By Bohdan Nahaylo.

July 25, 2021

Kyiv Post

Following up on the worst “deal” so far of the century – the Washington-Berlin “compromise” on Nord Stream 2 — here are a few more comments:

The shock and the outrage that this arrogant, ill-conceived, and unceremoniously delivered attempted “force majeure” by Berlin and Washington has, not surprisingly, had a boomerang effect.

From Kyiv and Warsaw, via Brussels, Paris, and London, to Washington itself, there is a sense of shock and outrage, some overt, and much of it tactfully being expressed behind the scenes. Of having been, not so much let down, as ignored, or disrespected by official Washington and Berlin acting as a self-styled dubious new axis which has assumed the prerogative to decide policy on behalf of all their partners and allies.

But at the core is the poor judgment, if not implicit betrayal, they have demonstrated, of friends and principles. Two leading and respected Western states projecting themselves as exemplars of democracy intent on securing a rapprochement after the confusion of the Trump years end up condoning a pact with the devil that is intent on undermining them.

The “deal” only plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin’s anti-Western Russia. Or is there more behind the scenes that we don’t know about – as some conspiracy theorists are already suggesting? That an even more grandiose and distasteful deal, or is it a plot, is in the making?

Where is Europe, all of its constituents in the European Union and beyond, it, in all of this? Why has Brussels itself, that is the European Union, been ignored?

And what about the strong American voices in Congress and beyond opposing what Joe Biden himself had until recently said was bad for Europe and US interests, too? Are they to be ignored, too?

And what of the G7?  Are Biden’s administration and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government also claiming the right to speak on behalf of Britain, Canada, Japan, and Italy  – members of the G7 – without consulting them?

It’s unlikely that London, Ottawa, and Tokyo will support such arbitrary behavior that has made a mockery of the need for consultations and consensus.

Paris has in effect been snubbed and left out of the picture. And the French don’t like their pride being injured. Their reaction has been very guarded. But their Foreign Ministry has already

stated rather pointedly that it will need to assess possible threats to European sovereignty and energy security.

One wonders what is being said in the corridors and offices of the EU and NATO itself in Brussels.

For again, what’s happened is not all about Ukraine, but the very scheme of things – the international order as such, and the values that the free world is supposed to uphold.

Understandably, in Ukraine and Poland, official representatives have been voicing their shock and disapproval. In fact, this bitter experience has brought them and their other eastern European allies even closer together.

If Ukraine is to be treated in this humiliating way and offered no concrete security assurances to offset the damage and injury done, and to safeguard against the dangers ahead, what is the message for the rest of eastern Europe confronted with the Russian threat?

Not just Poland, the Baltic states, but also Moldova, Georgia, and in the longer term, Belarus.

Berlin’s behavior is of course highly disappointing, but hardly out of character. We’ve come to expect it from a German political elite for whom money rather than principles matter most; whose former leaders have had no scruples, as in the case of Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, to abandon his Western friends as soon as he left office and become a highly paid representative of Putin’s chief sacred cow –the energy giant Gazprom.

In other words, an implicit agent acting against the interests of the democratic world that gave him recognition and fame, if perhaps a less modest fortune. Greed and cynical treachery, however, disguised!

Let’s not be naive and discount the corruption factor, generously financed by the Kremlin that made Nord Stream 1, which Schröder approved, and now Nord Stream 2, so attractive for the German business and which I’m sure we’ll eventually learn more about.

Incidentally, Schröder’s protégé, who was his closest political associate, the seemingly always pro-Russian, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is the current president of Germany. And he’s also very active in promoting his “formula” based on Russia’s terms for reaching a peace settlement in the Russo-Ukrainian war in eastern Ukraine.

Nefarious collusion between Berlin and Moscow has a long history. The Polish foreign minister bluntly recalled this a few days ago when he referred to Nord Stream 2 as the “Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline.”

Below the belt? Not so if we remember that all this fits into a traditional pattern.

The two supposed rival capitals began their sinister cooperation in the 1920s – after the Treaty of Rapallo of 1922. Masking their collusion behind trade agreements, the democratic German Weimar Republic secretly cooperated with the “anti-capitalist” Soviet dictatorship to develop their respective military forces out of sight of the victors of World War One.

By the time Hitler came to power in 1932, the Soviet Union had provided him with a modernized military potential that had been largely developed on Soviet territory in a mutually beneficial exercise.

Today, Germany again wants to have it both ways. To affirm its democratic credentials and be important. Yet, on the other hand, to cooperate directly with the very same Russia that in other fora it criticizes for its aggressive and subversive behavior.

To maintain a de facto special relationship with Moscow regardless of its politics and crimes. In fact, it’s the latest version of Berlin’s soft line towards Moscow pioneered by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the 1970s and dubbed “Ostpolitik.”

The current German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, like Schröder and Steinmeier, also a product of the SPD – Merkel is from the more conservative Christian Democratic Union, CDU – insists that business with Russia has to be continued.  “It is not only wrong but also dangerous for our security interests in Europe” to break off economic ties with Moscow he told the unimpressed Polish foreign minister in Warsaw on July 1.

This position appears illogical and disloyal towards Germany’s friends and allies.

How can Berlin, with one hand, apply sanctions along with its western partners against Moscow for its crude aggression against Ukraine and others, and condemn it for killing, or attempting to murder political dissidents? And yet, with the other, encourage it by doing business with it on a grand scale under the dishonest premise that politics and business are somehow not related.

Moscow has never thought this way. And whether before it was Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, or Leonid Brezhnev, and it’s Putin today, Russia, in all its guises, has always seen economics, business, and trade as weapons and levers – the continuation of politics by other means.

Berlin surely knows that by agreeing to the Nord Stream 2 project, the revenues that the Russian state energy giant Gazprom will obtain will be used to bolster Russia’s military might and hybrid warfare capacity. It will not help the country’s long-suffering and largely impoverished population that remains exploited by Putin’s energy-based kleptocracy.

And one more point overlooked in all of this. By occupying Ukrainian territory and continuing the war in the Donbas, Russia not only alienated its neighbor for good but also lost its lucrative energy market there. This and Western sanctions have taken the steam out of Russia’s economy.

And now Germany, which despite the obvious conflict of interest, wants to act as a mediator along with France in the Normandy Four negotiating format with Russia and Ukraine, is throwing the Kremlin a lifeline.  What game is this?

And now to Biden. Remember when Donald Trump became president and seemingly sought to ingratiate himself with Putin. His apparent reluctance to see the Russian leader as an aggressor and enemy of the free world raised many questions.

It also fueled speculation. Did Putin have information – dirt – on him that could be used as blackmail? Today, unfortunately, the same question is raised by Biden’s surprising softness so far, despite everything he knows and promised to do, in facing up to the challenges posed by the Russian threat.

Why is he blinking?

Half a year after becoming president, Biden has said many of the right things but has failed to match them with deeds. He has suddenly given up on Western efforts to hold the Taliban in check in Afghanistan and now grudgingly agreed to Merkel’s ”pact with the devil” – that is with a hostile Russia, through the endorsement of North Stream 2.

So, based on what we have witnessed, without mincing words, there has been a massive demoralizing sell-out by Washington (which should have known better) and Berlin (which is certainly aware of what its behavior represents) to autocratic anti-western Russia.

And yes, without exaggeration, it amounts to a betrayal on the scale of some of the most infamous moments of appeasement to hostile tyrants, such as Munich 1938, or Yalta 1945.

Fortunately, there’s still time to contain, and even undo the damage. But for this, we need honesty, political will, and a strong, unequivocal response from those who see this sham US-German compromise for the mistake it was, and the threats it poses.