Geopolitical Dances around G-7 Solidarity Are Dangerous for us, too

On 1 July the American Senate introduced additional sanctions against the pipeline “Nord Stream-2’ to the structure of the US military budget. According to one of its initiators Senator Republican Steve Womack, he is proud to…

On 1 July the American Senate introduced additional sanctions against the pipeline “Nord Stream-2’ to the structure of the US military budget. According to one of its initiators Senator Republican Steve Womack, he is proud to be among authors of the project that was directed towards final completion of the pipeline that opposes the West, by which Moscow as an instrument of force tries to increase dependence of Poland and Ukraine (let’s add also the Baltic States) on Russian natural gas.
A group of senators became initiators of sanctions, by the way, from both – Democrat and Republican parties. In their opinion, the introduced sanctions would contribute to securing national security of the United States. This position has been supported by most European states mostly from the central and east of the Continent (however, not all of them. For instance, Hungary does not support it). First of all, the countries that had bitter experience of escaping from dependence on Russian sources of energy. After accession to the European Union in 2004 Lithuania has not even been the flagman of this campaign when it was struggling against monopoly of the Russian concern Gazprom in the market of natural gas and was reaching and reached electricity interconnections with he West.      
Sanctions introduced already in December against ‘Nord Stream-2’ (its construction was suspended after 94 percent works have been done) were related to pipe-laying vessels, the new sanctions are planned against testing and certification companies, with no validation of which the pipeline will simply not be able to be commissioned. As another author of the extended package of sanctions Ted Cruz told, sanctions would affect everyone, who has contributed to laying the pipeline in one way or other, totally over 120 companies.     
In this case it is not so important that the main initiator of ‘Nord Stream-2’ the concern threatens to finish the project under any circumstances – it simply cannot talk in other way. For that reason the Federal Government of Germany and the Chancellor Angela Merkel have been in a complicated situation for a while and have to publish cautious statements in reply to the American pressure such as the one quoted by the news agency on 29 June that Germany has been getting ready for retaliation in the case if the President Donald Trump’s office would implement      the threat to finally stop ‘Nord Stream-2’. Or a statement of A. Merkel that she considers sanctions  extraterritorial (exceeding legal system of the US), thus Berlin would take steps (and exert pressure)   for all EU to tell clear position in regards to sanctions.  
The US President constantly criticises Germany in regards to ‘Nord Stream-2’. For instance, in the meeting with electors held on 20 June in the town Tulsa in Oklahoma State during the presidential election marathon announced that Berlin paid billions of US dollars to Moscow for the gas pipeline, thus Americans have to free Germany from Russia.  
Former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schrder, who has not been bound by obligations of politicians (also to Euro-Atlantic solidarity), Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian company Rosneft and Chairman of the Committee of Shareholders of ‘Nord Stream-2’ operator Nord Stream AG, actually the lobbyist of the Kremlin since 2005, on 1 July made a statement in Bundestag as if sanctions of Washington were a deliberate destruction of Euro-Atlantic solidarity. The daily Handelsblatt that quoted the ex-politician also emphasized his words that sanctions against NATO ally during economic recession means the attack against economy of Europe, unacceptable interference with sovereignty of the EU and energy independence of the Western Europe  (in this case it should be emphasized – A.S.).
The American President criticizes Berlin not only because of ‘Nord Stream-2’. In the mentioned meeting with electors in Tulsa D. Trump told that in the period of a quarter of a year Germany owns NATO a trillion US dollars, having in mind the fact, that although Berlin increases the military budget, it still does not comply with the rate of increasing defence expenditures (this year defence expenditures of Germany will reach 1.42 percent of GDP, which makes 50.25 billion euros). The American President imperatively requires to fulfill the promise of all members of the Alliance  undertaken in 2014 to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence.     
In practice this dissatisfaction of the White House turned into a threat to reduce the contingent of American soldiers in Germany by 9,500 approved on 1 July. Up yo not it has not been disclosed when they will be withdrawn and whether they will be moved to another state of NATO.  According to the US Department of defence, Pentagon will first inform the Congress, then consult with allies. Part of soldiers may be dislocated in member states of NATO in Eastern and Central Europe, some of them on a permanent basis, however most of them – on a rotational basis.
On 29 June the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) informed that Mark Esper, American Secretary of Defence, was planning to present several versions for re-dislocation of soldiers from Germany to Eastern Europe as a high probability option (alongside return to the motherland United States). American Voice quoted Jonathan Hoffman, representative of Pentagon, according to whom, it would be an express warning to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, whose military ambitions   were demonstrated once again by annexation of Crimea in 2014. Actually, in 1998 NATO promised Moscow to refrain from establishment of permanent military bases in the countries of the former Eastern block that joined the Alliance, however aggression against Ukraine has cleared of that promise.   
AFP quoted a non-named officer of the Pentagon, according to whom re-dislocation of soldiers may be finalized not by NATO but by bilateral agreements between states – partners that the leader of the US likes most of all. Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, who is seeking re-elections, during his visit in Washington at the end of June did not hide his expectations. Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna on 23 June mentioned Pentagon’s plans to move not one thousand (as it has been planned before) but a couple of thousand of soldiers to Poland and also about 30 F-16 fighter jets from Germany. At the time being about 4.5 thousand of soldiers are dislocated in our neighbour country.   
As it has been already common in recent years in relations between the USA and Euro-Atlantic partners, a decision about reducing the US contingent in Germany was followed by a rather stormy ‘sound track’ on the international public domain – Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany in his interview to the newspaper Bild am Sonntag on 7 June complained that Berlin and Washington used to be close partners in NATO, now their relations are complicated because of the planned withdrawal of American soldiers and also because of COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister indicated a ‘non-mirror’ connection situation related to the pandemic – Europe does not prohibit Americans to go to the Old Continent, but the United States stopped air connections with Europe since March. During the interview issues related to US presidential elections that will take place on 13 November also were addressed  – according to H. Maas, the election campaign will confront America even more and this does not promise anything good.  
The prospect of resettlement of the US soldiers to the East and Central Europe should bring out not only unconditional joyful emotions to eastern Europeans, too (that is, us). On one hand, during the conference held on 8 June by Washington Analytical Center Atlantic Council, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, indicated that the number of American soldiers in Poland and Baltic States increased. However, disputes between the most powerful democracies that are getting more chronic, does not contribute to long-term and sustainable Euro-Atlantic security.   
To this end we should draw attention to the interview of A. Merkel to the press on 27 June. According to the Chancellor, our Continent should think of a new reality if the United States decided to give up the role of the global leader. We have plenty of signs with the marsh of D. Trump to the White House with a slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. A number of European generations grew up with knowing about leadership of the USA. Now things are changing. Let’s say, when making comments on the President D. Trump’s decision to reduce a number of US soldiers, the Chancellor noted that this contingent was protecting all eastern NATO wing in Europe.  
The current matters should satisfy Moscow, which according to the Global Peace Index 2020 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) on 10 June was ranked 154 among 163 rated states. According to the rating agencies, peacefulness in the world is generally dropping. As if proving this fact a prestigious Republican Committee of the American Congress House of Representatives (it unites 150 members) in the report ‘Consolidation of America and Opposition to Global Threats’ published on 10 June named Russia, China and Iran as the most aggressive opponents of the United States against which the Congress suggested the strictest sanctions ever imposed on. In the report it was suggested to name Russia as a state that supports terrorism.  
Here it has been mentioned that American President prefers choosing bilateral agreements against  multilateral agreements. It is hard to tell how much the unilateral actions are effective after refusal of traditional confederate relations. At the end of May the President D. Trump, the host of the summit of the wealthiest and most developed democracy club G7 of this year suggested to invite Russia, India, Australia and South Korea to the summit of ‘Big Seven’ planned in September (at first it was planned to be held in June, however it was postponed because of well-known reasons). Adam Schiff, the of the Permanent Select on Intelligence of the Congress reacted with such a statement: President of the US should not invite Russia to the meeting of G7. We should discuss about sanctions and how to deter Russia from acting in bad faith and not integrate it in the community of civilized nations.    
However, D. Trump does not stop criticising NATO and considers the EU almost a hostile opponent in the trade area. He has called G7 as a group of very obsolete countries and has required several times a milder policy in respect to Russia. After the plan to organize summit of G-7 that was prepared in a fast manner and coronavirus pandemic was still continuing, the host of the White House at the end of May suddenly announced that he wanted to rearrange the organization completely.   
For the meantime the summit is planned in September. We have to simply wait. However, the situation is stable – solidarity of G7 is important in a complex manner globally, thus Central and Eastern Europe together with the Baltic States, a fragile region in a geopolitical security point of view, has to observe the emerging scenarios by catching the breath: from one side the approaching Presidential election in the USA, from the other side – Chancellor of Germany, who is trying to maneuver in a complicated situation and who personally does not support ‘Nord Stream-2’, however is forced to agitate for it even with the appeal to the solidarity of the EU, thus, to the disadvantage of strategic relations with USA and with a threat to solidarity of G7, which is actually not beneficial to the Baltic States. By the way, Germany in Lithuania manages and appoints the biggest number of soldiers to the international battle-group of the NATO Battalion.  
We have almost four months left to the Presidential election in the USA, so it is obvious that in the geopolitical field of political maneuvers there will be abundance of news contradicting each other and ‘on the way’ to the election a summit of leaders of G7 that will likely be held in September (according to the current situation you cannot be sure about that).
Arūnas Spraunius

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