In language but not in action, Germany is starting to take the threat of Russian aggression seriously. Ahead of the NATO heads of government meeting, Chancellor Angela Merkel used her weekly podcast to talk up the alliance, and to commit Germany to the defence of central and eastern Europe. But the German government has not cancelled the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project nor has it committed to fast-tracking NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. So far it’s all talk, no action, with Germany when it comes to the defence of Western civilization from Russia’s global war against it.
In her podcast, Chancellor Merkel said that “the challenges for NATO have changed drastically in recent years.” She was referring to the years since 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea and part of Donbas. Because of ongoing Russian war, Chancellor Merkel said it is important “to focus more on defending the alliance.” “To do that we [must] make necessary arrangements, for example through a presence in Central and Eastern European countries,” she said. Germany already leads NATO’s forward presence battlegroup in Lithuania. According to latest NATO figures, Germany has 699 troops operating with Lithuanian forces in Rukla, and leads a battlegroup comprising troops from NATO members Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. Chancellor Merkel said in her podcast that the NATO alliance “has to show determination to protect us.”
NATO must refocus on the Russia threat, says Chancellor Merkel, but she has done nothing to stop the threat posed by construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Nord Stream 2 is a scheme by Russia’s Gazprom monopoly to bypass Ukraine as a transit country for natural gas by shipping under the Baltic Sea instead, from Russian Federation territory to German territory. Russia is at war with Ukraine, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, should it be built, is a weapon of that war to harm the economy of Ukraine. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said on Twitter that the Nord Stream 2 project does not make any sense in economic terms. “It is solely a political project. We use all available means to stop the monopolization of the European market and to protect the interests of the whole EU,” he wrote.
Ukraine is doing everything it can legally do to stop Nord Stream 2. Because of Ukraine’s huge win over Russia in late February at the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal, assets of Gazprom can be seized for payment of debt from anywhere in the world. Ukraine has already started court proceedings in Switzerland, the Netherland, and the United Kingdom to recover the $2.6 billion Russia’s Gazprom owes to Ukraine’s Naftogaz. Turning its attention to Germany, Ukraine is going after assets of Gazprom related to Nord Stream 2. Ukraine believes is can seize 35 percent of the assets of Nord Stream 2 to recover debt from Russia.
Nord Stream 2 is a Russian stab to the heart of Europe. It’s only purpose is to increase central Europe’s energy dependence on aggressor Russia and to cut off Ukraine and damage the Ukrainian economy. Russia is at war with Europe, and Nord Stream 2 is a political weapon in that war. Chancellor Merkel should acknowledge that Nord Stream 2 serves no economic purpose and goes against Germany’s interests. She should cancel the whole thing.
The forward defence of Germany and of all of NATO is in two non-NATO countries that have been invaded and are partially occupied by Russia. Those countries are Georgia and Ukraine. Quick accession of Georgia and Ukraine to NATO membership would benefit the collective security of the whole alliance immediately. That is why the United States, Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and some other NATO members support accession talks and a membership action plan for Ukraine and Georgia get started at the upcoming NATO meeting in Brussels. But Germany, France, Hungary and some other NATO members are opposed because they remain committed to appeasement policy as a response to Russian aggression.
Germany is abdicating its responsibility for leadership by stalling Ukrainian and Georgian NATO membership for no sound policy reason. Irrational fear of Russia and an exaggerated nostalgia for long-dead Ostpolitik is no way for Germany to conduct business in international affairs.
NATO needs unity. Germany is in the best position to provide it, now that the United States is so weakened by the presidency of Trump. Here are some steps the members of the NATO alliance could to do to defend the West in the war that Russia is waging against it.
Ukraine and Georgia should be offered membership in NATO. The Nord Stream 2 project should be cancelled. Ukraine should be given lethal weapons to defend itself from attacks from Russian invasion-occupation troops. Massive support should be given to the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (which is how Ukraine is successfully defending Europe on Russia’s invasion battlefront in Donbas). Deep and broad and painful sanctions on Russian individuals and entities should be imposed to starve Putin’s War of financial support.
Russia is at war with Ukraine, Europe, and the West. Over 11,000 Ukrainians have been killed by Putin’s War. Over one and a half million Ukrainians have been made homeless by Putin’s War and are refugees in their own country. Dozens billion euros in damage has been done to the Ukrainian economy by Putin’s War. Only the fierce fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people has save the rest of Europe from Russian aggression, because to date no country fights alongside Ukraine to stop Putin. The insane policy of making Ukraine defend the West alone has to stop. NATO can stop it by joining the fight to stop Putin, defeat Russian aggression, and save Western civilization.