Lavrov Offered Merkel a Choice Between Russia & Navalny

In fact, the statement made a couple of days ago, in which Russia blamed Germany for the impending deterioration of relations between the countries due to the situation with Navalny, had the status of a Foreign Ministry statement.

But since the diplomatic department does not issue statements that would not have been approved by its head, we can rightfully call Sergey Lavrov its co-author.

Moreover, I am absolutely sure that if Vladimir Putin did not edit this statement, at least he was familiar with its content and it also received the president’s approval. It’s too sharp.

On the one hand, it’s possible, of course, to recall the statements of the Foreign Ministry on the Skripal case and find similar passages there. But the fact is that in the Skripal case, we were dealing with the UK. This country has always taken a hostile position towards Russia. Economic ties between Moscow and London have never been strategic. Britain has always been a loyal ally of the US. Therefore, it was possible to warn Britain about the deterioration of relations completely freely — the British obviously sought to worsen them, and even if we assume that the operation with the Skripals failed, they would have come up with something else.

Germany is another matter. Moscow made many sacrifices, scrupulously and carefully building long-term strategic relations with Berlin. Cooperation in the energy sector has long developed into a general economic one, and the latter has started to develop into a political rapprochement, with a tendency to establish long-term alliance relations.

The tough position of Berlin government on Nord Stream 2, which led Germany to a confrontation with the US, the statement made by the German leadership of the inability of the US to ensure the security of Europe and its transition from the state of an economic partner to the status of a competitor – all of this and much more (including common Russian-German problems with Poland) testified to the great potential for the development of Russian-German relations. And here, suddenly, the always extremely cautious Moscow is putting the fruits of many years of work at stake, presenting to Berlin nothing more than an ultimatum: either evidence in the Navalny case, or a diplomatic conflict with serious consequences for economic and political partnership.

Why would that be?

To begin with, let me remind you that those who believed that Moscow would always be cautious and give in had several opportunities to see the fallacy of this view. The Kremlin knows how to choose the moment for a sharp and unexpected blow, as, for example, in August 2008 on Saakashvili (when the Georgian army was defeated, and the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was recognised) or in March 2014, when Crimea was returned to Russia.

It’s just that Russia takes a tough position only when it is absolutely sure of victory, and not like Trump, who frightened Kim Jong-un with aircraft carriers, and as a result was forced to negotiate on North Korean terms.

Germany was harshly, I would even say almost rudely, offered to think about an unpleasant future if it did not stop the bacchanalia with Navalny. Russia has demanded the transfer of the materials testifying about the poisoning of Navalny. This is a normal demand, because if there is an allegation of deliberate poisoning, it is necessary to conduct an investigation, and there are corresponding agreements on legal assistance between Moscow and Berlin.

Germany can provide tests, tissue samples, and everything that Russia demands. But I am afraid that in this case, the lie about Navalny’s poisoning with a military poison will be quickly exposed. Germany may refuse to transfer these materials, but then it will violate the existing agreements, and Russia, as the Foreign Ministry stated, will perceive Berlin’s actions as a deliberate provocation and take retaliatory measures.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry left Berlin a tiny gap – it is necessary to shut up and not stand in the light, and send the recovered oppositionist to his homeland as soon as possible. Germany is unlikely to be able to take advantage of this gap, too much has already been said about Navalny, the case has already been brought to the level of the European Union, Berlin simply cannot inflate it alone. But it is important that Germany has been given options to choose from, and now it can start negotiations with Moscow on a mutually acceptable way out of the crisis.

What gave Russia such confidence? After all, Moscow clearly counts on the fact that, under the threat of confrontation, Berlin will moderate its ardor and will try to quickly close the topic with Navalny.

As was already mentioned, in recent years Germany has sharply diverged from the US for objective reasons. Moreover, this conflict is of a fundamental nature and is insoluble within the framework of existing relationships. It should be borne in mind that the US has a serious influence on some of the EU countries (especially on the eastern Europeans), which are trying to form opposition to German domination in the European Union. Poland stands out especially in this regard, which, just like in the 1920s and 1930s, is trying to oust Germany from the position of the central-eastern European regional leader, replacing it with itself.

The Polish-American alliance is quite dangerous for Berlin. Germany alone cannot resist it, and France, which is Berlin’s partner in terms of the need to reform the EU, is at the same time a competitor of Germany. Macron, in addition, personally competes with Merkel for the personal status of EU leader. The alliance with France is unreliable, and French support is not guaranteed. The only reliable ally is Russia (if only because it is itself the target of attack, both by the US and Poland). Only by relying on cooperation with Moscow can Berlin claim a leading position in the EU.

By promoting the topic of “poisoning Navalny”, Berlin was clearly trying to bargain with Russia for certain geopolitical concessions (no matter where: in Ukraine, in the Balkans, you never know where else). However, domestic political opponents of Merkel’s policy of rapprochement with Russia took the opportunity and launched a campaign against Nord Stream 2.

Merkel is really badly exposed here. Western media have been telling the local public for years that Navalny is Putin’s main competitor in Russia. Therefore, the news of his poisoning, which caused healthy laughter among Russians and questions “who cares about him?”, plunged a significant part of western society into horror — again in Moscow, political competitors are being killed.

Against this background, the campaign of pro-American forces in Germany to abandon Nord Stream 2 received enough public support that Merkel could not ignore it. At first, the Chancellor said that Navalny had nothing to do with the pipeline, but two days later corrected her position and did not rule out that Germany might withdraw from the project.

At the same time, Merkel was well aware that the closure of the Nord Stream 2 project was a nuisance for Russia, but a disaster for Germany. Not only because its economy will lose a serious competitive advantage over the American one. There are other ways to deliver Russian gas to Germany. First of all, it would be a political disaster. In front of the whole world, Berlin would lose the fight for the gas pipeline not only to Washington, but also to Warsaw.

Poland would humiliate Germany by winning a fundamental geopolitical battle with it, deprive Berlin of the prospects of an alliance with Russia, and perhaps actually achieve that most of the eastern European members of the EU would be reoriented from Berlin to Warsaw. Given the history of Polish-German relations, this would be not just a political defeat, but a historical and, in this regard, civilisational defeat.

Trying to avoid the worst, Merkel said that the fate of anti-Russian sanctions on Navalny (including Nord Stream 2) will be decided not by Germany, but by the EU. Considering that several of the largest energy companies of the leading EU countries are involved in the Nord Stream 2 project, Germany could count on the fact that the sanctions would either be blocked by several EU members, or would not affect Nord Stream 2.

But, firstly, all EU members are very sensitive to US pressure. Secondly, why should they die on the battlefield for Nord Stream 2, which Germany is most interested in, if the latter washes its hands? Thirdly, all Europeans love to bargain – they say “We will not impose too harsh sanctions, but you give us something for this”. And why is Russia so happy?

At the same time, the Kremlin knows very well that German business will not forgive either Merkel or her party if the Nord Stream 2 project fails. It is not for nothing that the leaders of the CSU (an ally of the Merkelian CDU) have already stated that there can be no talk of sanctions against Nord Stream 2. Nothing has happened yet, and Merkel’s ruling coalition has already crackled. It was then that Moscow came out with its ultimatum: either Germany stops playing the fool, or Russia itself will sharply reduce the level of cooperation.

Moscow demands that Berlin decide whether we are allies or just passing by. If allies, then Germany’s eastern policy must undergo a radical revision. If it is so simple that interests temporarily coincide, then Russia is not at all interested in such a state strengthening its position in Europe. Let them find out with the Poles who is more valuable to the mother history. And Moscow has already diversified its risks in the energy sector. In times of crisis, when competition is intensifying, there are always buyers for cheaper Russian energy sources, because this reduces the cost of products and increases their competitiveness.

In the end, even the Americans have already realised that they can not bring their expensive liquefied gas to the Europeans, but buy cheap Russian gas and resell it to the same Germans as their more expensive one.

Germany is offered a very difficult choice, but in the end, no one forced it to sponsor the Ukrainian Maidan in 2014, and now rush to treat Navalny, who was easily cured by Omsk doctors. And no one forced it to arrange provocations. It’s high time to know your place and not uselessly jump around.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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