Last week the Russia Analyst wrote about Anaconda2016, the largest NATO military exercise in central/eastern Europe since the (first) Cold War. Among our other findings, we wrote that Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Greece and other NATO/EU member nations were increasingly reluctant to engage in brinkmanship with Russia -- even as the United States and a few allies doubled down on the rhetoric of meeting an imminent threat from the Russian Federation. We also wrote about how Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow will never attack a NATO member state.
Lavrov and Putin's Conciliatory Diplomacy Towards Europe Exploits Cracks in the Facade of EU 'Unity' on Sanctions Against Russia
Speaking at this weekend's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) to guests Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin declared that the U.S. is a superpower and that Russia has no intention of trying to end America's superpower status (though Vladimir Vladimirovich didn't add that a potential superpower on the rise to Russia's east may have other ideas). At the same time, the Russian leader pointedly addressed the gap between Washington's imposition of economic sanctions against Moscow while its European allies, including Italy, bear nearly all of the costs for 'defending democracy and European values in Ukraine':
Putin to Europeans, Especially French and Italians:
Stop Being Uncle Sam's Servants and Stand Up for Your Economic Interests
Striking a conciliatory tone, Putin also said that Moscow might consider making the first move, dropping its sanctions against imports of food from the European Union if the EU were to shift towards de-sanctioning Russia. In return, Renzi vowed that his government will not permit the EU to simply rubber stamp the renewal of the sanctions against Russia every six months, in a rhetorical shot at anti-Russian hardliners in Europe and the United States. Renzi of course wasn't the only one making appearances or remarks that could be interpreted as subverting the aggressive, Cold War 2.0 waging paradigm that dominates the trans-Atlantic media:
Renzi's statements came after EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker attended the SPIEF in apparent defiance of Washington's wishes, and after the former French President Sarkozy admitted that time was not on the side of the anti-Russian hardliners determined to maintain sanctions indefinitely:
Perhaps adding some ammunition to the slowly rising embers of European resentment against Washington's sanctions policy, was the news reported this week by Sputnik International that the USA is now Moscow's 5th ranked trading partner outside the former USSR, surpassing many American allies such as Poland or Turkey effected by Russian counter-sanctions:
Not Just Space Rockets:
It's Business as Usual for Many U.S. or UK-Based Multinationals in Russia
What Sanctions? BP and Rosneft Annnounce Joint Exploration Deal
If the Russians exploiting the gap between Washington's rhetoric about containing the dangerous Bear and the reality of Fortune 500 multinationals conducting business as usual with Moscow wasn't enough, this weekend delivered a much bigger PR headache for NATO and the State Department. Namely, just days after 51 career diplomatic personnel signed their names to a highly publicized 'classified' document calling for U.S. military action against Assad and potentially his Russian partners in Syria, the Foreign Minister of America's second closest European ally Germany has spoken out against NATO exercises on Russia's borders:
Will Washington Put Enormous Pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel to Force Her Foreign Minister to Either Take Back Remarks Criticizing NATO, or Resign?
Steinmeier's remarks, as well as their timing on a weekend when many politicians and journalists are out of Washington, has left NATO's advocates flabbergasted. As Zerohedge reports, this is in no small part because Germany's top diplomat is now admitting Russia's complaints about aggressive exercises near Russian borders have some validity:
NATO By Its Own Admission is Losing the War for Hearts and Minds in Much of Europe
We don't know if Washington will force Mr. Steinmeier to resign or whether some sort of groveling apology in which the Social Democratic Party (SPD) minister abases himself for daring to criticize NATO will suffice. What we do know is that NATO has struggled by its own admission to counter the 'awesome' power of Russian propaganda, including 'distortion' via memes like this one...where all you have to do is take out the digital red magic marker, and poof U.S. bases cease to be the installations of a NATO member state, ergo this Russian meme is false -- genius! Especially when you forget German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently invited Japan to join the North Atlantic alliance, despite its Pacific location:
The problem of course being that if one of the 'big dogs' within Europe aka the German Foreign Minister can finally say enough's enough with the scaremongering about an imminent Russian invasion of NATO or that the Alliance's exercises are needlessly provocative, it's not so easy to stuff the genie of dissent against Washington's second Cold War policies back into the bottle. Meaning Mr. Steinmeier may issue a mea culpa soon, but that doesn't mean his Greek, Italian or Hungarian counterparts or the defense ministers of those NATO member nations won't follow suit by suggesting that dialogue and diplomacy, rather than shows of force, is the way to solve problems with Russia.
In other words, where Mr. Steinmeier has opened the door several others will follow in declaring what's been on many European elites' minds since Washington initiated the second Cold War with the Maidan coup in Kiev. And that is a process it will be difficult for Washington to stop without taking the mask of tolerance for dissent off, and simply resorting to threats and censorship to maintain the Empire's death grip on European politics.