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Thursday, March 9, 2023

March 09, 2023

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will fly to the US to meet President Joe Biden on March 3. According to the White House’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the visit is an opportunity to “reaffirm the deep bonds of friendship” between the two NATO allies. One could, however, describe such a friendship as quite a peculiar one. In fact, more often than not, it looks much more like a veiled enmity.

For one thing, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 8 February piece has denounced the Nord Stream pipelines’ explosion as a sabotage act clandestinely carried out by Washington. In fact, on February 7, Biden himself, during a press briefing, promised: “If Russia invades (...) there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” When asked just how, his reply, with a smile, was: “I promise we will be able to do it.” Scholz was right next to him. This astonishing statement echoed Undersecretary of State for Policy Victoria Nuland’s own remarks just two days earlier - it is no wonder that many suspected American involvement in the still unexplained explosion.

In the aforementioned piece, respected journalist Hersh quotes unnamed intelligent sources who claim the US did fulfill its promise/threat by planting the explosives while using the June 2022 Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 22) exercise as a cover. So far, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Relations Peter Szijjarto has been a lone voice in calling the episode a terrorist attack and calling for an investigation.

Nord Stream 1, as two of the pipelines were collectively known, had been providing cheap gas to Germany for over a decade, something which Washington always opposed; Nord Stream 2 pipelines in turn could double the amount of such cheap gas provided. The explosion harmed all of Europe and the UK, bringing back the ghost of a new depression - but mainly Germany. I have written on how the European energy crisis has served US interests well and hurt European industry as well as on how economic nationalism is once again on the rise, especially today when Europe and, particularly Germany, is facing de-industrialization. I have also written on how American aggressive subsidy war against Europe, in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act, only adds fuel to the fire and risks dividing the political West. In post-Nord Stream Europe, gas prices are to remain high, condemning the continent to inflation, while American interests profit from making the conflict in Ukraine perpetual.

When it comes to Russia, Ukraine and Europe, Washington’s geopolitical and geoeconomic interests are intertwined. The tragedy of the European continent lies in the paradox that it is still heavily dependent on Washington for security, while it would benefit from energy cooperation with neighboring giant Russia. Washington has been consistently betraying European interests to its own benefit, and Germany is the clearest instance of that contradiction.

Berlin could be an industrial power, but Washington’s long campaign against Nord Stream, among other things, has hampered its potential and now its auto industry is particularly vulnerable to the US IRA legislation, which has created new barriers for European electric vehicles. On top of that, Washington has been pressuring Germany to further spend on Ukraine, while German Armed Forces face shortages.

Despite Berlin’s silence regarding the attack on its strategic infrastructure, in the wake of the explosion, both far-left and far-right lawmakers from the Die Linke and the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) political parties, respectively, were calling for the setting up of investigative committees. AfD’s Co-Chairman Tino Chrupalla has demanded the government coalition clarify the matter. In his speech he rhetorically asked whether the NATO alliance “guarantees security in Europe or rather endangers it”. In an interesting development, the leftist Die Linke expressed its solidarity with the rightist AfD on this matter.

European “populists” and the far-right have been capitalizing the growing popular discontent with NATO and the EU itself. In April 2022, defeated French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen promised to pull France out of NATO, following Charles de Gaulle steps. Regarding the disastrous anti-Russian sanctions (which have backfired against Europe), Viktor Orban’s Hungary has been a kind of lone voice. One should however expect to see a multiplication of such voices, be it from the far-left or from the far-right.

Although often described as an “extreme” and marginal party, the AfD has been growing in popularity in Germany, reaching 17% in a poll for the first time in years, according to a YouGov February poll. It is about time for Europe to assert its sovereignty, and Berlin and France could lead the way in this regard. Calls for investigation regarding the Nord Stream’s sabotage in fact might be gaining traction among wider portions of German society.

In his 2020 book, Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor for German mass daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), denounced how the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) has cooperated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to recruit German journalists and shape public opinion. This could partly explain the overall silence amongst German media on the Nord Stream issue.

As long as the traditional media keeps covering up the topic, one should expect trust in the press to decrease and support for far-right and far-left parties to grow, with potential electoral results in the near future. Such a political wave can increase skepticism about NATO, but before it could advance any rethinking of the European relationship with the Atlantic Alliance (as proposed by Le Pen), it may first cause instability and turmoil in a continent already isolated and deindustrialized. In Germany, right now only Die Linke has supported AfD calls for an investigation, but more voices within the German broader political spectrum are expected to join them.