My TRT TV-London: Cold War espionage in Berlin? Plus Russia’s “unique influence & penetration” of German society

Watch the Roundtable discussion

Is this a revival of Cold War espionage?

Aug 24, 2021 Roundtable (20.9K subscribers)
Following the arrest of a British employee at its Berlin embassy as a Russian spy, it’s been suggested that Russia has tried to infiltrate Germany in particular because of its role at the centre of Europe and because of its ties to Moscow. A former MI5 agent-recruiter, Annie Machon, plus UK academic expert Dr. Jenny Mathers at Aberystwyth University, and Dr. Tom O’Donnell, at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin are here to tell us if we’re witnessing a return to the Cold War ways of spying.

Some comments on the show: First off, my fellow panelists are experts on human espionage and Russian spy craft – which I am not – and were extremely informative In this discussion on David Foster’s Roundtable.

An overview and elaboration of my points: I stressed, besides a Cold-War-like level of Russian espionage in Berlin, there is a general openness in Germany to economic and political interpenetration and integration with Russia. In plain sight one sees everyday what I called the “unique influence and penetration” of German society as compared to any other EU or NATO ally.

I stressed energy-sector examples – most especially Nord Stream 1 and, now, Nord Stream 2 pipelines, built by German partnerships with Putin’s Russia, aiming to avoid Russian gas having to transit Ukraine to arrive in Germany and beyond. The degree of this open integration with Russia is unique in the EU. Consider: the Germany’s pre-Merkel chancellor, Schröder, heads the boards of both Gazprom and Rosneft; that an x-German Stazi secret-police officer is the CEO of Gazprom-owned Nord Stream 2 AG, and that overwhelming numbers of German experts “consult’ for Gazprom, including even the 2005-06 German Federal State Secretary for Defense(!) – who is a member of Merkel’s CDU/CSU party.

David Foster’s Roundtable, TRT-London

I talked about how essentially every German political party, with the exception of a significant section of the Greens, supports this posture. This explains the long and intensifying collision between Washington and Berlin over which of these two biggest allies in the transatlantic alliance will set its policy towards Russia. Their disagreement over Nord Stream 2 is but one example of this.

Aside from today’s ultra-left and -right parties, which have open affinities for Putin’s regime, and the center-left Social Democratic Party, I cited German history, going back to old Prussia’s relationships with Russia – as having left a view common within conservative business circles and Merkel’s CDU/CSU center-right party, that Germany is “a country of the east,”one naturally seeking deep integration with Russia.

A material-economic, structural factor in this is Germany’s unique over-dependence on export revenue, well beyond that of any other transatlantic ally, that I have termed a German policy of “Neue Neue Ostpolitik” to Putin’s regime, a policy of continued connections and trade with Russia (and China) as a way of, supposedly, making war impossible via economic interdependence. This is historically a third iteration, now in the 21st-Century, of German east-looking partnerships with Moscow’s elites.

This sets aside concerns over Putin’s domestic autocracy, corruption and external aggressions; in a manner not seen in the USA or in most other transatlantic allies. The ,latter, generally, focus instead on a “democracy-promotion”-centered approach, including especially application of sanctions to specifically limit trade and participation of the west with the Russian (or Chinese) economy. Ideologically, this is broadly based on the intention to foster or force a liberal democratic transition inside Russia. This approach is common in the USA elites; it is not in German elites.

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