The Other Europe

Russia and the West

By Karl Müller, Current Concerns, 2015, No 1

Various media quoted or provided a forum for a number of European voices who do not agree with the confrontation policy with Russia.

Here is a small selection:

“I cannot overlook the fact – and that it is not a coincidence – that Henry Kissinger, Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and even of course Helmut Kohl, not to mention Mikhail Gorbachev – all of them old men – hold the same view: There is no stability in Europe without Russia, only with Russia. And I feel very comfortable in their company.” This is what Egon Bahr said in an interview with Compact magazine, issue of January 2015. 92-year-old Egon Bahr is one of the fathers of the German policy of détente during the sixties and seventies and up to this day, his words still carry weight internationally.

On Hungarian television (“German-Russian Business News” dated 12 December 2014), Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban again expressed his view and his criticism of the US role in Europe. Orban accuses the US of “interfering at an unacceptable degree in the domestic politics of Central European countries.” About the scheduled agreement TTIP he said: “It is obvious that in the matter of trade and energy policy it is about definite American interests.” By means of the Ukraine-conflict the US wanted “us to be drawn into a conflict that is harmful to us. A cold war has started between Russia and the United States in which we do not want to have a part.”

As well interesting is what the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported from France on 20 December. Admittedly, the subtitle is rather pejorative: “The French Right reveres Russia as a defender of Christian civilization,” but in the text itself voices from other political camps also get a chance to be heard. “One of the most outspoken critics of the policy of sanctions [against Russia] is the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) deputy Thierry Mariani. The former Minister of Transport has good contacts within the business community and makes use of these to maintain relations with Russia in spite of the sanctions. ‘What happened in Yanukovych’s downfall in Ukraine is nothing other than a putsch supported by NATO and the West’, Mariani said.”

The Frenchman Mariani is by no means alone with his analysis. Amongst other things, it should be recalled here that in his detailed analysis “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault” (Foreign Affairs from September/October 2014), US political scientist John Mearsheimer comes to the conclusion, that “Washington […] evidently supported the putsch in Ukraine.”

Mariani, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” continues, achieved much support for his position from his party, particularly of those still committed to the policy of former President and General de Gaulle, who had urged a “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals”. From the French left, former Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement spoke out. Chevènement promotes a strategic partnership with Russia. The spokesman of the French Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was also clear in his message when he criticized the official policy. According to his statement, France reacts to Moscow “only as America’s vassal.”

A report by the „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ of 27 December shows that the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, is also among the critics of Western policy towards Russia. His statement is quoted with the words that the truth about the situation in Ukraine might be learnt rather from the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov than from the NATO intelligence services, that a “civil war” was taking place in Ukraine and there could be no talk of a Russian aggression and that the sanctions against Russia were going contrary to the “dialogue of civilizations”.

Also interesting is what the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 27 December reported from Germany. Right at the beginning it states: “The German Social Democrats find it increasingly difficult to support the sanctions against Russia. […] Intimates of the Foreign Minister [Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD] are in favor of relaxing the sanctions.”

Internally, the newspaper continued, “it is pointed out in the SPD that there are powerful forces in other EU countries such as Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia pushing for a rapid lifting of sanctions.” Also, the German foreign minister had opposed the Chancellor when she had taken a tough stance against Russia in Sydney, Australia.  One should refrain from making any public statements “which compromise all chances of easing the tension and de-escalating the conflict.”

A meeting of German and Russian media representatives in Sochi, Russia, on 18 December points in the same direction. The meeting took place in spite of or because of the strained relations and was organized by the “Petersburg Dialogue”. The following brief resolution was adopted unanimously, ie. supported by the German and Russian journalists:

“The Media Task Force of the Petersburg Dialogue held a meeting in Sochi on 18 December 2014. After a passionate and controversial discussion about the state of German-Russian relations both sides demanded the continuation of the Petersburg Dialogue as a civil society dialogue between the two countries. In this tense times such a forum is more necessary than ever. The participants aim at playing a part in objectifying the public debate. It is exactly the journalists who must contribute to verbal disarmament. Their performance of this important task must not be interfered with. For mutual understanding it is beneficial to focus on still existing commonalities. The upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the liberation of Germany from National Socialism will offer a good occasion for this. Exercising this responsibility, the Media Task Force of the Petersburg Dialogue will continue their work, with which they expect assistance from the governments of both countries.” (Emphasis added by the author)

The German coordinator of the meeting, the Director of the Central German Broadcasting Channel (MDR), Johann Michael Möller, was quoted by the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” on 29 December as follows: “Like other guests, MDR-radio director Johann Michael Möller, the coordinator on the German side, also complained about the alarmingly aggressive tone, reminiscent of assessments of attitude and ethos, taken by German media, when it comes to the issue of Russia and Ukraine.“

It needs to be added here that all these voices are showered with polemical accusations in those European media that are committed to the official US policy. However, those individuals who are undeterred by this continue to exist. The struggle will continue in the year 2015. For us as citizens, the question arises of what we can do to ensure that the weighting of this other Europe will grow.

Perhaps what the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” referred to as “pragmatism” in the British “security establishment” on the last day of the year, on 31 December, will help. Tony Brenton, Britain‘s former ambassador to Moscow, is quoted at the end of the article in question, with the following words: “In the days when foreign policymakers thought in the long term, there would have been real discomfort at the prospect of Europe permanently landing itself with an embittered, nuclear-armed neighbour, with fast growing links with China […]. Isn’t now the time to start engaging with an undoubtedly weakened Russia on a way out in Ukraine in which everybody’s concerns are taken into account?”

(cf. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11302151/Nows-the-time-to-shake-hands-with-Vladimir-Putin.html )

Published at: http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=2929