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Cold Shoulder
Germany Kills Arms Deal With Russia

A $134 million deal between Germany’s Rheinmetall, the country’s largest weapons manufacturer, and the Russian military to install a highly advanced training facility in central Russia has been nixed, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday. Later in the day, Germany’s Economy Minister confirmed that the deal, which stalled earlier this year during the Crimea annexation, would be permanently halted.

The Kremlin reacted with predicatable fury. The defense ministry ordered a lawsuit to be filed against Rheinmetall. “Naturally we’ll defend our interests,” a deputy minister told RIA Novosti. The facility, reportedly “the most modern training facility in all the world with simulator-supported training,” would eventually be capable of training 30,000 soldiers annually. Allowing the deal to go ahead “cannot be justified,” Germany’s economy minister announced. “It is not about money, it is a question of human lives.”

The cancellation of the deal comes amidst the most frigid relations between Germany and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Once, Putin and Merkel were reasonably cordial, their relationship efficient and business-like. The appointment of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, an avowed friend of Russia and a fan of a style of realpolitik that ignored the Kremlin’s human rights record in favor of better economic and political ties, as foreign minister, at the end of 2013, was seen as an effort to accelerate years of warming relations between Moscow and Berlin. But Merkel and Steinmeier both changed course drastically when the Ukraine crisis erupted. Merkel vowed to impose sanctions that would do “massive” damage to the Russian economy. The chill deepened when MH17 was shot down. Merkel delivered a blunt message to Putin three days later: Call me if you have progress to report in defusing the conflict. They haven’t spoken since.

The WSJ summed up the current climate:

The silence marks a breach in perhaps the most important relationship in European geopolitics, illustrating the daunting challenges facing the West in trying to calm the crisis in Ukraine. More broadly, the frayed relationship between Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin shows the disintegration of a decadeslong effort by both Germany and Russia to bind the World War II adversaries to each other. Mr. Putin, in particular, appears to have given up, for now, on his yearslong project of nurturing Germany into the role of Russia’s closest European partner, illustrating the increasing degree of international isolation he seems prepared to accept.

The cancelation of the arms deal, small peanuts in a multibillion dollar industry, is more a symbolic blow than a stab in the gut of the Russian economy. The broader sanctions regime is having only a limited effect. “Russian sanctions begin to backfire,” Joe Weisenthal reported yesterday for Business Insider, citing a Reuters report that noted the eurozone’s economic outlook is slipping dramatically. Germany is taking it the hardest. Making matters more difficult are the disparate intentions and interests of European governments with regard to Russia and sanctions; France, of course, is eager to go ahead with its arms deal with Russia (the sale of the two helicopter carriers), even as Germany cancels its own.

The lackluster effects of the sanctions have drawn attention to the question of whether NATO is prepared for a military confrontation, in one form or another, with Moscow. As a striking article on the front page of this morning’s New York Times reports, Pentagon and intelligence officials say that Russia has stationed 17 battle-ready brigades on the border with Ukraine, and provided covering fire for rebels fighting the Ukrainian government. The number of troops is uncertain: possibly 10,000-13,000 or “perhaps as high as 21,000.” Many of the Russian vehicles there are emblazoned with insignia of peacekeeping forces, leading some analysts and government officials to suspect Russia might try to spin an invasion of Ukrainian territory as a “peacekeeping mission.” The White House is taking this threat very seriously, the Times reports. Worryingly, however, an unnamed Pentagon official pointed out that the U.S. and NATO are quite unprepared for whatever Putin is up to. “We just don’t know what he’s thinking.”

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  • Maynerd

    Ukraine would fair better with help from the IDF than a feckless Obama and Nato.

    Obama’s reset machine is taking us all the way back to the cold war.

  • Thirdsyphon

    Obviously NATO is prepared for an armed confrontation with Russia. . .but only to accomplish the specific purpose for which NATO was established, i.e.: the collective defense of NATO’s member states. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so it’s highly unlikely that NATO would overtly take the field to guarantee Ukraine’s security.

    On the other hand, NATO (or Western nations acting individually) could indirectly do quite a lot to help the Ukrainians convert any Russian incursion into a guided tour of Hell.

    • Maynerd

      The NATO naval forces assisting the US were a bit of joke during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Even the Germans were a farce. Their coed naval ships were well stocked with condoms and beer; lethal weapons not so much.

  • Corlyss

    Gee! The Russians don’t believe the Europeans. Whadda shock! I wouldn’t either. I don’t either. It’s one thing to refuse to build some fancy training center. It’s a whole nother thing to send some of their hothouse flowers to loll about drinkin’ beer and eatin’ pizza in the name of freedom and democracy and European security.

  • Duperray

    I start to consider a terrible possibility: Joined US-Russian policy towards Ukraine !…
    Why? Let’s consider following points:
    1- Kiev is clearly driven by US, Kiev government might better reside in Washington.
    2- Instead of driving Kiev to initiate negociations on details (russian language, federalism) US are still clearly exciting Kiev (beyond reason) to smash east republic installed by people referendum. Whether this one is unconstitutional or not is BS: Another UN controlled referendum would yield an ever sharper result. The definitive conclusion which emerges from this is that Ukraine is definitively broken in two states: How can East Ukraine forgive Kiev crual slaugther of thousand civilians which, according to US propaganda, “do not support terrorists”?
    3- US made Kiev use heavy weapons against civilian population instead of legal police weaponry: Of course it would be unsufficient for Kiev to win, although their present heavy weapons did’nt succeed either..! Heavy weapon against civilian is a barbarian act forbidden by UN. And its usage against its own population is worse.
    Even Hitler didn’t dare use it during Crystal Night and Long Knife Night.
    So Kiev is worse than Hitler nazi.
    4- This so evident excess of anti-democratic development might be a theater piece destinated to justify Russia’s invasion “to protect civilian populations”.
    5- After this, russian and US firms will cooperate to jointly exploit Donbass’ resources.
    My strongest point of evidence which support this hypothesis is my #3.
    A plain fact.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “The White House is taking this threat very seriously”

    Yeah, Right, Tell me another one. Obama the weakest President in American history will do nothing, even if Putin were to conduct a full scale invasion of Ukraine.

  • BobSykes

    The continual escalation of the crisis by the US/EU leadership will eventually get a serious response from Russia. A cut-off of gas supplies to Europe, closure of Russian airspace to US/EU aircraft (all those routes to Asia), confiscation of US/EU property in Russia, arrest of US/EU citizens in Russia, seizure of the International Space Station are all easy to do. A military adventure in Estonia/Ukraine would also be successful but dangerous.

    Do Obama, Cameron, Hollande, Merkel, Juncker, Van Rompuy and Rasmussen actually want a European war? They behave as if they do. They obviously believe that US/EU/NATO power is so transcendently overwhelming that Russia (not just Putin) must grovel and submit. If Operation Barbarossa didn’t cow them, sanctions won’t. If current US/EU/NATO policy persists, Russia will go to war, a war that will of necessity and by Russian policy be nuclear. How close are we?

    The US/NATO militaries are overextended in the extreme, and they are reducing their military power. Their equipment is good, but there is very little of it. Except for the US, UK and France, all NATO militaries (including Germany’s) are badly trained. The land-based and bomber-based American nuclear deterrent is visibly crumbling with unending personnel scandals and obsolete possibly nonfunctional equipment. No attempt is being made to repair, let alone modernize, these systems.

    As always in foreign affairs, delusion, greed, arrogance and stupidity reign. And the people suffer the consequences.

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