Eurasia Note #18 - Dissent Rocks NATO
Russia, not China, aligns with Western interests, says Germany's (ex) naval chief
German naval chief launches torpedo in debate on policy towards China and Russia.
Effectively accuses Western politicians of fawning to Beijing, betraying security.
NATO divisions spill into the open — days after Biden’s “minor incursion” comment.
Apoplexy in Ukraine. Britain’s Foreign Office claims Kremlin plans regime change.
(1,500 words, or five minutes’ read)
Tbilisi, Jan 23, 2022
The chief of Germany's navy resigned after suggesting that Russia wants and “probably deserves” respect, and that China is not the nice country that many Western politicians imagine.
Vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach said on Friday that Crimea “will never come back,” and that what Putin “really wants is respect... and it is easy to give him the respect he demands."
This is the kind of open debate on vital public interests that was until recently verboten in the European Union and NATO — and coincides curiously with President Joe Biden’s reflection on Donbas, that a “minor incursion” would leave the West having to “fight about we have to do and not do.”
This firecracker was lit with a somewhat longer fuse as Schönbach made his comments during the docking of the naval frigate Bayern at Mumbai, where he addressed the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses on Friday. He called “nonsense” the idea that Russia was “interested in having a small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil and integrating it into their country.” 
German and British perspectives
As Moneycircus noted in Eurasia Note #16 and #17, Germany’s business class historically has seen its destiny to the east, where Russia’s ample energy supplies create a ready market for German machinery and finished goods. Now it seems part of the German military establishment shares that view — in conflict with the mass of politicians who mostly side readily with the U.S. and the security apparatus on topics like sanctions on Russia.
For many years European Union foreign policy-making circles were top-heavy with Polish and British officials hostile to Russia. This was not just a matter of historical grievance but perspective — the British are aligned with the “free trade” movement of footloose global capital that is loyal to no land. What the Earl Stockton, Harold Macmillan, British prime minister from 1957-63, called in 1985:
"The enormous sums of money, of floating, uninvested money... [which] produced a great cloud that moved uneasily about the capitals of the world, disturbing the monetary system and upsetting the economies, destroying the general structure..."
This led to the GATT and NAFTA trade agreements that de-industrialized much of Britain and the United States. Cosmopolitan finance was just as happy to site its factories in China.
The British are heavily represented in think tanks and intergovernmental institutions that prepare policy and present it to governments — such as the Council on Foreign Relations-Chatham House — and these bodies are funded by banks and finance capital: you pays your money, and you gets your choice.
Battle of the bulge bureaucrats
Over the past decade China has demanded diplomatic status commensurate with its economic power. The British have been on guard against a loss of influence and seek to buttress the multilateral organizations — the influential, international bureaucrats.
A recent UK House of Commons report complained that international bodies are being captured and repurposed by, primarily, China (but also Russia) which uses aggressive measures like economic leverage and finance for infrastructure projects.
In order to “break the cycle of decline in multilateral organisations” the Foreign Affairs Committee in Jun 2021 called for Britain to use multilateral bodies wherever possible to pursue foreign policy objectives. 
Britain shows signs of “waning influence in certain organisations,” like the International Court of Justice, the World Trade Organization and even loss of voting support at the United Nations General Assembly.
It also notes the bodies like the World Health Organization and Interpol can be “significantly influenced by their donors, even those who give comparatively little support.” Mr Gates, take note.
The report observes that the British government seems to be under-informed about China’s status in Central Asia. It complains there was no mention in Britain’s Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development of “China’s growing influence in OSCE states that make up the Belt and Road Initiative.”
This gives weight to the German vice-admiral’s comments suggesting European and NATO politicians are misreading China. We must conclude they are incompetent and uninformed, at best, or they are conduits for misunderstanding.
Britain’s foreign policy establishment will simply view Schönbach’s attempt to broaden debate as evidence that “disengagement from European powers has allowed political capture by Moscow,” especially in bodies like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Yesterday Britain’s foreign secretary claimed to have evidence of a Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine. The FCDO listed four Ukrainian politicians it says are connected to Russian intelligence. 
History in the remaking
There is something of the pantomime in the boosterism of the Western press for armed conflict. A front page photo of a drummer in Cossack dress, hands aloft, mallets about to pound his lytavri kettle drum — that is The Guardian’s visual metaphor of the tocsin of war, the image it picked from Ukraine’s annual Day of Unity in Kyiv on Saturday.
It recalls William Randolph Hearst’s whipping up of fury in the Spanish-American war — though not the yarn we are taught in school: that it was somehow just to sell papers. It took an economic historian, H.U. Faulkner to assert that American corporate might was ready for “financial imperialism.” President Theodore Roosevelt obliged as Spain in 1898 ceded Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. In addition, the United States established a protectorate over Cuba and annexed Hawaii.
You could say the U.S. acquired its empire at the top of the market, as the imperial bubble was about to burst — a last hurrah like the British in southern Africa — before WWI would bring the era of “colonial enterprise and shifting blocs of military alliances” to a messy nadir. Empire was about to become a very expensive hobby.
Students of Russian history, including those who reside in the Kremlin, know just how costly it is to wage war over, and to govern, huge masses of land. It strains credibility to think they take such decisions lightly.
As the International Encyclopedia of the First World War notes, the reasons for the re-ignition of imperial expansion at the end of the 19th century is still controversial — uncomfortably sensitive, perhaps.
We can recognise some elements today, with foreboding: faster and deeper communication (they had underwater telegraph lines); competition for raw materials; more deadly weapons (machine guns); and the dogma of social Darwinism — exemplified by the writings of two Maxes, Weber and Nordau. These all have parallels in the present.
If the persistence of imperialism is poorly understood, the reasons for WWI are still obscured, as is the ideological and corporate impetus for WWII. Some people are keen to repeat their mistakes, it seems. See Moneycircus Eurasia Notes #10 - Belt And Brace: War jaw is a distraction from reshaping politics and trade
Mary, Mary, quite contrary-land
President Biden talked with national security advisors at Camp David on Saturday about engagement with Ukraine and Russia. This includes providing “security assistance” to Kyiv, which Washington regards as deterrence and Moscow as inflaming tensions.
The Russian foreign ministry has asked for a written statement on the security of Russia and NATO. This is effectively a yes or no, with respect to the 1989 verbal agreement by then-Secretary of State James Baker to keep NATO within its borders. In practice it means no further eastwards expansion, no membership for Ukraine and no offensive capability in the country.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the presence of troops on the Russian side of the border implied plans for invasion. He warned that any provocation to support such an impression would carry extremely serious consequences. “False flag,” or not — the media insists troops are on the move, or that they are planning regime change, or some such narrative. Thus the impact of the vice-admiral’s words.
“Does Russia really want a small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil to integrate into their country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because can do it and he splits EU opinion."
Despite apoplexy in Kyiv — Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also criticised Germany for refusing to supply weapons — the greatest import of Schönbach pertains to China.
It is “not that nice country we probably thought,” he said, adding that “Russia is an old country, Russia is an important country. Even we India, Germany, need Russia. We need Russia against China.”
A second pipeline “Power of Siberia” is being planned that would eventually carry 50 billion cubic meters of gas. Currently gas flowing west and east come from different fields. That could change if Russia connects its Yamal field, by internal networks, to China. It would then be able to play customers against each other. 
European Union and NATO member states have talked about energy security for more than a decade — and achieved the reverse. God help Europe in a war if it relies on LNG tankers bobbing their way from the U.S. and the Gulf.
 The Hindu, Jan 22, 2022 — German Navy chief strikes a tough note on China
 House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Jun 2021 — In the room: the UK’s role in multilateral diplomacy
[3 UK Foreign Office, Jan 22, 2022 — Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine exposed
 VOA, Jan 18, 2022 — Power of Siberia 2' Pipeline Could See Europe, China Compete for Russian Gas