Ukraine Conflict Has Strained US-German Relations

Article in Der Spiegel confirms major disagreements between Germany and US on approach to Ukrainian conflict

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

A few weeks ago we published on Russia Insider a discussion I wrote about an article in Der Spiegel which gave important information about the Russian-German negotiations that led to the Minsk Memorandum of 12th February 2015.

I explained how the article in Der Spiegel was undoubtedly written on the basis of information provided by Merkel’s office and that it confirmed a sea-change in German policy, with Germany looking to end at least the international part of the Ukrainian conflict by tacitly accepting that the Donbass has broken free of Kiev’s control and that Crimea is lost to Ukraine forever and by quietly ruling out any prospect of Ukraine ever joining NATO or the EU.

<figcaption>Merkel and Nuland</figcaption>
Merkel and Nuland

Der Spiegel has now published another article which shows the extent of the split between Germany and the US that is now emerging.

Firstly, it is important to say that this article, just like the previous article published by Der Spiegel, clearly originates from Merkel’s office.  It repeatedly uses phrases like “German leaders in Berlin were stunned”, “the German government is alarmed”, “sources in the Chancellery have referred…..” “many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads….” etc, which confirm that the article derives from briefings made at the highest level of the German government.  

The article also provides details of information being passed to the German government by the German intelligence service the BND, which would not be made public without the specific permission of the German government and almost certainly of Merkel herself.

The fact this article originates with the German government is important because its contents are incendiary.

What the article does is all but accuse NATO’s military leadership of lying about the extent of Russian military involvement in Ukraine as part of a plot hatched by hardline insiders in NATO and Washington such as General Breedlove and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to undermine the Minsk peace process so as to restart the war in Ukraine with Ukraine this time armed with US weapons.  The article represents Obama as an isolated and hapless figure who has all but lost control of the US government.

Many of those who regularly read Russia Insider may question the importance of this.  After all we have been saying the same thing for months.

The point is that up to now the US and German governments have gone out of their way to give an impression of perfect unity.  

What the article in Der Spiegel shows is this is no longer the case, if it ever was.  The fact the article was written at all hints at the furious rows that are taking place between them behind the scenes.  

We know that at the recent security conference in Munich Victoria Nuland furiously denounced Germany’s Ukraine policy at a private meeting with US senators and diplomats.  The article in Der Spiegel shows the Germans are hitting back.  The comments in Der Spiegel about Nuland show she is in their sights.

The article however also shows how dangerous the situation has now become.  The picture it gives of the mood in Washington is a very alarming one - of a war party almost completely out of control and itching for a fight that European governments led by Germany almost unanimously see as calamitous.  One gets from the article a sense the Germans feel the Americans have taken leave of their senses.  Thus we read comments like "many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads...."

The fact Washington appears to have put a brake on its “training mission” to Ukraine may mean that under German and European pressure the moderates in Washington have once again won out.  Putting pressure on Washington to stop the “training mission” by making disagreements public may even have been the intention behind the article in Der Spiegel.  

If so, then the picture the article paints of the situation in Washington suggests the respite will be only a temporary one.  The moderates seem to be struggling to hold the line against a war party that is increasingly in the ascendant.  

The big question is, if Washington opts for war, what will Germany do? 

On the strength of the article in Der Spiegel and the stance Merkel has been taking since Minsk, it seems most likely that despite the pressure Germany will in the end oppose the war, just as it previously opposed the Iraq war.  If so then NATO could soon be looking at the biggest split in its history. 

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