by Elisabeth Hellenbroich
In this week’s German weekly “Der Spiegel”(March7th) an article was published under the headline “Berlin alarmed by aggressive NATO stance on Ukraine.” The article carried as subtitle: “In the Ukraine crisis US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel’s effort at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin’s approach. And NATO’s top commander in Europe hasn’t been helping either.”
The article sheds light on the underlying transatlantic tensions, part of which is the ongoing frustration by the German Government on the US arrogant behavior, concerning the NSA/ Snowden case, but also seemingly controversial positions when it comes to a sober assessment of the Ukraine/ Russian crisis. The main focus of the article is the growing irritation on the side of the German government and its foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst(BND) in reaction to the hawkish propaganda line which is nourished from leading US NATO generals as well as State Department officials such as Victoria Nuland, known for her very contemptuous attitude vis a vis Europe .
The line which Spiegel gives is that a “hawkish” faction within the US administration and within NATO is “undermining” each step which is made to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis in collaboration with other European governments. The method to counter this effort is disinformation and shrill propaganda.
An example which Spiegel refers to is,that the same day that the Minsk cease fire was going into effect, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe went before thepress in Washington telling them, that Putin “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine- with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery”, having been sent to the Donbass. Spiegel quotes General Breedlove having said:“What is clearis that right now, it is not getting better.It is getting worse every day.”
Even if there doesn’t exist any official statement by the German government, Spiegel reports that the German government is “stunned” since it wasn’t the first time. “Once again the German government supported by intelligence gathered by theBundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe(SACEUR).”
One should note that the German Daily Frankfurter AllgemeineZeitung (FAZ) on March 9th had a lengthy article about the BND’s intelligence work concerning Russia and Ukraine. It stressed that unlike other foreign intelligence services, the BND never had reduced its sources concerning Russian developments. Sometimes in personal discussions which Chancellor Merkel had with President Putin, she as was reported by FAz, made use of very detailed intelligence informations, which seemed to surprise of President Putin, according to FAZ.
Hawkish propaganda puts the credibility of the West into question
False claims, exaggerated accounts and striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements, this is “the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy.”
Spiegel claims that “the government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility”. Berlin sources are also being referred to for saying
“that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution.”
The article refers to a series of statements made by General Breedlove in the last monthswhich were simply false. In November 2014 he told the Frankfurter AllgemeineZeitungthat there were “regular Russian army units in Eastern Ukraine.” One day later he said on the website of the German Newsmagazine “Stern” that they weren’t fighting units, but “mostly trainers and advisors.” Very similar to him was US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who during the cease- fire talks in Minsk claimed that there was a “direct Russian military intervention.” The German Foreign Intelligence service at that time assessed however that just a fewarmored vehicles were there.
Victoria Nuland’s contempt for Europe
The other attack by Spiegel is directed against Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State, responsible for European affairs), who according to the German news magazine is seen as a possible Secretary of State should the Republicans win back the White House in next year’s presidential elections.Her husband “the neoconservative Robert Kagan is”, according to Spiegel “after all, the originator of the idea that the Americans are from Mars and Europeans unwilling as they are to realize that true security depends on military power, are from Venus.”
Nuland’s“contempt for the European weakness” was clearly expressed by Nuland in an unsecured telephone conversation during the initial days of the Ukrainian crisis in February 2014 by Nulands sentence: “Fuck the Europeans.”
At the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, beginning of February this year, Nulandaccording to Spiegel stated during a private meeting of American Officials:“We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically“, while she arrogantly commented Chancellor Merkel’s trip to Moscow as “Merkel’s Moscow stuff.”
On the basis of these statements which have been made by US Officials such as General Breedlove and Victoria Nuland, Spiegel concludes that “people inBerlin have the impression that important power brokers in Washington are working against the Europeans.Berlin officials have noticed, that, following the visit of American politicians or military leaders in Kiev, Ukrainian officials are much more bellicose and optimistic about the Ukrainian military‘s ability to win the conflict on the battlefield”.