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Europe's dilemma over the Russia-Ukraine conflict: Caught between economic interests and war

February 26, 2022 at 1:21 pm

Firefighters seen outside a damaged apartment building in Kyiv which was hit by shelling during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on February 26, 2022 [Aytaç Ünal / Anadolu Agency]

Did Germany’s “unofficial” Russia policy help prepare the ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Putting aside the Nord Stream 2 agreement between Germany and Russia, there were other important areas of cooperation that can be traced back to the Georgia conflict.

In the autumn of 2008, when Moscow threatened war on Georgia, German politicians and business elites gathered in Russia’s palatial embassy in the country’s capital for a lavish ball. “Russia is among friends,” one guest stated. As the German saying goes: “Loyalty to friends is tested in a storm.”

For Germany, this party never stopped. From the Georgian invasion to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the downing of MH-17 and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, Germany has always found a way to forgive its friend to the east. As BASF’s then-Chief Executive Eggert Voscherau told the enthusiastic partygoers in 2008, peace can’t be achieved “through exclusion”.

Comparably, Berlin also dismissed the NATO line on sending troops and equipment to the Baltic states and Romania in order to boost the alliance’s eastern flank.

Last January, the US State Department cleared Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send US-made missiles and other weapons to Ukraine, as President Joe Biden predicted Russia would move in on Ukraine. Many other NATO allies, including Britain and Poland, also agreed to export weapons directly to Ukraine. But yet again, the German government declined to do so. Why?

In practice, Germany does not want to send any defensive weapons to Ukraine. It blocked Estonia from sending such equipment, which had been made in Germany, and a UK aircraft carrying military equipment to Ukraine detoured around German airspace.

Clearly, the German political establishment believes such moves will destabilise Europe. What has not been declared, though, is the German fear that open military support for Ukraine would make it more difficult to have a dialogue with Russia. In other words, the German political and business establishments are so close to Russia that they don’t want to undermine their decades-long relations. This position has angered NATO, the Baltic states and Central European countries. They believe Germany doesn’t understand their security concerns or Russia’s intentions.

Opinion: No ordinary geopolitical issue

Meanwhile, Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014, while Europe, mainly Germany, built the Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite this invasion. It is not a new phenomenon. It was clear from the beginning that the end of Gazprom dependency on the Ukrainian pipelines would remove a restraining factor on Russia’s already aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine. So, why did Germany continue to build this pipeline even though they always claim their support for Ukraine’s unity?

Now, it is time to acknowledge the link between Western miscalculations and the current war in Ukraine. The West had seriously misled Ukraine by building up its military capacity. But crucially, Ukraine is still waiting to join NATO. On 12 June, 2020, Ukraine joined NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partner, a programme and offer that has been seen as “hush money”.

Additionally, despite the imposition of more sanctions on the Putin regime, they ensured that Russian “dirty money” continued to swell around London. Labour and anti-corruption campaigners in the UK accused the government of failing to curtail Russian wealth and influence in Britain, despite years of provocative actions from the Kremlin. According to the Atlantic Council think tank, it has been estimated that Russians hold as much as $1 trillion in wealth abroad.

The truth is that Europe, especially Germany, wants to do business with “energy-rich” and “technology-rich” countries like Russia. Yes, it might be very difficult to impose any sanctions on such a strong ally, but, at least, besides comprehensive economic measures and interests, it is Europe’s duty to limit Russia’s threat and invasion. Failing to do so, Western politicians should publicly confess that they can destroy their national interests because of Ukraine. The West cannot hide its hypocrisy by only honouring Russian journalists with Nobel Prizes. There must be something more meaningful if the European Union wants to be the leader of “human rights and democracy”.

Read: Image of Israel’s Gaza onslaught being used to highlight Russia aggression in Ukraine

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