August 26, 2019 | Washington Examiner

Germany must re-embrace America, Europe

August 26, 2019 | Washington Examiner

Germany must re-embrace America, Europe

President Trump has been pointedly criticized for putting pressure on America’s European allies. Critics have even insinuated that he is endangering the alliance.

Yet it is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany that has abandoned Europe and America. And she needs to bring her nation back to the fold.

Merkel’s Germany has largely aligned itself with tyrannical regimes in authoritarian Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Communist China. Her country’s vulgar, pacifist foreign policy, coupled with an addiction to Russian gas, endangers Europe and struggling democracies seeking to stymie Russian President Vladimir Putin’s jingoism.

Take the example of the Merkel administration’s full-throttled campaign to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, running under the Baltic Sea. This pipeline is opposed by the EU Parliament, President Donald Trump’s administration, Ukraine, and environmental groups.

Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, is spearheading Nord Stream 2. Put simply, Nord Stream 2 means that Europe’s most important economy will be beholden to an authoritarian regime for its energy supply. And profits from Nord Stream 2 can be used by Putin to sow further discord in Western democracies.

To add weight to the accusation that Germany is carrying Putin’s water, the country’s largest newspaper, Bild, reported that Emily Haber, Berlin’s ambassador to the U.S., engaged in high-intensity lobbying for the Russian president’s pipeline project. According to the March article, Haber wrote to U.S. senators demanding that they “stop threatening two Russian ventures in Germany with further sanctions.” A congressional staffer told Bild that people were “shocked” by Haber’s letter, which “unambiguously sides with Russia.”

The Bild article was scarcely noticed by the U.S. media. But to its credit, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee internalized the danger of the German-Russian energy alliance. In late July, the committee advanced legislation to sanction construction of the Nord Stream project.

The proposed law, the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019, is meandering its way through the House and Senate toward approval. One strongly suspects that Trump is an energetic advocate of the legislation. After all, he lambasted Merkel’s government as a “captive” of Russia because of its growing dependency on Putin’s energy system.

While (West) Germany remained largely on the side of the U.S. during the Cold War against Soviet Russia, the Nord Stream 2 Project has been a dangerous game-changer.

A second sea change comes in the form of Germany’s tacit alliance with Iran’s clerical regime, at a time when Tehran’s forces are attacking oil tankers in the vital energy shipping lane of the Strait of Hormuz. Merkel snubbed a U.S. request to assist with maritime security in the Gulf region, whereas the United Kingdom pledged to join the U.S. naval campaign to safeguard the waterway.

To understand the intense bond between Berlin and Tehran, a flashback to February is useful. That month, the German Foreign Ministry sent Minister of State Niels Annen and an Iran specialist to Tehran’s embassy in Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic — a regime that constantly urges the destruction of the United States and Israel, defends the execution of gay Iranians, and spreads Holocaust denial.

Annen, who rejects a full ban of the terrorist entity Hezbollah in Germany, boasted that he had “no regrets” when confronted about his participation in the celebration of the theocratic regime. Germany has been the most vocal supporter of the flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal that was supposed to curb Tehran’s atomic program and blunt its malign activities. Merkel’s administration is desperately seeking to start the INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) payment system between the EU and Iran, which is designed to circumvent US sanctions.

The chancellor, the social democratic foreign minister Heiko Maas, and the country’s MPs know that pacifism resonates with a German population that seeks to avoid international responsibility and confrontation with ruthless dictators. The radical pacifism and isolationism practiced by the Merkel administration is exactly the recipe that ruthless figures such as Putin, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and China’s communist dictator Xi Jinping depend on to impose their new world order over western objections.

Another salient example of Merkel’s soggy appeasement revolves around the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist paramilitary organization. In sharp contrast to the United Kingdom’s ban on Hezbollah’s entire organization in February, Merkel has steadfastly ignored urgent appeals from U.S. members of Congress, her own country’s nearly 100,000-member Jewish community and the Trump administration to outlaw the entirety of Hezbollah infrastructure in Germany.

Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General, famously said NATO was designed to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Merkel’s Germany’s has ignored her country’s pledge to meet 2% domestic spending for NATO’s defense budget. She has instead pursued her own “special way” that endangers international security. Just a few weeks ago, U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell warned Merkel that if Germany does not meet its defense budget obligation, the U.S. could withdraw its troops stationed in Germany and relocate the force to Poland.

It is imperative that NATO and a coalition of European and non-European democracies make clear their opposition to Merkel’s misguided path.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

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Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power Russia Sanctions and Illicit Finance U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy