Convoy of Russian armored vehicles on a highway in Crimea, a region of Ukraine that was invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014, photo taken on January 18, 2022. Russia gathers more than 100,000 soldiers, with tanks and other heavy weapons, near the border with the neighboring country, in what Western countries fear could be a prelude to a new invasion. — Photo: AP
In recent weeks, the diplomatic rush has highlighted the efforts of the United States and Europe to try to contain the Russian offensive in Ukraine and also exposes the fissures within NATO on how best to deal with Vladimir Putin. And the Russian president appears to capitalize on the disunity in the Atlantic alliance, exploiting first the divisions between Europeans and then those between the bloc and its US allies..
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On the American side, Joe Biden, helped by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, abuses warmongering rhetoric and plots severe punishments for Russia and its president. On the European side, the resistance of Germany to act forcefully against the country, in the event of a possible Russian aggression, irritates and generates distrust among the allies.
The apparent German tolerance lies, in the first instance, in their dependence on Russia for energy. Germany is the world’s largest buyer of Russian gas: it receives more than half of its imports from the country, compared to an average of 40% for other European Union countries. This explains, for example, Berlin’s opposition to Estonia’s arms shipments to Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden greet each other as they arrive for a meeting at ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland. on June 16, 2021 — Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP
Another crucial factor in the divergences inside and outside Europe is the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which links Russia to Germany for 1,200 km (directly through the Batic Sea, without passing through Ukraine). Although it was completed in September by the state-owned company Gazprom, with an investment of US$ 11 billion, the project has not yet started operating, awaiting certification.
The US intends to include the pipeline in the sanctions package, as a geopolitical tool against Russiabut they run into opposition from the Germany. “We must not push away the Nord Stream 2 for this conflict,” said German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht recently. The pipeline will benefit 26 million German homes.
Under pressure from Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz admits to taking a tougher line on Moscow, saying that the Nord Stream 2 can enter the sanctions list. Putin bets on the gap between speech and action of the Germany. And the American president knows he cannot face the Russia without first breaking the Germanic resistance.
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet at the Élysée Palace in Paris on December 10, 2021 — Photo: Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool via Reuters