Germany, Russia and Ukraine: Supporting the Re-Set of Russian Influence


2014-01-31 Ukraine is currently in upheaval.  The Russians are pressuring Ukraine to stay in their orbit.

Yet many Ukrainian citizens wish to expand their relationship with the West and with the European Union.

Is Ukrainian sovereignty the key driver for Western support?  Or is it concerns for supporting Russia’s sphere of influence?

This plays out in part as expanding the role of Ukraine within the European Union or consolidating the Russian customs union.

The choice for the German government seems to be the second, not the first.

Dr. Harald Malmgren in his continuing analyses of the Euro crisis and the role of the German government has made the point repeatedly that Germany is expanding its relationship with Russia as part of its overall geopolitical re-direction.

There are three key actors that will by their actions re-shape the European map.

The first will be Germany. The Germans will be key players in re-shaping the Euro and downsizing the Euro zone to what might be called the Ger-Euro.  The economic and political weight of Germany will go up as the Euro crisis goes on; and the weight of German influence will be to re-shape the Euro zone into a more cohesive, “responsible” and integrated “core.” 

But this is a united Germany, which is shaping a Euro-cohesive process, not a divided Germany, which had to accept the dictate of smaller European powers to gain an end of national division.  It is a Germany, which already recognizes growing intertwining of its future with Russia and the Far East.  It is a Germany already pivoting East.

As Valentina Pop has written in a recent EU Observer piece on Germany and the Eastern Partnership:

The EU was wrong not to have analyzed possible conflicts with Russia before offering the so-called Eastern Partnership to countries like Ukraine, Gernot Erler, Germany’s new chief of relations with Russia and the eastern neighborhood told journalists in Berlin on Thursday (30 January). 

Barely a day in his new job, he said that being labeled as “someone who understands Russia” does not offend him. 

Unlike his predecessor, Andreas Schockenhoff, who did not shy away from harshly criticizing the Kremlin on human rights, Erler says it is important to take into account Moscow’s concerns – be they legitimate or not – about the West.

His appointment was a concession made by Chancellor Angela Merkel to her Social-Democratic coalition partners, who claimed the foreign ministry in the coalition government. 

Erler, who will turn 70 this year, is a fluent Russian speaker and is seen favorably in Moscow.  A close ally of German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – himself a Russophile – Erler was the mastermind behind the idea of a “modernization partnership” with Russia, or, seeking democratization through increased economic ties….. 

 “If there is a conflict between a Russian Customs Union and the Eastern Partneship. We need a solution as quickly as possible, because this is not only about Ukraine. Moldova and Georgia have finished the negotiations and want to sign the agreement this summer. How will Russia act if that happens?” Erler asked.

“We have to ensure there is no tension between the Eastern Partnership and the Russian Customs Union,” he noted…. 

If countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova enter a “deep free trade agreement” with the EU, as currently envisaged by the Eastern Partnership, Moscow fears that these markets will be flooded with cheap Western products, which would undermine Russian exports.

Along with developments in the Mediterranean from Cyprus, to Syria to Iran, the Russian role is clearly expanding in the Euro-Med region.

Re-establihsing its role in Ukraine would be another step in the re-set of the Russian power position.

See also:

Editor’s Note: With Russia playing a central role in both Syria and Iran and shaping arms control agreements, the revelation of a clear violation of the INF treaty ought to raise some fundamental questions about HOW the Russians are playing out their role.

One should note that the violations date from the time when the Russians crushed Georgia which suggests a clear policy shift in favor of an effort to expand influence at the expense of the West.