Status: March 24th, 2021 10:00 p.m.
Blinken can criticize the new US Secretary of State. He proved that at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Germany also received criticism. On one issue, however, the US is taking a milder approach.
From Helga Schmidt,
ARD studio Brussels
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken likes to be clear. He would rather it, he confided to the journalists in Brussels, when the conflicts were openly on the table. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas felt this in a one-on-one conversation on Tuesday evening. It was about the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.
ARD studio Brussels
The morning after, the new US Secretary of State openly reported that the conversation was not exactly consensual. It was good, said Blinken, that he was able to speak to Maas directly: “Just to make our position clear and to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.” That’s exactly what he did.
Nord Stream 2 “Split Europe”
There was no comment from Maas on the course of the dispute over the Baltic Sea pipeline. Blinken made it clear that the pipeline was a bad idea. It divides Europe, with the risk of being too dependent on gas from Russia. “I emphasized that to Foreign Minister Maas,” said Blinken.
And he also emphasized that “companies that are involved in the construction of the pipeline must expect sanctions from the USA”. Washington had already imposed sanctions on a company involved in January.
Does the USA want to bring its own gas to the EU market?
Some of Blinken’s pipeline criticism was directed more towards the American audience, according to EU circles. Both Republican and Democratic MPs reject gas supplies through Moscow.
In addition, there is the assumption that the American pipeline critics are interested in being able to bring their liquefied gas to the European market better.
Nonetheless, it was noticeable that Blinken’s clear text on Nord Stream 2 was not missing from any of his public appearances in Brussels. The attacks against the federal government were unmistakable.
At least Blinken added: “Germany is one of our closest allies.” Washington will not allow disagreements over Nord Stream 2 to stand in the way of close cooperation on other important issues.
Less dispute over the defense budget
The criticism of the level of defense spending was more moderate than in the four Trump years: Blinken did remind us that all NATO partners have committed themselves to the two percent target. That much should continue to be invested in the military in proportion to economic power. But a single number does not “fully reflect a country’s contribution to defending our collective security”.
Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer repeatedly called for qualitative services such as military missions to be given greater consideration. The solidarity of the alliance can not only be tied to money, it is said in German diplomatic circles.
The American Secretary of State now sounded similar at NATO headquarters. Washington sees the need to “take a holistic view”. It is still more than questionable whether the German contribution of now 1.56 percent will be sufficient. It remains clearly below the target.
More contact with Russia – but also more protection
With a view to Russia policy, Maas was committed to reviving the NATO-Russia Council. The discussion forum is idle – there has been no political exchange with Russian representatives since mid-2019.
From the perspective of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the cause is clear: “That is because Russia did not respond positively to our invitation.” Meetings failed on the agenda, report NATO diplomats. NATO wants to talk about Ukraine, Russia refuses.
The new US Secretary of Defense proposes to go double-pronged now. Stoltenberg supports that. Cooperation with Moscow if it is in the western interest. But at the same time, NATO must adapt its deterrence and defense to the dangers posed by Russia. Stoltenberg listed: “Cyber attacks, violations of international law, nuclear armament and attempts to influence elections.”
China should show its will to reform
When it came to China, the new Blinken gave a diplomatically packaged warning to the EU. He was critical of the investment agreement that Chancellor Angela Merkel had initiated shortly before the end of the German Council Presidency. On the subjects of forced labor, protection of companies and state subsidies, China still has to prove that promises made are being kept. Washington insists on that, said Blinken – and added another point: The European Parliament insists on it too. MEPs from several political groups had severely criticized the investment agreement. The agreement cannot enter into force without the consent of Parliament.
US President Joe Biden himself will certainly deepen policy on China, his foreign minister announced to the Europeans. And already at the EU summit on Thursday evening. Then Biden wants to join the video conference of the heads of state and government. A first.
It will be about transatlantic relations, according to the EU Commission. And probably also about the expectations that the American president has of the Europeans.
Nord Stream 2 and Russia Strategy – Results NATO Foreign Minister
Helga Schmidt, ARD Brussels, March 24th, 2021 9:42 pm