Wolf Richter: German Industry Goes To See Uncle Putin

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Testosterone Pit.

President Barak Obama went to Belgium – a trip planned long ago but repurposed since the Crimean debacle – to meet with European leaders, commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, draw iffy parallels between then and now, and announce that more sanctions against Russia were being concocted and would soon be forthcoming, even if Russia made no additional moves on the Ukraine. The EU and the US must not sit on their hands as Russia pursues “the old way of doing things,” he said. “That message would be heard not just in Europe but in Asia and the Americas, in Africa and the Middle East.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin might have had a field day listening to the speech. But he was busy. He was at his official residence in Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow, meeting with German industry tycoons, including Joe Kaeser, CEO of multinational engineering conglomerate Siemens. It wasn’t an emergency response to the current sanctions spiral but had been planned during their last meeting in October.

That meeting in October must have been Kaeser’s first meeting as CEO with Putin. Saturday night, July 27, 2013, Kaeser’s predecessor had been unceremoniously sacked. There was no immediate successor. Eventually, the board settled on Kaeser who was CFO at the time and has been with Siemens his entire working life. And he didn’t wait long to go see Uncle Putin.

Which shows how connected German industry and Putin are. Regular powwows are de rigueur.

So this time, Kaeser explained to Putin that Siemens, which had already invested €800 million in Russia, wanted to continue its “long-term involvement and localization strategy,” a Siemens spokesman said. The company is of the opinion “that we should not let the conversation break off even if it is perhaps difficult politically at the moment.” So it would continue to produce in Russia and help industrialize the country.

“We have built relations with Russia on the basis of long-term prospects and trust,” Kaeser said, according to Russian news agency, Itar-Tass. When questioned about the possible consequences for Siemens due to its cooperation with Russia, given the sanctions, he said, “Siemens and I personally do not feel any pressure from the federal authorities,” which had known about the visit. “And certainly there has been no pressure when the chief executive of Germany’s leading company, cooperating with Russia for 160 years, comes to meet the Russian president.”

Kaeser also met with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, the Siemens spokesman confirmed. Despite any sanctions, both sides favored continuing with the strategic partnership agreement they’d inked in 2011. Gazprom is currently threatening to turn off the natural gas tap for the Ukraine. Unless the Ukraine pays up, it could run out of gas in two or three months.

Siemens, which employs more than 3,500 people in Russia, partners with state-owned Russian Railways – whose president Vladimir Yakunin is on the US sanctions blacklist – to provide high-speed trains. It’s involved in energy projects and numerous other activities in Russia. Siemens isn’t alone. About 6,200 German companies were trading with Russia. The bilateral trade volume was over €76 billion in 2013. German companies have invested €20 billion in Russia, and about 300,000 jobs in Germany depend on this economic relationship. A sanctions-spiral could have “unforeseen consequences,” said the president of the German Association of Exporters, Anton Börner. It would be tough for Germany but “life threatening” for Russia. And there’d be a political price to pay as well, he warned [read…. German Exporters Fire Warning Shot About Russia “Sanction-Spiral,” Banks At Risk].

The intricate and convoluted connections between Germany and Russia can exude a peculiar aroma. Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, had moved heaven and earth to push Germany into a deal on the Nord Stream sub-sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. It was signed in October 2005, shortly before Angela Merkel kicked him out of office. Without waiting to take a breath, he joined Nord Stream AG as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Gazprom owns a controlling 51% of Nord Stream. The remaining 49% are owned by German mega-utility E.on, German chemical company BASF, and Gasunie, a Dutch natural gas infrastructure company. With Schröder’s infinite foresight, the Nord Stream system vastly increased Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas.

Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller, whom our Siemens hero Kaeser also met while in Moscow, is Deputy Chairman of the Board of Nord Stream, right next to Putin’s buddy Schröder. It’s good to have Schröder on board to bring all these people together.

Chancellor Merkel is getting the message, apparently. She has been forceful and very vocal in condemning Putin’s actions, but on Wednesday, she commented in Berlin that the West “has not reached a stage that implies the imposition of economic sanctions” on Russia. “And I hope we will be able to avoid it,” she said. “I am not interested in escalation. On the contrary, I am working on de-escalation of the situation.” Clearly, she forgot to check with President Obama recently.

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  1. middle seaman

    Vladimir Putin, or Vlad the Impaler according to Simon Schama, may not be the nicest guy on the block, but the hysterical imposition of sanctions and boycotts on everyone we don’t like is downright ridiculous. Russia isn’t Syria or Iran. Do we really want to return to the Cold War? Can we have leadership with sufficient intelligence to react forcefully yet also properly and may be, just may be, intelligently?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Excerpt: About 6,200 German companies were trading with Russia. The bilateral trade volume was over €76 billion in 2013. German companies have invested €20 billion in Russia.

      When nations trade with each other, they quite rarely go to war with each other. In which direction, to their developed west, or their developing east, do German companies see greater growth prospects? The answer is obvious.

      Today, a standard ‘Operation Mockingbird’ opinion-molding article in Pravda-on-Hudson, provocatively titled ‘Military Cuts Render NATO Less Formidable as Deterrent to Russia,’ turns up this sad little factoid:

      Richard Dannatt, the former chief of staff of the British armed forces, made a public plea this week that the British government reverse its plans to withdraw all of its 20,000 troops from Germany. Mr. Dannatt said that Britain should keep 3,000 troops in Germany as a “statement of military capability to underpin diplomacy.”

      Ain’t that bizarre: threadbare little Britain, keeping 20,000 troops in rich Germany, as the residue of an occupation that began three generations ago.

      Ultimately Germany faces a fork in the road. Presumably it will choose to evict its anglophone occupiers, whose agenda toward Russia is utterly incompatible with Germany’s.

    2. Synopticist

      ” Can we have leadership with sufficient intelligence to react forcefully yet also properly and may be, just may be, intelligently?”

      Looks like those days are over…

      Aaaanyway, there’s no chance Germany will shaft it’s own industry just to suit the Washington neo-con holdouts. Anymore than the UK would screw its’ own bankers or France its’ farmers. They are the untouchables over there. Sure, they’ll make some noises, but nothing substantial will happen.

      1. Brick

        There is more to it than just industry. The comments under every single western sided article are quite a sight to behold. The media believed that they could just fall back to a cold waresque reporting. They were wrong. FAZ published an article on that this week. Google translate does an Okish job:

        54 percent of Germans have some or a lot of understanding/sympathy (Verständnis both aren’t perfect translations) for the annexation of Crimea. But 60 percent support the current, minor sanctions.

        So it isn’t suprising that Germans also don’t want economic sanctions against Russia. Only 38 percent would support them. At the same time Germans do not see Russia as a “trustworthy partner” like at all (only 15 percent)

        The 95 year old and still very influential former Chancellor Schmidt called economic sanctions “dummes Zeug” humbug literally “stupid stuff”, and voiced “Verständnis” for the annexation of Crimea.

        So, Merkel is “getting the message”, but it’s not the one of Siemens. The German people don’t support stronger sanctions. They support diplomacy.

  2. PaulW

    I caught a brief glimpse of the Quisling pow wow on television yesterday before quickly switching to local news to catch the only objective reporting left in our media – the weather forecast!

    When I look at the kinds of people who run our countries and the kinds of leaders Canadians have been electing my entire life I can’t help but hope poetic justice will be served someday. Severe case of indigestion to follow.

    1. OIFVet

      I was in my car last week, on a snowy morning, waiting to hear the weather forecast for a possible insight on whether this winter will ever end. Chief meteorologist Steven Harper came on and announced that the neocons saw their shadows, and that he would do his best to make sure they keep seeing their shadows. There is no way this winter will ever end as long as the neocons keep seeing their shadows. Things are bad when Canadian meteorologists are even more bellicose and belligerent then their American counterparts. Its going to be long, grey cold war, and it can possibly last for the rest of our lives.

      1. Susan Pizzo

        Canada? Land of Nice Guys and Tar Sands? Really? That squares with my theory that much of the Ukraine flap is kabuki for North Americans who must must must drop their opposition to fossil fuels and pipelines – at least until all profit has been wrung from a dying and deadly energy regime. London won’t expel the scions of oligarchs from their boarding schools (much less their daddies’ fragrant billions), France won’t cancel their arms deals, Germany wants business as usual – BUT we can release oil from our strategic reserves (according to Soros, another billionaire) AND frantically build petrol infrastructure for export (while all else languishes) AND have a familiar reason for doing so (we can all see Russia from Palin’s window now).

        Given all the conflict that goes with oil, I can’t help wondering if renewables wouldn’t have the additional benefit of reducing global tensions. Unless we resist this latest neocon-inspired kayfabe, looks like it may be awhile before we find out…

    2. Doug Terpstra

      I too caught a snippet of the quisling’s sermonizing (I try to avoid such nausea-inducing events). The man spews words from the teleprompter, damning Russia for might-makes-right violations of national sovereignty, without betraying the slightest flicker of dissonance or twinge of shame. The hypocrisy that gushes from the stark-naked emperor’s mouth like vomit is rank enough to induce the retch reflex of any sentient being within earshot. Only a sociopath or someone utterly ignorant of US serial interventionism to the four corners of the world, throughout history to the present moment, could possibly suppress an involuntary retch reflex when this charlatan serves his toxic Kool-aid. Future historians, if there are any, will marvel, as they do now about Germany 80 years ago, about the complacency and stupidity of lemmings who blindly followed such demogogues.

  3. Banger

    Color me confused and color all governments that are part of NATO as confused. Obviously we are seeing some kind of re-arrangement of power in the Empire, or what Americans like to call “the world.” What that is about I don’t know–why would the EU, already in a fragile state want to create a strategy of tension and revive the Cold War? How did we get to this place when Europe appears to now be a satellite of the U.S. when ten years ago it was deeply skeptical of the lies the U.S. promoted to invade Iraq? Why is Merkel acting against the self-interest of her country in order to follow Obama like Blair followed Bush? What are the pressures here? I don’t get Euro-politics any more–does any one here understand what forces are at work? What changed in ten years?

    I do know that Washington is in the midst of a very serious power-struggle, not between Republican and Democrats as between neocon imperialists and an realists/pragmatists because there is a power-vacuum in Washington–Obama, seems to be very weak at this time–whatever coalition he created is breaking apart and he’s zigging and zagging trying to figure which way the wind is blowing.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      From Europe’s perspective it’s a case of staying the course in the absence of state leadership.

      -Merkel is probably the most popular Euro leader and has to govern through a large coalition. Not only that, her position was dependent on women voting in solidarity.

      -Cameron needed Labour to ignore the Iraq War and a coalition.

      -Holland is doing a bit better after his high profile relationship snafu but remains extremely unpopular.

      -PIIGS dominate much of reality.

      Europe lacks any kind of leadership or potential leadership which means the Euro zone expansion policies will remain in place except for Muslims. The structural problems of the EU are well known, and it boils down to which unpopular or negotiated head of government will lead the charge for the United Europe or demand a return to a more traditional nation state arrangement. None of these leaders have that kind of credibility anymore which means the older system remains. Conversely Put in can do whatever he wants because he is popular which is not all that uncommon among dictator-types. It’s why they got to be dictators.

      1. Banger

        Realists come in all colors and ideological persuasions and are not necessarily “good guys.” Realists range from people like Henry Kissinger to the scholar Stephen Cohen or from James Baker to commentator Chris Hayes.

        The realist school was strongly influenced by my Hans Morgenthau who wrote during the 50s and 60s–he is worth reading if you are interested in FP. Realists are opposed to all moral crusades and generally prefer negotiations to war.

        Read Kissinger’s article in the WaPost of a few weeks past to get a flavor of their stance. I don’t necesarily agree with realists but I prefer them to the vicious ideologues that seem to have the power in DC today.

        1. Vatch

          I’m a little skeptical that Henry Kissinger necessarily prefers negotiations to war. I think he’s perfectly happy with war (or warlike activity) against weaker nations. Examples are the secret bombing of Cambodia or the military overthrow of Allende in Chile. I think Kissinger enjoys being obsequious to the powerful, whether they are Rockefellers, Bilderbergers, or the political leaders of superpowers.

          1. Banger

            Actually HK has changed over time as his WaPost article indicates. Also HK was genuinely trying to negotiate with N. Vietnam which felt it had the winning hand so they let Kissinger dangle and he did what he could to end the war during an extremely chaotic and dangerous time for the U.S. Internally. BTW, I don’t mean to say these guys are nice.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Didn’t you propose this answer the other day by pointing out Europe is too big and expanded too rapidly to govern or stand in opposition to the MIC?

      Europe was skeptical of the lies, but they allowed their airspace to be used eleven years ago during our “legal” fun time in iraq. I I know he just taught an intro class, but Obama should have to reimburse students for those credit hours. France didn’t use its veto at the security council.

    3. Jackrabbit

      Banger, you’ve been telling us about a struggle between neocons and realists but it seems to any casual observer that the neocons have the upperhand. I think they ‘won’ after Snowden/Syria last year but were already ascendant before that (as demonstrated by, among other things, support for Syrian rebels). It seems that the ‘struggle’ that you speak of occurred during a period after Iraq was recognized as an abject failure (about 2006-2010). And what you call a ‘struggle’ seems more like a period of laying low and working behind the scenes while engaging in a polite debate with realists.

      And I don’t see Obama as ‘weak’. Obama is a neolib that believes that the proper role of government is serving powerful interests (public choice theory) – especially those interests that got him elected (which I imagine have a neutral to favorable view toward neocons – that’s why Nuland still had/has a job). He is as ‘powerful’ as his coalition of interests at any time. That’s why I prefer to use ‘Obama Administration’ rather than ‘Obama’ when talking about the executive actions.

      The Obama Administration has never been hesitant about using American power, even if that means breaking a campaign promise:
      – surge in Afghanistan (breaks promise)
      – keeping Guantanamo open (breaks promise)
      – supporting NSA (breaks promise)
      – cracking down on whistle-blowers and the press (breaks promise)
      – bombing Libya
      – droning
      – supporting rebels in Syria
      – Ukraine
      – signing statements and secret orders (breaks promise)
      – ordering/approving closing airspace to force down Ecuadorian President’s plane down
      – and more

      Is your info recent? If so, what color can you give about any recent ‘struggles’?

      1. Jackrabbit

        plus: incursion into foreign country to assassinate of OBL (I have no sympathy for OBL, but …)

        1. Jackrabbit

          … but a nobel peace prize winning, constitutional lawyer with any foresight and real power (vs. figurehead) might’ve chosen a different path so as to uphold important principles.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        The neocons wanted to hit Iran and Syria. In the case of Iran, there were leaks about Rummy’s disastrous war games where the US had to cheat. Most officers don’t want to be to be the guy who commanded the operation where carriers were sunk. They are not necessarily public faces but longtime bureaucrats in different departments. Homeland Security wasn’t about reform of failed intelligence operations but about purging non believers by removing t he civil service protection act. All of a sudden would be whistle blowers could be fired without cause.

        I would say Ambassador Stevens was a lunatic who believed his presence and “good” violence would make him the Lafayette of Libya despite having no concept of what destroying an organized national force and arming every gang and tribe would do. Perhaps he wasn’t a neoconservative officially, but there are plenty of deranged believers and realists who may assign different values who make things work. I think most of our politicians are non entities. Go to any elite university’s chapter of Democrats and you will find several would be Obama with followers who are impresses by platitudes and mind numbing debates with the local GOP.

      3. Banger

        The attempt on expanding the war in Syria did fail despite the American media’ vociferous and fanatical pleading to act–Obama did dither while Kerry ranted and handed it Congress where he knew it would die because, I think we can agree here, the American people do not want another war.

        Obama opposed the surge in Afghanistan rather publicly and was “persuaded” by the military to go along with it–the surge failed as he and you and I knew it would. Obama has no power-base in Washington and has to rely on his ability to stand in between powerful forces as a broker not a player. He appointed powerful political figures as Secretaries of State because he lacked power and credibility in that area. Remember that Obama was elected as the PR President by his handlers who used him and are using him, in my view, largely as figurehead to quiet the left (this worked perfectly) while pursuing right-wing policies domestically.

        What the neocons seemed to have “won” is most of the mainstream media but I see that the media is not rallying around the flag so vociferously at this time we’ll see what happens should this crisis expand as it will depending on what Germany does or does not do.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The MSM doesn’t do anything without directives, and I suspect the lack of flag waving is the result of greater readership of alternative sources and a lack of an expectation that Putin would respond.

          Obama is clearly outraged that he has been challenged by Putin. Obama is more incoherent than usual and making bizarre claims about the Iraq Invasion which can only hurt him politically at this point. The Russia/regional power remark was the most bizarre because The Ukraine and Crimea are in the region and Putin has said as much over the years. Not recognizing Putin’s predictable behavior is why there isn’t a more coherent strategy; although the Olympic propaganda was pretty gross. I thought that was more of a 1% complaint about not being catered to.

        2. susan the other

          I’m trying to make sense out of it from another angle. Not so much that we are divided internally and our domestic political system does not work, but that we are actually losing our allies. It is as if we just can’t bluff our way around them any more. We’ll know this is the case when Japan tells us to buzz off. Which is what I think the Europeans are doing now. Hollande just made his token appearance at the White House because he is so unpopular at home he may have been trying to find some new nazi friends.

          I watch the MHz mystery series and I have noted that all these European crime series have a certain flavor of independence; from Denmark, to Sweden, to Germany, to France – and lately it has been leaning away from the United States. You can hear it in the lines: “The Marshall Plan will help but Denmark needs to do blablablah…” The blahblah is a plot to steal nazi gold and deposit it in the bank of Denmark. Etc. And there are lots of 1945-1955 period pieces that show Europeans as independent minded and not subservient to America. It is subtle, but it makes me think we are losing our most important ally – Europe. And this ties in with my puzzled reaction in 2002 (?) when Rumsfeld referred to Europe as “Old Europe.” They aren’t engaged with us any more. So we are desperate to keep them and it isn’t really working out that way. But this is just me trying to make sense of things.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think your views have been shaped by US propaganda, not official, over the years, but the Marshall Plan was sort of a loan guarantee program. Reconstruction was done by Europeans, and some areas avoided major fighting.

            They weren’t children dependent on our wisdom and largess which is what we learned in school. Its the same with Japan. The Korean War helped expand Toyota, but they developed an industrial and reconstruction policy on their own. US guarantees helped provide confidence. Europeans are aware of this, but like Americans, they know next to nothing about this country except white people came from different parts of Europe. I don’t think the programs you are watching are unusual In their sentiments.

            Most history is cobbled together propaganda. The Columbus story that use to be taught to children was from a story by Washington Irving which makes no sense except as anti Catholic natives propaganda. Do you remember how the catholics said the world was flat but Columbus and the Spanish monarchy proved the catholics wrong? The real issue was those countries which re heated Columbus needed their ships and did n t have many ocean going vessels just latorall ones. The Spanish just got rid of the last muslim, but school kind of glossed over it. Then it doesn’t pick for over 100 years then 150 more.

            1. susan the other

              I know, Not TG. But propaganda is still pretty intriguing. Gotta pick and choose what you think it means. It might mean that the EZ is going its own way except for France. And the UK and we are one as usual. So maybe NATO is on shaky ground. The USSR put up the “iron curtain” with our blessing because there were hard-core capitalists who would not have been governable (like Ukraine’s nazi thugs) and the USSR needed to recover, etc. Propaganda is like a pearl – it has a hard little kernel of truth around which lots of shiny lies build up. So what is the hard little truth here?

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                In this case, I would go with

                -static euro zone intent on expansion as if it w a s still 03
                -unreported ngo and mic with everyone pursuing their own interest; I doubt Obama cooked this up while golfing.
                -distant and petulant white house; i doubt they have much of a clue or concern with the exception of Samantha powers, but Obama hates to be challenged by those he deems beneath him.
                -Kerry and other dims are trying for a legacy t hat isn’t the Iraq war or prosperity, so they are on the loose with obama’s passing match going on
                -putin has warned us about how Russia would react to regional concerns but DC really is a middle school environment.
                -the gop is split into 3 groups; war types, isolationists, and those who despise democrats

                CNN’s non stop plane coverage is the result of Versailles being in chaos of sorts especially with so many panicking about the empire being challenged. The neoconservatives became decadent. There is no cohesive message because this sort of happened as a result unbridled enthusiasm by a few and smug ignorance by the majority.

                1. Synopticist

                  I agree with those points, and the broader argument the US is in danger of losing Europe.

                  You also specifically mentioned Samantha Powers, who I would class as a perfect example of a decedent, intellectually declining foreign policy elite.
                  She was the person who essentially codified the concept of “Soft Power”. What she didn’t realise is that the moment you use or weaponise soft power, you SPEND it. Unlike diplomatic power, which exists by virtue of who you are, and military power, which can be replenished by buying more kit and recruiting more soldiers, soft power doesn’t automatically replace itself.
                  It relies on goodwill, on having a favourable reputation, on your media being seen as relatively honest and truthful, on western based NGOs that are objective and willing to speak truth to power. Etc etc.

                  Once that stuff goes, then soft power has gone with it. So from a UK perspective, when the BBC OR Human Rights Watch report about peaceful demos being attacked in Libya or Syria, say, everyone believes them. That’s soft power.
                  The BBC/HRW then give a series of massively biased reports about the war there. That is soft power GETTING SPENT.

                  Then finally, people get really sceptical about the BBC/HRW , and people start openly saying you can’t trust the BBC or HRW anymore. That’s soft power HAVING BEEN spent.
                  And it’s really difficult to get back. Trust lost is so much harder to regain once its gone, than to keep in the first place.

                  Soft power is the very epitome of Obamaism. Its all about messaging, empowering his base to do his PR job while simultaneously betraying it’s own long term interest, and substiuting policy for great media talking points. Get third parties to do your PR for you, and it will look like it isn’t propaganda. It doesn’t matter if it only works temporarily, because by the time it degrades, we’ll be working at Goldman or Harvard or something.

                  One further point about Samantha Powers. She and a couple of others were responsible for the “support the Muslim brotherhood” all the time policy,in the wake of the Arab spring. Because, after all, Erdogan in Turkey was such a great success, it therefore MUST follow that the same result is guaranteed in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. No point in understanding that Tunisia and Syria are as different as Sweden is to Spain, this way we don’t have to think about each countries history or culture, we can just back the MB, cos, you know, Turkey. Simple.

                  It’s just so breathtakingly vacuous and lacking in intellectual rigour. So f*ckin dumb. OK, so it’s history now, but that was US policy before Morsi showed his hand.

                  So another cold, hard fact to add to the mix is that our foreign policy elite just ain’t all that clever anymore. Bush took it to a remarkable low, and there hasn’t been the recovery everyone expected.

              2. psychohistorian


                I think the little hard truth you are asking about is that American empire and its unquestioned support of Israel is in its denouement moment in our evolving, or not so, world.

                Are the US and Israel willing to risk global nuclear winter to maintain and/or push their agendas? I see the rest of the world as calling that hopeful bluff and are ready for the potential fallout.

        3. Jackrabbit

          I have to disagree, Banger.

          If the British Parliament had agreed to the attack, or Putin had not brokered a reasonable comprise, American public opinion would’ve been ignored. Just one example: the American people don’t want the NSA spying on them either but they don’t appear to be anywhere near getting their wish.

          Your whole conception of Obama seems strange. Is he ‘broker’ or ‘figurehead’? He was ‘convinced’ to do the surge in Afghanistan? Look at my list – how is it that he has been ‘convinced’ to take aggressive action so frequently? Now he is withholding information on CIA rendition and torture from Congress.

          And you ignored my question: “Is your info regarding a ‘struggle’ between neocons and realists current?” If so, please provide more color than just “there is a struggle”.

          1. JerseyJeffersonian

            I would submit that this is just a continuation of the PR strategy that attempts to portray Obama as reluctantly having to accede to the demands of the NeoConservatives/Right. No such thing. These are things that he has no qualms in doing. Principled actions? I’m not sure that he has any principles. But he damned sure doesn’t want to piss off the powerful interests whom he is transparently cultivating to richly reward him after his time in office by advancing and cementing into place their agenda items. Just look how that worked out for Bill Clinton; the example is not far to seek.

            The principled Left is reduced to such an extent that he feels free not only able to disregard them, but he uses his very public scorn for them to increase his popularity with his fawning sycophants.

            1. Synopticist

              Obama is mostly a cipher these days, but I still think he was reluctant to bomb Syria. Fighting another nasty war in the ME isn’t cutesy enough.

              One of Obama’s big priorities these days is to make sure he isn’t blackballed from membership of ANY classy golf clubs, once he’s left office. Clinton had that problem, and Obama doesn’t want it.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                I think the expectation was that there would be a rush for a Libyan style response, but

                -Assad was a negotiated puppet to prevent a leadership struggle and maintain Allawite hegemony. He’s just not a telegenic villain, like Gaddafi.

                -Libya was done under the guise of humanitarian intervention which was obviously a lie.

                -Syria has better air defense.

                -Syria has been on the public neocon hit list for quite some time, and I suspect Democrats aren’t going to like being questioned about Obama’s views on the Iraq War.

                I think what happened was there emerged an expectation the regime would fall apart throughout Washington. When public support didn’t allow immediate action, the Friends of Syria flooded the place with weapons to tip the balance, and last Summer’s uptick in rhetoric was a result of the original defectors being replaced by various Islamic militant groups. I think the White House and regional allies were/are worried the newly armed/trained militants will spread through the region much like the militants in Libya have moved into Central Africa. If Assad is toppled tomorrow, what will happen? The old regime will be split along the lines which brought the optometrist* back to Syria, and the unity of the rebels as such as it is will be dissolved. What will the rebels do? The FSA is too weak to take over on its own. I think the Friends of Syria needed to knock out Assad to save face for their actions while the FSA was still relevant. The recent successes by rebels on the coast are being accomplished by Islamic militants. The whole issue was bungled by the aggressive moves against Gaddafi when the French and Italians could have probably managed to accomplish the same ends if they did it on their own and focused on preventing a refugee crisis which is a much more legitimate reason for France and Italy to go to Libya than the U.S. or NATO as an institution.

                *This is the major reason I don’t trust the supporters of the rebellion. Assad’s puppet status is blatantly obvious, and yet, they can’t seem to name the real powers behind the throne.

          2. Jackrabbit

            No only did Putin come up with a reasonable compromise, he insisted on it; moving to defend Syria militarily.

          3. Banger

            Good question. He was elected as a figurehead but, in order to not be totally be gobble up and to garner a little power (he is no fool) he has leveraged his office to broker deals among more powerful forces.

            1. Jackrabbit

              What deals has he brokered among powerful forces? Which one’s have allowed him to “garner a little power?”

              Still no answer regarding the neocon-realist struggle?

        4. Doug Terpstra

          The Syrian bombing campaign failed, not as a result of democracry but due to the formidable Russian fleet off Cyprus. We need to let go of the illusion of US democracy. Ukraine was payback and an attempt to gut Russia’s power base in the Black Sea so that the campaigns against Syria and Iran can proceed unhindered. Hopefully, the bloody Neocons have met their Waterloo in Ukraine. Then again, they may never stop until we find enough lampposts for all of them.

        5. Jackrabbit


          You were in Washington until about the time that Hillary left the Administration?

          Is Hillary a neocon or realist?

          1. Banger

            Actually I’ve been away from Washington for three years and am not going I think Hilary is completely an opportunist and a hustler. Right now she leans towards the nouveau neo-cons like Nuland because that’s where the power is just as she became stridently pro-Israel when she ran for Senate.

              1. Banger

                The only time I praised here was that I said she had her own power-base in Washington and had/has more room to maneuver than Obama. I don’t like her foreign policy at all and haven’t since she ran for the Senate–on domestic affairs I liked her more than Obama–but she’s still a representative of the oligarchs.

                1. Jackrabbit

                  Thank you Banger.

                  I disagree with your critique of Obama, though. I don’t see any evidence that he has brokered anything more than special deals (like Solar) for cronys. He hasn’t gained (or tried to gain) any power that could in any way make him independent. He has the ‘Obama’ brand plus the power of the pulpit – but he has never used these to assert a position that runs counter to powerful interests. He is described as basically a loner in Washington – he seems to have no interest in building a power base. Somehow, I think that is by design. He is there to do a job and reap the benefits after.

                  Oh, and you still haven’t answered my question about the neocon-realist struggle.

                  1. psychohistorian

                    My read on Ms. Clinton is she is an opportunist, like her husband and our current president.

                    opportunist = puppet

                    acolytes to the Gawds of Mammon

        6. Dan Kervick

          Well, my guess is that the neocons and their many toadies and associates were horrified by the way their attempted Syria intervention played out, and by Putin’s role in it. So they cooked up a propaganda drive at that time, timed to come to a head during the Sochi Olympics and to help precipitate an overthrow of Ukraine’s government as a way of lobbing a grenade into Putin’s camp.

          On the other hand, these events are just the natural culmination of decades of effort by western intelligence agencies, ex-pat oligarchs and other major power players in the west to get hold of Ukraine and Georgia and incorporate them into Nato while Russia remains relatively weak by 20th century standards. Russia’s growing economic strength might have amped up the process as the geopolitical window of opportunity is closing.

          1. Banger

            All of the above Dan. It was interesting how even the sports media in Sochi became politicized with its endless and annoying criticisms of Russia and Russians. But this has been building for a long time.

  4. optimader

    “The intricate and convoluted connections between Germany and Russia can exude a peculiar aroma. ”

    “Could someone fill me in on what is intricate and convoluted” about it?
    The aroma I smell is money..

    Two Sovereigns interacting in a manner they perceive serves their mutual self-interests. Russia has(had) thousands of tons of German machine tools as result of Germany’s difficult learning curve on the fundamentals merits of mutual self-interests abt 70 yrs ago..

    You want intricate and convoluted? See file: US and Israel

    1. psychohistorian

      See my response to susan the other above…..in total agreement with your hint/question

  5. dwightvw@fastmail.fm

    This fits what Immanual Wallerstein said:

    “Let me therefore propose that Ukraine is merely a convenient excuse or proxy for a larger geopolitical division that has nothing whatsoever to do with its internal schism. What haunts the Nulands of this world is not a putative “absorption” of Ukraine by Russia – an eventuality with which she could live. What haunts her and those who share her views is a geopolitical alliance of Germany/France and Russia. ”


    I also wonder if this concern was behind Nuland’s “F$#@ the EU.”

    1. psychohistorian

      And China, and Saudi Arabia, and Brazil, and……..change is blowing in the wind…..will it occur “peacefully”is the real question?

  6. allcoppedout

    West Germany benefited greatly from its long relations with the USSR through various long-term strategic manufacturing and energy agreements (the ost-politik). Not many in Europe think of USUK as an ally. The UK bit is still seen a lurking aircraft carrier for American culture and influence. There is growing unease that the US was the only winner of the two world wars and exploits everyone else through the USD (backed up by aircraft carriers). Susan is right (above) that this has all crept into literature, though one might also say Person of Interest has the same dark interest portrayal of CIA-US interests. A recent David Hare three-parter (starts with ‘Turks and Caicos’) even has a CIA man trying to reclaim thieving by “Haliburton”.

    One can’t help noticing energy prices in the US are very low, maybe half the EU average. This is a great advantage to heavy industry. In the UK we were told this was because of nationalised industry and are realising 15 years after ‘Sid’s’ privatisation this was utter crap. It’s in US job interests to attract new manufacturing capacity through low energy costs, and consequently to screw up prices in Europe to prevent investment there (and in Russia) in cheap labour countries and weaken German competitiveness.

    It may be that a deal with Russia for cheap gas for a expansion of EU technology into Russia will become more attractive than whatever the US is up to. The Crimea is as relevant as the Falklands in a game that big. And the Germans are likely to know what the game is,

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