Describing a Fickle Europe

Saturday, August 2, 2014
Note this is the same Europe that some want the U.S. to emulate in its conciliatory approach towards the Castro regime.

No thanks.

This weekend, Ben Judah brilliant describes Europe's fickleness in Politico:

[F]or all the fighting talk from the Eurocrats, Russian money has run rings around its interests, its cash aiming to cripple any common foreign policy. Russia is Europe’s third-biggest trade partner. Moscow’s investments in the continent are enormous: Russia does over 40 percent of its trade with the European Union, supplying the bloc with roughly a quarter of its gas, while receiving more than $310 billion in loans from its banks.

Kremlin tactics were simple: use this money to divide and rule. That’s why Russian diplomats no longer sound like KGB agents. They never talk ideology; they always talk about money. Putin’s best diplomats now sound like clever businessmen: Does Germany want its own personalized pipeline? Excellent. Now, we only want Berlin to be a little more understanding on human rights… Would France, or Italy, like special military and energy deals? Fabulous. This could be arranged, but please, no more lectures on how to behave. Would Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania or perhaps Austria like our latest pipeline routed through sovereign territory? Wonderful. But remember, we need you to stand up for us in Brussels. Would London like to be the destination of choice for our lovely oligarchs? Superb. Now, let’s not look too closely at offshore finance.

Russian diplomats have been creating covert allies, especially out of the weaker Eurozone states such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. These recession-battered governments wanted nothing more than millions more Russian tourists or cheaper energy discounts. In exchange, they have been more than happy to make the case for Moscow inside the EU. They were not alone. Russian diplomats went shopping around southeastern Europe with the proposed South Stream pipeline – using the proposed route to buy friends and favors in Brussels out of Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. These crafty games have stymied hopes of the bloc ever forming an energy union to conduct gas deals with Russia. Instead states still deal individually.

But nowhere were they as successful as in Athens and Nicosia. The European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank network, even went as far as labeling both Greece and Cyprus as Russian “Trojan horses.” This should come to little surprise: The Kremlin has turned Athens into a military partner and Nicosia, the Greek Cypriot capital, into a money laundering hub, with roughly $150 billion flowing in annually from Russia. And surely enough, both Greek and Cypriot delegations in Brussels have consistently argued the Russian case on all matters to do with the Black Sea and the South Caucasus – even vetoing EU proposals to send border monitors to disputed frontiers in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Moldova.

This is why nothing big happened on sanctions before the downing of MH17. Kremlin sweeteners had divided the big three players: Britain was refusing to lose its business with Russian banks; France was determined not to lose billions in military contracts; and Germany, which gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, refused to budge on anything to do with energy. With the big boys thus compromised, the weaker southern European countries gave pushback: With Italy in the lead, they wanted nothing more than to warm up European relations with Russia again.