Germany’s Eastern Trade Board: Is Russia now the more reliable partner?


July 31, 2017 – Fort Russ News –

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–, translated from German by Tom Winter –

Logo of the “East-Committee of German Business” (German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations)The European Union can not be so stupid as to accept that the economic interests of the American oil and gas industry are more important than joint action or a common European energy policy. Being independent of Russian energy supplies does not mean surrendering to another monopolist.

East Committee column: Is Russia now the more reliable economic partner?

Looking at the events of the past half year, one has to answer this question with Yes. It is striking how economic connections and confidence, developed over more than seven decades, seem to be dissolving into thin air.

The planned new sanctions against the Russian Federation, Iran, and North Korea are only the provisional highlight of a long series of impulses by the US, since President Trump has been in office.

Democracy and freedom of the press have been conveyed to us by the Americans

I have grown up with a deep gratitude towards the United States, not only because the Marshall Plan has saved us from having to just grow potatoes and breeding cows. Rather, because after the Second World War we have learned fundamental determinants of our society such as freedom of the press, human rights, market economy, liberality, and not least, part of a community of values.

A bit pathetically formulated, we were shown how to live the American dream in Germany. It was just a bit different: The Economic Miracle [Wirtschaftwunder].

Do business interests count more than cooperation?

So what has happened in the past weeks and months? Is there now a break in what has existed much earlier as mere latent discomfort? The impression of the Americans that they are not adequately appreciated by their Europeans for their assistance guarantees and their commitment? Are the European Union and the United States much more competitors than partners?

All these questions can be discussed in one way or the other. However, it is clear that the interdependencies between the national economies are too diverse to simply flip the lever and go separate paths.

It is also clear that the European Union can not be so stupid as to accept that the economic interests of the American oil and gas industry and other industries are more important than joint action or a common European energy policy. Being independent of Russian energy supplies does not mean to surrender to another monopolist.

Principle of voting would be lifted

So now, new sanctions. The logic of the laws in question provides that sanctions can be used as a means of alleged political discipline. It seems obvious, however, that they will be used as soon as opportunity arises.

This not only clarifies the principle of coordinated positions regarding sanctions against Russia. It is also expressly and baldly reveals energy as a means to one’s own – economic – advantage.

So far, the Russian side has always been prepared to control energy supplies, prices, pipeline projects, the suspension of deliveries with political calculus, and to use energy as a weapon.

So where is the difference then, when projects with Russian participation are to be prevented with the help of extraterritorial penal threats, and thus directly striking at the heart of the European and German economy?

WTO, climate protection, world trade

It is not always easy to extract rational patterns of action in these politically and emotionally charged and reproachful times.

But beyond all rhetoric and justifiable criticism of Russian action, one has to allow that Russia has joined the WTO over the last five years, has ratified the Paris Convention on Climate Protection, despite its own protectionist tendencies has called out for free and fair world trade, has harmonized norms and standards with international ones, and has established a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union. The fact is that Russia is obviously using a more liberal economic policy than the United States is doing right now.

Sit down and come to an agreement!

What is the consequence of this mixture? Actually, if the sanctions are to be introduced in the planned form, the EU should adequately react. In plain text, this means that the Europeans sanction the Americans because the Europeans sanction those that work with Russians who in turn sanction Europeans and Americans — And if that sounds schizophrenic, it’s because it is schizophrenic!

From the viewpoint of the German economy and especially the middle class, there is only one really sensible recommendation for action to all the parties involved: sit down at a table and negotiate until a solution has been found that is as completely as possible without sanctions!

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