Rostislav Ishchenko: Merkel Chose Iran over Ukraine in Sochi

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Merkel. In Sochi. Was Unfaithful. To Kiev. With Iran. Putin is a witness.

I’m not joking and I’m not mistaken. On the day of the arrival of Angela Merkel for negotiations with Vladimir Putin, the European Union activated the legislation on its territory that blocks American sanctions against Iran. Moreover, the national governments of EU countries had the opportunity to compensate for the damage incurred by their companies should they suffer because of the direct effect of the American sanctions or the indirect effect (on their business partners).

This means that the European Union, which teetered on the brink of an economic war with the US, didn’t simply opt for a confrontation, but added a political standoff to the economic conflict. For the US the refusal of Europe to join the anti-Iran sanctions is, first of all, a political slap in the face – the refusal to recognise the right of Washington to individually determine the policies of the West. But if the US isn’t recognised by the EU as indisputable authority any more, then it means that the US isn’t the world hegemon any more.

Earlier Washington was still able to claim that it is opposed only by “revisionist countries”, like Russia and China, which allegedly dream of destroying the global order that is close to the heart of every civilised person. Now Europe acted against the most principal American initiative for all recent years.

The EU couldn’t not understand what it’s doing. But neither Euro-bureaucracy nor the French or other Europeans could afford such liberty if they weren’t sure of the hard-line of Germany, which is the financial-economic base of the EU. Europe without Germany means even less than the CIS without Russia.

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I.e., the US is dealing with a German mutiny, and Washington understands this. Moreover, America also understands that it is possible to establish control over the EU only if this mutiny is quickly suppressed. Otherwise the international weight of the US will start falling catastrophically, and no aircraft carrier assault group will help matters. Even the slow Estonians can start reflecting on the changing milestones. And not to mention the others…

Thus, going to Sochi, Merkel knew that Germany lost its main ally in the West. Moreover, the US became for Berlin a hostile force that will try to change the German policies at any cost. Germany can resist the pressure of Washington by only leaning on Russia. It has no other option. It won’t be able to go it alone, the EU as a formation is too friable. There isn’t another State in the world that would be strong and self-sufficient enough in the military, political, economic, and financial plan to extend to Germany a helping hand. Only Russia can.

That’s why it isn’t surprising that Angela Merkel almost completely supported the position of Russia vis-a-vis Syria. The federal chancellor didn’t object to anything, even to Putin’s proposal to the EU (which was more like a demand) to participate in the restoration of Syria.

Merkel’s position on the Ukrainian question was also more than constructive. Frankly speaking, the chancellor has obviously been burdened for a long time by her relationship with the Ukrainian president. She meets him without pleasure, tries to do it as seldom as possible, and, most importantly, stopped the practice of joint communication with the press. After negotiations Poroshenko speaks to journalists about his “success” alone. Later (one or two days) the department of the Federal chancellor or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany specify information, turning virtual success into real failures.

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It isn’t surprising that during the Sochi meeting Merkel especially vigorously defended the Minsk format, which Ukraine and the special representative of State Department Kurt Volker strenuously try to bury. This is the only way of directly influencing Kiev that is available for Germany. Besides this, it is precisely within the framework of Minsk that it is easy for Berlin to coordinate its position with Russia. Paris initially plays a auxiliary function. The Ukrainian crisis is too far away, it doesn’t promise any dividends, but at the same time it doesn’t represent any special danger.

If 6 months-1 year ago we could speak about rapprochement between the positions of Moscow and Berlin concerning the interpretation of the Minsk Agreements, then today we can note that the positions are almost identical.

Also, Merkel’s statement concerning the deployment in Donbass of UN peacekeepers is of interest. She stated her readiness to work on this question together with Russia. Neither Ukraine – whose view of the problem sharply contrasts with the norms and principles of international law, nor the US – which strenuously lobbies the Ukrainian position in the UN – is included by the chancellor in the number of countries that Berlin is ready to work with. Meanwhile, Merkel is a skilled and careful politician, she always chooses the words in her speeches very accurately and doesn’t hurry to answer questions during press conferences, diligently formulating a position. She didn’t forget and didn’t make a mistake. She said it as she wanted to say it.

At finally, despite the incessant pressure of the US, Merkel once again declared the need to complete “Nord Stream-2”. Putin returned the compliment, having promised to leave transit through Ukraine. But such promises were sounded earlier too. Their value lied in the fact that nobody ever named the volume of this potential transit, and the figure that was sounded only once last year by Aleksey Miller – 10-15 billion cubic meters – was openly mocking Ukraine because it determined a volume that is 1.5-2 times lower than what is necessary for the Ukrainian gas transit system to work at a profit. I.e., Kiev, in such a case, not only wouldn’t earn anything for transit, but also would incur losses.

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This time Putin, in addition, devalued the promise to keep transit through Ukraine. He not only standardly didn’t specify the volume of possible transit, but also reported that it will be preserved if the new transit agreement is favorable for all economic entities. I.e., Ukraine must make Russia an offer that is more favorable than pumping along “Nord Stream-2”. The chancellor didn’t object.

And why would she object to it if she made her choice already before travelling [to Sochi – ed]? Otherwise, the EU’s statement about Iran wouldn’t have been sounded on the day of the meeting. And it’s not worth crying over lost hair if you’ve lost your head. It is of course favorable for Germany to pay for Russian support with the interests of the Ukrainian authorities, which are a source of only problems and irritation for Berlin. Such is life. Such are the rules of the game, and Merkel follows them without anger and partiality. Let the loser cry. Her task is ensuring that Germany doesn’t lose.

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