May 10 2021

Deep Beneath the Baltic Sea

Published by at 1:15 am under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.

 

Deep Beneath the Baltic Sea:

 

From Zhukov’s Friendship with Eisenhower

 

to Illegal American Extraterritoriality

 

 

by Anna Rosmus

 

Unable to reach a security agreement with Britain and France against National Socialist Germany after the Munich Conference from September 1938, Soviets faced the likelihood of German military expansion in Eastern Europe by themselves. Hoping to gain time to increase the Soviet military, on August 23, 1939, Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a non-aggression pact. During the subsequent invasion of Poland, Germans stunned the world with their Blitzkrieg. On June 22, 1941, Germans invaded of the Soviet Union.

On January 12, 1945, Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front started an offensive toward Berlin. Two days later, the 1st Belorussian Front under Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov followed. Within days, the Eastern front fell apart, and Americans held their breath when Zhukov maneuvered his forces across the Odra River, some 40 miles from Berlin. After German top brass in Berlin surrendered to him on May 8, 1945, Zhukov became the first commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany.

Within hours of the Allied victory, American and Soviet soldiers of every rank began to party, cordially celebrating and ceremonially decorating each other.[1] Kenneth W. Moeller from 11th Armored Division Headquarters, for example, wrote in Memories: The European Theater of Operations 1944-45:

The 7th Parachute Guards Division was an elite unit — that is what the Guards means. It is the equivalent of our Presidential Unit Citation. It means the Unit has been to hell and back. They were Ukrainians. […] We sat down for lunch. We toasted Stalin, we toasted President Truman, we toasted Marshal Zhukov, we toasted General Eisenhower. Things got pretty merry. General Dager presented General Drechkin and each of his staff with a Colt .45 pistol.

Whether it was the Soviet Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” or a Medal for Valor, “by command of General Eisenhower” or subordinate units, American soldiers were not only granted permission to accept and to wear their Soviet decorations, but they had practical benefits as well.[2]

That the Supreme Allied Commander in the West admired Marshal Zhukov was no secret.

 

SC 207756 Shaef, Frankfurt, on June, 10, 1945: General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, with Marshal of the Soviet Union Zhukov, and interpreter Lieutenant Colonel O. Pantuhoff. Zhukov remained the most decorated general in the history of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Photo by Lieutenant Moore

 

On June 10, 1945, Zhukov was appointed Military Governor of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany. That day, he traveled all the way to Frankfurt am Main, to present Eisenhower with the Order of Victory, the highest possible Soviet military decoration. On June 25, 1945, when Time Magazine printed a bold “Salute to General Ike”, readers learned that it was “glittering with thousands of dollars’ worth of diamonds and rubies”. Both men quickly became more than brothers-in-arms. In Strictly Personal, Eisenhower’s son, a military historian, reminisced about traveling with them.[3]

Shortly thereafter, however, the Cold War set in, destroying most of this once vital Alliance. Germans and the Soviets returned to business as usual. By 1973, a transcontinental gas transport system from Western Siberia to Western Europe was established. It was so successful that five years later, Soviets planned to expand it with a 2,800-mile long trans-Siberian pipeline. Originating in the Urengoy gas fields, it crosses the Ural Carpathian Mountains and more than 600 rivers.[4] In July 1981, Deutsche Bank, other German banks, and the AKA Ausfuhrkredit GmbH pledged 3.4 billion Deutsche Mark in credits. AEG-Telefunken, Mannesmann, and others signed construction deals. Under President Ronald Reagan, however, a transatlantic battle began.[5] The foreign ministers of the European Economic Community issued a formal note of protest, calling the 1982 US-sanctions illegal.[6] To this day, that route continues to deliver approximately 40 billion cubic meters gas a year.

Britain, Norway, and the Netherlands, Western and Northern Europe’s biggest producers of natural gas, primarily rely on resources from the North Sea. In 2016, that amount covered merely one third of the union’s needs, yet over the next few decades, that gas might be depleted.

Nord Stream, another pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany, has operated since 2011. To continue delivering gas via the Black Sea as well, Russia extended its contract with Ukraine until 2024. Today, Russia controls nearly 40% of the EU gas market, compared to 80% in 1990.

While Germany is Russia’s biggest market, Green politicians and others dread burning more fossil fuels. To replace coal and nuclear energy while becoming carbon-neutral in the long run, Europe needs more gas. Piping in additional supplies along the shortest route is efficient. It is no surprise that the German government proposed Nord Stream 2, a parallel, 760-mile-long line beneath the Baltic Sea. The $11 billion international project could add up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, thus roughly doubling Russia’s export volume on that route.

And once again, not everybody in the transatlantic alliance is happy about that. Like 30 years earlier, some opponents fear Russia’s increased geopolitical options. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, on NATO’s eastern border, oppose Nord Stream 2 because two pipelines through the Baltic Sea might enable Russia to cut them out of billions in transit fees for the existing line through the Black Sea.

The United States, however, seems intent on repeating history from the 1980s. Donald Trump was not the only one who tried to increase US-access to a profitable market with reliably growing demands. Selling Europe more American liquefied natural gas (LNG) still seems worth fighting for – by all means. After various 2016 warnings,[7] Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern and Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel pointed out that “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not for the United States of America.”[8]

In 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced US opposition to the pipeline. In December 2019, the U.S. Congress hurled sanctions at a Swiss company for supplying ships that lower Nord Stream 2 pipes into the Baltic Sea. While this delayed the project, Russia simply sent another vessel instead, and in the meantime, the pipeline is almost complete.[9]

Whereas German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated in a tweet that “European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the United States,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the U.S. Congress “is literally overwhelmed with the desire to do everything to destroy” Russian-U.S. relations.[10]

Undeterred, in the summer of 2020, a bipartisan group of US-Senators met to widen sanctions to prevent Nord Stream 2. According to those senators, individuals as well as companies from multiple nations can be targeted for lawful business deals such as underwriting insurance for that pipeline or providing port services. Unsurprisingly, the German government set out to make the EU retaliate.

On July 3, 2020, ANDREAS KLUTH, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, opened his article with these words:

U.S. President Donald Trump is furious at Germany for many reasons, not all of them fathomable. In phone conversations with Angela Merkel, he’s allegedly called the German chancellor “stupid” and denigrated her in “near-sadistic” tones. Though this be madness, as the Bard might say, there is—on rare occasions—method in it. One such case is Nord Stream 2.[11]

When Germans arrived for the NATO summit in Brussels, they might have anticipated another Trump insult. On July 11, RICK NOACK reported in the Washington Post,

Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on camera. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”[12]

On January 1, 2021, the annual U.S. defense policy bill passed by Congress included sanctions for companies that insured the pipeline or worked on it. On January 19, Trump’s last full day in office, his administration sanctioned a single Russian ship for laying pipe.

Although Trump may be gone, it remains to be seen whether America remains hostile towards Nord Stream 2, and thus a critical ally. On February 16, 2021 a Bloomberg article was headlined, “Germany Seeks Deal With Biden on Controversial Russian Pipeline.”[13] It quoted Richard Morningstar, founding chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union: “It won’t be easy to convince the U.S. to back off of sanctions,” but “Biden’s team is sensitive to the outcry over extraterritorial sanctions and are looking at alternatives, according to a person close to the matter.”

On March 18, 2021, DANIEL BENJAMIN, president of the American Academy and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department 2009-2012, wondered in Politico:

The Nord Stream 2 fight has everything: Russian tentacles, an irate Congress and billions of dollars at stake for our closest allies. Can the Biden administration avoid a train wreck? […] whatever damage a new round of sanctions implementation will inflict on Russia will be relatively minor compared to the harm to the U.S.-German bilateral relationship at a genuinely critical moment. Washington is looking to Europe—with Germany in the lead—to craft complementary policies to manage an emboldened China. […] Breathing new life into NATO, revitalizing the Iran nuclear deal and, ironically, managing Vladimir Putin are other areas where German support will be essential.”[14]

Anthony J. Blinken, now Secretary of State, seems to be stalling for time.

 

 

Footnotes

[1] See: Rosmus, Anna: Valhalla Finale, Dorfmeister, Tittling 2009, pp. 153-190; Rosmus, Anna: Ragnarök, Dorfmeister, Tittling 2010, pp. 403-437; Rosmus, Anna: Allied Encounters, Spring and Summer 1945, Kindle Edition 2012;

[2] On August 8, 1945, for instance, 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Amyx contacted the Commanding General at Headquarters US Forces in the European Theater, to find out “whether or not these awards entitle recipients to combat credit points.” Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Corley confirmed that the recipients, all assigned to Military Intelligence Service, were “entitled to five points” which sped up their military discharge.

[3] Eisenhower, John S. D.: Strictly Personal, Doubleday, 1974

[4] For details see: Afzal, Amina, 2004: https://web.archive.org/web/20090119235743/http://issi.org.pk/journal/2004_files/no_3/article/5a.htm

[5] Anthony J. Blinken, then a Harvard student, penned his undergraduate thesis about that dispute, and later wrote a book, Ally Versus Ally: America, Europe, and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis.

[6] Lee, Jae-Seung, Connolly, Daniel: “Pipeline Politics between Europe and Russia: A Historical Review from the Cold War to the Post-Cold War” in: The Korean Journal of International Studies 14-1, April 2016, pp. 105-29

[7] A German international lawyer stated, “You won’t find a single reputable scholar here or anywhere [outside the U.S.] who thinks secondary sanctions are legal under international law.” Even Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned that such sanctions “are viewed, even by some of our closest allies as extra-territorial attempts to apply U.S. foreign policy to the rest of the world.”

[8]Germany, Austria Slam US Sanctions Against Russia” in: U.S. News from June 15, 2017

[9] According to the Danish Maritime Authority, work is to be largely completed by the end of April 2021.

[10]Ukraine and Russia look to strike new gas deal amid US sanctions threat” in: CNBC from December 16, 2019.

[11] For details see: “Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline Could Sever U.S., Germany Ties – Bloomberg”

[12] For details see: “The Russian pipeline to Germany that Trump is so mad about, explained – The Washington Post”

[13] For details see: Dezem, Vanessa, Flatley, Daniel, Jennen, Birgit in: Bloomberg News;

[14] How One European Pipeline Is Derailing Biden’s ‘America Is Back’ Promise – POLITICO

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