but Ricochet blew up my browser.

    • #14
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:17 PM PST
    • Like
  15. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Alas another comment ate by the site.

    • #15
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:19 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Valiuth Member

    If the Germans are the problem here is how I would put it to them.

    Germany is now unified, prosperous and strong. It has the opportunity to prove to Europe and the rest of the world that a strong Germany can be a force for freedom in the world. Over half a century ago Germany was one of the greatest threats to the nations of Europe, now it has the chance to be their protector. If Germany fails in this duty then the German people and nation have learned nothing from their decades of guilt and shame, and the sins of Germany’s past will once again be relived across Europe while a silent Germany gives its consent through its inaction.

    • #16
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:25 PM PST
    • Like
  17. Paddy S Member

    Nevermind.

    • #17
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:36 PM PST
    • Like
  18. Paddy S Member

    People of Ricochet, your advice for President Obama?

    Peter, he should do what Thomas Sowell told you: RESIGN.

    Works for me too….

    • #18
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:39 PM PST
    • Like
  19. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    I am about as much of a supporter of free market capitalism as one can get. But I realize that there are limitations when doing business with dictatorial regimes, whose leaders have bad intentions in mind. 

    These are the options I think are viable:

    1) Create greater economic, political and military ties with E.European nations. Invest there, arm them. Russia gas passes through them before it gets to Germany. They can put pressure on Germany too, but they are just as dependent on Russian gas as Germany.

    2) Invest in oil/gas pipelines from ME or Central Asia into E.Europe. Build LNG ports in E. and W.Europe. Expand US nat gas production and export to Europe. Break the back of Russia’s oil monopoly in Europe. 

    3) If Russian oil/gas monopoly goes, Russia’s influence in Europe is over. If E.Europe becomes the new American military outpost of this new Cold War, W.Europe becomes less relevant. 

    4) Oh, and maybe, invest in coal/nuclear power plants in Europe to break the need for nat gas (if Europe ever decides to give up its addiction to silly green projects).

    • #19
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:43 PM PST
    • Like
  20. flownover Inactive

    Reminding an oligarch about standing in line to buy crap with cash rather being at Harrods with his black Amex is a punishment or a motivational speech ?

    • #20
    • March 21, 2014, at 6:46 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Michael Staughton Inactive

    Alas, the Obama foreign policy at work: you have a hand that isn’t great but it is playable, and then you open your mouth. He had two options. He could come out swinging and acting like he was going to put a stop to this RIGHT NOW, but it would require EU cooperation. Or he could light some very small fires– approve natural gas exports, and send some of the Navy’s finest to buzz around the sites of those bases Russia wants to build in Nicaragua and Cuba. Make it clear that Putin can have Crimea back, because he sprang that one on us, but we’re gearing up to make his life miserable in the long term. He fancies himself the long-term player, so this would disturb him. Meanwhile, just don’t assume the Germans will always be with you. Russia may suck, but communism is gone. End of History, that kind of thing. They just look like another trading partner.

    All very reminiscent of Syria. He had a hand. He could have played it, or been quiet to begin with, but shouting and doing nothing left him worse off than before.

    • #21
    • March 21, 2014, at 7:55 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Dr Steve: By the way, I will be flying into Russia a week from tomorrow. Staying two weeks. Four cities: Kaliningrad, St. Petes, Arkhangel, and Moscow. Any chances for a Ricochet members meet-up? Of course, I will post some reflections when I return.

    I, for one, will read them greedily.

     Me, too! And could you post some pictures as well?

    • #22
    • March 21, 2014, at 8:01 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author

    Paul A. Rahe:
    Peter, this piece by Paul Gregory of the Hoover Institution should buck you up. The sanctions are beginning to have an effect; the Europeans are following in their lead. They have admitted Ukraine to associate status in the EU. They will be sanctioning the same kleptocrats that we have sanctioned, and they intend to see to it that there are international observers on the ground in Ukraine to investigate charges of Russian interference and of the mistreatment of minorities. Those who bank at sanctioned banks have discovered that their credit cards do not work. Russian deposits in Switzerland are being blocked. They may soon be excluded from the SWIFT money transfer system, and the Germans, who have extensive storage facilities and can get gas from Norway, are thinking about foregoing purchases of Russian gas. Putin is have trouble keeping the business community on board.

    I’m hugely relieved to learn all this, Paul. And if our colleague Paul Gregory says it, it’s true. Paul knows as much about Russia–starting about a thousand years ago–as anyone I’ve ever met.

    • #23
    • March 21, 2014, at 8:05 PM PST
    • Like
  24. James Of England Moderator

    Peter Robinson:

    Paul A. Rahe: Peter, this piece by Paul Gregory of the Hoover Institution should buck you up……

    I’m hugely relieved to learn all this, Paul. And if our colleague Paul Gregory says it, it’s true…..

    For what it’s worth, I’m friends with some of the people in the UK’s anti-Russian activist community, and they’ve mostly been pleasantly surprised by how well sanctions are going. I don’t think that I’ve been to a talk that hasn’t noted, or that I know an activist in the field who doesn’t emphasize, the degree to which these sorts of sanctions are the most effective way of exerting influence on Russia. Making Russia poorer is hard, and doesn’t affect the decision makers much; it’s not like they have all their money invested domestically anyway, and a 15% loss of income to a multi-billionaire makes less difference to their quality of life than you’d think.

    I still think we should take positive steps, such as supplying the Free Syrian Army, building Keystone/ LNG facilities, rearming, etc., but the field of negative sanctions appears to be progressing reasonably well.

    • #24
    • March 21, 2014, at 8:44 PM PST
    • Like
  25. Jules PA Member

    Dr Steve:
    By the way, I will be flying into Russia a week from tomorrow. Staying two weeks. Four cities: Kaliningrad, St. Petes, Arkhangel, and Moscow.

     Don’t plan to use your Visa or MasterCard…I think V & MC pulled out of Russia today!

    • #25
    • March 21, 2014, at 8:51 PM PST
    • Like
  26. John Hanson Thatcher

    Mostly slow acting, but send long term message that we are still around and serious. Work to reduce eliminate Russian energy hegemony in Europe.

    1) Don’t do some of the proposed DOD cuts

    2) Build Keystone Pipeline – fast

    3) Remove restrictions on export of LNG

    4) Build more Nukes here, and support more elsewhere in Europe

    5) Stop the Climate Change nonsense, that makes Europe more dependent on Russia, while eating up global resources better used to further economic development not controlled through Russia

    • #26
    • March 21, 2014, at 8:59 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Jules PA Member

    Maybe president Obama should guest host “between two ferns” in an attempt to reign Putin in, break international tensions and strengthen our EU alliance.

    obama_putin 

    • #27
    • March 21, 2014, at 9:16 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Dr Steve Member

    I will definitely have the good camera with me. BTW, this is the news advisory for my group, as of a week ago, from our consular contact: 

    “. . . we will not seek to engage anyone in debate about the situation, we will actively avoid demonstrations, and we will evacuate areas upon which we might happen upon a demonstration as we conduct our visits. In other words, we will keep a low profile while concentrating on the educational purpose of our visit.” 

    Avoid debate? This makes me wonder if this person has ever dealt with academics before. 

    • #28
    • March 21, 2014, at 9:22 PM PST
    • Like
  29. James Of England Moderator

    John Hanson:
    Mostly slow acting, but send long term message that we are still around and serious. Work to reduce eliminate Russian energy hegemony in Europe.
    1) Don’t do some of the proposed DOD cuts
    2) Build Keystone Pipeline – fast
    3) Remove restrictions on export of LNG
    4) Build more Nukes here, and support more elsewhere in Europe
    5) Stop the Climate Change nonsense, that makes Europe more dependent on Russia, while eating up global resources better used to further economic development not controlled through Russia

     My list in comment #…. Can we get comment numbers back, please?

    My list from a few comments earlier was similar, plus FSA supplying. The exception is the last one. How on earth do you believe that Obama should go about persuading European electorates to stop worshiping at the church of warmism?

    • #29
    • March 21, 2014, at 9:24 PM PST
    • Like
  30. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Member

    James Of England:

    Peter Robinson:

    Paul A. Rahe: Peter, this piece by Paul Gregory of the Hoover Institution should buck you up……

    I’m hugely relieved to learn all this, Paul. And if our colleague Paul Gregory says it, it’s true…..

    For what it’s worth, I’m friends with some of the people in the UK’s anti-Russian activist community, and they’ve mostly been pleasantly surprised by how well sanctions are going.

    I certainly hope you are correct but can hardly credit it, to my eye activists tend to be heartened by the smallest degree of success. If Putin is influenced in the least by such measures it will be a miracle.

    • #30
    • March 22, 2014, at 12:30 AM PST
    • Like