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In Ukraine Crisis, Germany is the Prize

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

FROM THE ARCHIVES:  originally published 29 September 2014

Vladimir Golstein is Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University, an American Ivy League university.  He contributed this comment to Russia Insider.

The intention behind the conflict in Ukraine is to draw Europe, and especially Germany, away from Russia.  

NATO was created, according to the well-known phrase, to keep America in, Russia out and Germany down.

Yet, geography is destiny. Russia and Germany are natural partners. They had enough wars between them to earn mutual respect. They have know-how and amazing resources; they have energy and reason, they share the ability to appreciate both community and individual.

What will happen if these two countries ally? The rest of the Europe will have to follow and form a very strong, powerful and –important to stress – natural block – capable of challenging if not dominating any other natural blocks – be they Asian or North American.

There is a catch. What lies between Russia and Germany are Ukraine and Poland, two countries that compete for the title of 52 and 53 states of America.  Russophobic and nationalistic Ukraine, along with Russophobic Poland and the Baltic States, is the wedge to deflect the natural attraction of Russia and Germany towards each other.  

The First Cold War was waged for the soul of Europe (cf. Frances Stonor Saunders study: “ The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters” 2000). Its target was not Russia proper but a number of European countries with very strong communist parties (embracing up to 40% of votes), who were pulling their countries, France and Italy in particular, toward Communist Russia. So endless amounts of funds were spent and a huge effort was made to drive a wedge between the Soviets and their potential European partners by convincing the Europeans that freedom of expression, abstract art, and jazz could flourish only in the west, and not in Soviet Russia.

It wasn’t difficult to win this war.

Ukraine lies at the forefront of the Second Cold War.  Its purpose, once again, is to pull European countries away from Russia.

Russia is not a Stalinist country, so the appeal to music, art, or western goods cannot work. The repression of Pussy Riot, Khodorkovsky or gay rights, are no match to Stalinist camps.

Russia’s harsh and inevitable response to the Ukrainian coup, was a God-sent event that continues to be milked to drive the lesson home of Russia’s unfitness for any sort of European alliance.  Today’s Russians might listen to jazz or admire Jackson Pollock, but they can’t shed their penchant of aggression and barbarism.

Ukraine was destined to be the showcase through which the US would demonstrate its superiority not so much in the cultural sphere, but in the fields of democratic institutions, legality, and diplomacy, in order to prove to the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, of the need to pull away from Russia.   

So far it has been working.  However the outcome of this Second Cold War is much less predictable than the First. It is getting harder by the minute to prove the superiority of American democracy, diplomacy, and legality.  

Rothko, Pollock, and Louis Armstrong could deliver Europe to the US. But can a murderous, right-wing Kiev regime coupled with the US’s reckless foreign policy be equally effective in convincing today’s Germans not to trust what their minds and their pocketbooks tell them?

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