By Jürgen Hübschen
(Analysis) Through his visit to Kyiv – now visible to the whole world – the American President has linked his political future to a military success for Ukraine in the war against Russia.
What possible consequences could this positioning of the U.S., especially its President, have for Germany?
Ukraine is fighting against Russia not only for its freedom but also for the interests of the U.S. to eliminate Russia as a competitor on the world political stage.
Therefore, the extensive military support provided by the U.S. is only, at first glance, a selfless commitment to the future of the people of Ukraine.
On the contrary, it is the implementation of global American national interests.
To do this, Washington needs the support of its European allies, not only militarily but also economically.
That is why the U.S., first of all, put NATO back on track because NATO is America’s powerful military instrument.
However, security policy objectives always have solid economic aspects as well, and that is why, in addition, the E.U. also had to be sworn into the American line.
To this end, it was necessary to reduce European economic relations with Russia and, at the same time, to expand the Europeans’ dependence on the United States.
In this context, all sanctions against Russia should be classified, and above all, European cooperation in the energy sector.
This has already been achieved mainly through the sabotage attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, for which no country has been officially held responsible.
However, evidence is mounting that the U.S. was not entirely uninvolved.
The consequences of a gas and oil embargo against Russia and the war in Ukraine are immensely rising energy costs and a high inflation rate in Europe.
Many European companies have stopped their investments in Russia and, to a large extent, have already ceased any cooperation with Moscow.
In return, European companies have been invited by attractive offers to invest in the U.S. instead of Russia or other European countries.
In parallel, in his State of the Union address, President Biden issued the motto that trade chains in the future should not end in the U.S. but begin there.
In addition to U.S. plans in and with Europe, there continues to be U.S.-Russia cooperation at the nuclear level, but Europe is not involved.
However, there is now considerable friction in this relationship. First and foremost, the U.S. has terminated the ABM Treaty, the INF Agreement, and the Open Skies Agreement.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) was concluded on May 28, 1972, with unlimited validity.
It was an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to limit anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems.
Following the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the treaty on Jun. 13, 2002, to be able to develop new missile defense systems;
It had issued a declaration of intent six months earlier, as required by the treaty, in which it announced its withdrawal from the treaty partner – the Soviet Union’s legal successor, Russia.
The “INF Treaty” (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) was a 1987 agreement between the United States and the then-Soviet Union.
The treaty was concluded at the height of the Cold War and represented a turning point: The two great powers agreed to destroy all land-based missiles and cruise missiles of an intermediate range (500-5500km).
At the same time, the treaty prohibits the production or testing of new weapons in this category.
In 2007, Russia declared that the treaty no longer met its interests.
Instead of renegotiating its contents, the U.S. terminated the treaty on Feb. 1, 2019, with a 6-month notice provided.
“Open Skies” is the name given to a 1992 treaty between 27 then-CSCE countries (NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries) that allows treaty participants to fly over each other’s territories along designated routes and to provide situational awareness through observers and use technical sensors.
This confidence-building measure in the CSCE/OSCE area will monitor arms control and conflict prevention agreements, prevent conflicts, and secure peace.
CURRENT NEW START SET
The United States became the only State to withdraw from the treaty on Nov. 22, 2020, legally.
On Jan. 15, 2021, Russia also initiated steps to withdraw from the treaty in response to the U.S. withdrawal.
Russian President Putin has announced that he will suspend the “NEW START” agreement with the U.S., which was not extended until 2021.
In the “New Start” treaty, Russia and the U.S. committed to reducing strategic nuclear weapons.
The agreement stipulates that the parties reduce the number of nuclear warheads to a maximum of 1550 and the number of nuclear delivery systems to 800.
Of the latter, a maximum of 700 may be in service.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s move was in response to criticism from the United States over Russia’s suspension of controls because of the Ukraine war.
However, the Russian President has assured Russia will strictly adhere to the agreed ceilings.
GERMANY’S ROLE IN THE US RUSSIA-UKRAINE STRATEGY
Germany has radically scaled back its economic relations with Russia and, most importantly, wholly ended its cooperation in the energy sector.
Some of the previous Russian gas supplies are being replaced by American LNG gas, although this is extracted by fracking, a process Germany has so far categorically rejected.
The Chancellor had wordlessly acknowledged the announcement made by U.S. President Biden in the presence of Chancellor Scholz that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would mean the end of Nord Stream 2.
The Ukraine war and halted Russian gas supplies have led to significant price increases in all sectors of the German economy.
While Germany had initially limited its military support for Ukraine at the beginning of the war to non-lethal military goods, the principle of not supplying weapons to fight and crisis zones was very soon suspended.
Starting with all kinds of man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, Germany has provided Ukraine with self-propelled howitzers, anti-aircraft tanks, and mobile anti-aircraft missile systems, having previously trained Ukrainian soldiers in Germany on these weapon systems.
In addition, the delivery of German infantry fighting vehicles has been promised, and in this case, the Ukrainian crews will also be trained in Germany.
Germany has not only pledged to supply Leopard 2 and Leopard 1 main battle tanks but has also agreed to take the lead in a so-called “tank alliance.”
All decisions to supply heavy weapons were made, not least at the insistence of Western partner states, not all of which are members of NATO.
But, when it came to more concrete arms deliveries, many of these countries remained and remained in “political cover.”
LEADING MEDIA PUSH
Within the German government, there were different positions, especially on delivering heavy weapons.
But pressure from the Greens and the FDP, less massive stress from the SPD, and increased pressure from CDU/CSU opposition have led the Chancellor to agree to deliver increasingly heavy weapons.
In addition to supplying armored weapons systems, Germany has established a maintenance and repair center for these weapons in Slovakia, near the Ukrainian border.
Germany’s concrete support measures in the humanitarian, economic, and military fields were accompanied by numerous visits to Ukraine by politicians from the governing parties and the opposition.
In addition to the German President, the German Chancellor and many cabinet members visited Ukraine during the war.
The Foreign Minister even drove to the front lines with media attention during one of her visits.
These measures were and are accompanied by the so-called leading media, which not only supports the German government’s Ukraine and Russia policy with little reflection but even massively urges it to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine.
In addition to the German government’s concrete political decisions, Germany’s commitment to Ukraine and its aggressive stance toward Russia have been not insignificantly strengthened by American projects on German soil.
For example, the U.S.-led “Ukraine Support Group” usually meets at the U.S. military base in Ramstein and the U.S. military training area in Grafenwoehr.
The United States trains Ukrainian soldiers on the weapons systems that Washington supplies to Kyiv.
The first U.S. infantry fighting vehicles for Ukraine landed in Bremerhaven – and President Biden stopped at the U.S. airbase in Ramstein on his flight to Poland to continue by train from there to Kyiv.
Germany is not becoming the European spearhead of the USA against Russia, but it already is.
No other E.U. country now supports Ukraine as intensively in humanitarian, economic, and military terms as Germany.
Also, no other E.U. or NATO State has visited Ukraine with so many politicians and “shown the flag” there as Germany.
For the U.S., after Poland, Germany has become the most critical hub in supporting Ukraine or the proxy war with Russia, without Germany asking for this central role.
The Ukraine support group could also meet in Brussels, and the U.S. could have trained the Ukrainian soldiers in Poland, but Washington has probably deliberately decided otherwise.
IS LEADERSHIP AWARE?
The leadership of the so-called “tank alliance” imposed on Germany, which has still not materialized, has led President Putin to say in his speech commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad that the time has come again for tanks with the Iron Cross to fight Russia.
Since Moscow wants to avoid confrontation with the U.S., which claims not to be at war with Russia, the fear is that Germany could become a surrogate target.
Whether German politicians see this danger must be doubted when one hears the statements of some “political amateurs” who seem to confuse the Ukraine war with some video game.
The most glaring example is Annalena Baerbock, who, on the one hand, says that Germany is at war with Russia and, on the other hand, began her unspeakable appearance at the carnival in Aachen with the words that she had initially considered appearing in a leopard costume.
The new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius called the Leopard 2 a “gamechanger,” Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt tweeted, “The Leopard’s feed!” the German Foreign Office had used the animal emoji of a leopard in an official tweet discussing Russia’s foreign policy.
The Süddeutsche outlet wrote about this on Feb. 21, 2023: “War in the children’s room, game fiction – and everything not so bad?”
THE ROLE OF POLAND
What German politicians don’t seem to get beyond this is the role of Poland and the other Eastern European states in the American strategic approach.
Poland fulfills a dual function for Washington. On the one hand, it is the American border crossing into Ukraine.
On the other hand, Warsaw forms a geographic buffer between Germany and Russia if the federal government should reconsider its one-sided and emotionally driven Russia policy.
It fits perfectly into the American concept that Poland hates Russia because of its past and has a relationship with Germany that the Second World War still marks.
An example is the demands for reparations to Germany, which Polish politicians repeatedly brought into play.
The fact that after his appearance in Poland, President Biden will meet exclusively with the Central and Eastern European NATO countries, the “Bucharest 9 Format”, i.e., in addition to Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, makes it clear that he trusts these NATO allies more – and is above all convinced that they will stick to their guns as long as the U.S. – and not NATO – guarantees their security, not least through the presence of American soldiers.
In Poland alone, there are currently said to be about 11,000. In addition to the loyalty of these countries to the U.S. – only Hungary takes a more differentiated view – the geographical proximity of these countries to Russia also plays a significant role in this close relationship with the U.S. for Washington.
The American “Aegis Ashore” missile defense systems in Poland and Romania prove this.
And a third point does not seem to be clear to German politicians, namely that it cannot be ruled out that Washington will end its support for Ukraine for domestic political considerations as suddenly and without consulting its allies as it did in Afghanistan in August 2021.
As stated earlier, President Biden has linked his political future to a Ukrainian military success and has undoubtedly underscored this with his visit to Kyiv.
According to U.S. experts, however, it does not look like this will happen; on the contrary, they expect an imminent and decisive Russian offensive and a military defeat of Ukraine.
Should this be true, the American President – if he wanted to end the U.S. involvement – would have to try in time to sell nevertheless the American Ukraine and Russia policy practiced until then as a success in domestic politics.
If necessary, he would have the following main arguments for doing so:
Russia has been considerably weakened as a competitor on the world political stage, NATO is back on track, and European countries are ready to increase their defense efforts.
SWEDEN AND FINLAND TO JOIN NATO
Most states and republics of the former Soviet Union are ready to allow the permanent deployment of U.S. troops.
The E.U. has been cut off from low-cost energy supplies from Russia, and America has had the door to the European energy market thrown wide open.
Overall, the E.U. is ready to reorient itself economically more toward the U.S. than before the war.
The E.U. has already committed itself to decisively helping finance the reconstruction of Ukraine.
The U.S. defense industry has bulged order books and will sell U.S. weapons systems to the Eastern European NATO countries for many years.
The USA’s financial expenditures for Ukraine’s military support will be compensated to a not inconsiderable extent by the Europeans within the American “Lend-Lease-Act” framework because Ukraine will not be able to do so.
For the U.S., national interests have always been in the foreground, which is global. This is legitimate, but it must be clear to European and, above all, German politicians.
Should the U.S. decide to end its massive involvement in Ukraine out of national interest and tangible political considerations of the Democrats and also of the U.S. president, given the upcoming presidential elections in 2024.
The election campaign has already begun, and Germany, as the European No. 1 in Ukraine support, would suddenly find itself right in the crosshairs of the Russian President.
It must be doubted that this is clear to the German government.
This post was published first here.