Ostpolitik Again?

Ostpolitik Again?

merkel

In 1969, the social-democratic party (SPD) of Germany came to power for the first time since the founding of West Germany in the post-WWII period. Prior to that, it had renounced much of its traditional Marxist ideology at its Bad Godesberg congress in 1959, which made it politically acceptable.  Nonetheless, while it no longer clamored for revolution and expropriation of the capitalists, it was unmistakably a party of the left with very different ideas of how to deal with communist totalitarianism than the conservative Adenauer government. In prompt order, it introduced its policy of Ostpolitik which was based on the wishful thinking concept of Wandel durch Handel (change trough trade). Essentially, it posited that if one traded with the Soviet Union, East Germany and the rest and gave them technology and loans, often on preferential terms, they would, in turn,  become more amenable to détente and human rights.

 

There was never any proof that Ostpolitik had any basis in reality, let alone tangible success, but it did not matter any way because in 1981 a man came to power in the United States that was not at all interested in making the ‘evil empire’ more amenable but in destroying it.  When it was all said and done, President Ronald Reagan, in the words of prominent Soviet functionary, Valentin Falin, “had arms-raced the Soviets to death.” And so the Soviet Union was no longer, Eastern Europe was liberated and Germany was reunited not because, but despite the phony Ostpolitik of the socialists.

 

This is, of course, ancient history by now, but history has an unfortunate tendency of repeating itself if we learn nothing from its lessons.  The SPD is again in power through a ‘grand coalition’ with Merkel’s Christian democrats and a new version of Ostpolitik is again on the agenda. Before that, the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (1998-2005), true to form, became a paid Putin lackey as a chairman of the board of Nord Stream and Rossneft, which earned him the moniker “political prostitute” from the then head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Congress, Tom Lantos, a democrat.

 

Since then all efforts to subject Schroeder to sanctions by the Ukrainians  and others because of his despicable betrayal of Western interests have floundered because of German government opposition. In the meantime, Putin is doubling the capacity of Nord Stream 2, bypassing Ukraine and Eastern Europe, while both Angela Merkel and her economics minister, Peter Altmaier, continue to argue shamelessly that this is simply a private, commercial project, making a mockery of the claim that the Christian democrats (CDU) are still a conservative party.

 

For much of the of the grand coalition’s tenure in power, the socialists have been given the German foreign policy portfolio and they have used that successfully to pursue a Russia-friendly and anti-American policy. Apart from being a strong supporter of Nord Stream 2, they have argued against tougher sanctions on Russia, accused Ukraine of trying to drag Germany into a war with Russia and blamed President Trump for willfully damaging western security.

 

Unfortunately for them and for Germany as a country, this warmed-over version of Ostpolitik is unlikely to be any more successful than the old one. The entire premise of Russia’s preferential gas supplies to Germany and Nord Stream 2 has been based on the constantly drummed-in propaganda by the Kremlin and Berlin both that Russian gas is and always will be a lot cheaper than American liquefied natural gas (LNG). According to Russian energy minister, Alexander Novak, for instance, Russian gas prices will remain at least 30%-40% cheaper than LNG. It did not take long for him to be proven wrong. LNG prices collapsed in March 2019 to roughly 50% of what they were in Asia and in Europe ($4.375 per million BTU) as of March 26, 2019, which is nearly a third lower that the expected price of $6.40 MMBTU Russian gas expected to receive from European buyers in 2019. Markets, of course, go up and down, and there is no guarantee that these low prices will stay, but many observers now expect Gazprom exports to decline sharply under current market conditions and so will Germany’s new Ostpolitik, based as it is on them.

 

By Alex Alexiev

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