The US-German joint statement on the latest Nord Stream 2 agreement is filled with more protective and misleading rhetoric than a giant squid can spew out clouds of black ink. The statement predictably begins with the inevitable ritualistic agreement between Washington and Berlin that "The United States and Germany are united in their determination to hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools."
But it is all a smokescreen to disguise a humiliating and unavoidable retreat and loss of face in Europe by the United States – and, ironically, a breath of welcome and belated realism which President Joe Biden has recognized but dares not admit publicly.
The bottom line is that Germany needs Russian cheap and reliable gas as a vital energy source to warm its people and fuel its economy. Coal is now politically too incorrect: Nuclear energy terrifies the Greens in Germany whose influence far outnumbers even their formidable direct political clout. And for more than a decade the once mighty heavy industries of the Ruhr, most notably aluminum smelting, have foundered as wind power and solar power pathetically fail to fill the energy gap.
Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly worked hard with her old personal friend and political ally Biden to try to avoid publicly humiliating the United States while letting it off the hook of its own unsustainable policy.
The fact remains: Washington has openly flatly opposed close energy cooperation between Germany and Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – since the days of Ronald Reagan and the rise of Siberian gas exports.
Much uncertainty remains as to how Germany policy will evolve now Merkel appears to be finally leaving the political arena, but the way certainly appears potentially to open the way for a new German policy towards Russia more independent of Washington?
Yet Washington remains stuck in its Russophobic obsession with propping up the ghastly chaos that its own policies have generated amid the ruins of Ukraine since the catastrophic 2014 Maidan coup. It is perfectly feasible that Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will burn their often-stated goal of reviving US-European Union ties on the false altar of making Ukraine the next great monument to US Nation-Building – just like Iraq and Afghanistan before it.
The bottom line remains that gas exports from Russia are excellent business for Moscow and that President Vladimir Putin remains committed, as he has been for the past 20 years, to making Russia a reliable, predictable and responsible energy provider to the world economy.
A sensible US policy would be to reassure Germany by rebuilding diplomatic and business bridges with Moscow and by scrapping the absurd sanctions that have only served to allow Russia’s domestic agriculture and food processing sectors to flourish over the past seven years as never before.
Unfortunately, common sense and intelligent self-interest, like basic sanity, are not to be found in Washington, DC these days.
Martin Sieff is a Senior Fellow at the American University in Moscow. He is a former Managing Editor, International Affairs, for United Press International.