Potsdam Encounters (Potsdamer Begegnungen): War and Peace in Corona Times

Potsdam Encounters (Potsdamer Begegnungen): War and Peace in Corona Times

Author: Alexander Rahr

It is not true that after Corona the world will be different – perhaps more peaceful. Even after the 9/11 terrorist attack and the global financial crisis, people believed that humanity would change mentally, address more pressing issues, and make the planet more cooperative, safe, and peaceful. None of this has happened and will not happen now.

That is the quintessence of the last German-Russian expert conference in the course of the Potsdam meetings. Even if their content was completely ignored by leading German media for unfathomable reasons, they play an increasingly strategic role in the political and civil society exchange between the two countries. This is supported by the fact that the foreign ministers of both countries appear as patrons of the Potsdam meetings (Potsdamer Begegnungen) and the governments can be consulted here.

Let’s start with the Americans. Just as they behaved internally and externally in the Corona crisis, they are rid of their leadership authority in the world. But out of anger and despair, and to distract from the internal problems, the United States will force others to keep the American world order. The rising China is put in its place with trade wars. The other competitor, Russia, is subject to painful sanctions.

The crises in the world will tend to increase. The USA / EU and China / Russia could approach the edge of a military conflict in the conflict areas of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, and space.

The EU hopes for a „better“ America after Trump. Berlin is hoping for Biden’s election victory. Defense of the EU cannot be guaranteed without the United States. Without the USA – no EU. But Europeans don’t like the fact that they are being pushed by the United States into a vassal role. Instead of China, Europeans should increasingly buy American goods: armaments, liquid gas, technologies. The US will force the EU to focus more on America to drop China.

What is happening to Russia? Russia has relatively little corona deaths, but the economic damage it has suffered is colossal. Resentment to the government is growing in society, which has been battered by numerous breakdowns in recent decades. As a result of the Corona crisis, Russia has lost its right to energy superpower status. As a result of the corona crisis, the global world economy will be less dependent on fossil fuels. Russia’s raw material exports will shift from Europe to Asia.

Russia will have to use its reserve funds to finally carry out the necessary modernization of its own economy – away from the pure raw material export economy. That could be Russia’s last chance. Moscow will lack the means and allies for a more expansionary global foreign policy. In order to avoid the increasing pressure from the West, Russia will inevitably seek ever closer cooperation with China. The fear of the Chinese colonizing Siberia will always accompany this rapprochement. Closer cooperation between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, which has been vehemently demanded by participants in the Potsdam meetings, is a long way off.

But things can turn out very differently if Germany – the economically strongest country in EU-Europe – uses its EU presidency in the second half of 2020 to initiate a normalization of relations with Russia and to reconsider sanctions. The Potsdam meetings made constructive suggestions in this regard. Berlin must discuss the migration problems that threaten Europe more seriously, not only with Ankara, but also with Moscow.

The EU could, for example, extend its concept of the green deal to Russia (see: Ralf Ostner / Frithjof Finkbeiner in RIAC, Dr. Kulikov´s International Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IISES) and Global Review). A „green alliance“ between the EU and Russia would correspond to the modern zeitgeist, would be beneficial for all sides and could be the inspiration for a common technological economic area between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Such a perspective is far better than the new block division between the transatlantic community and Eurasia.

But whenever the perspective of an improvement in relations between the West and Russia unfolds, the ghosts come back from the past. Chancellor Merkel took the secret service revelations on the alleged Russian hacker attacks on the Bundestag five years ago as an opportunity to pillory Russia. She has forgotten being taped into her cell phone through US intelligence agencies. After this speech, there will probably be no new EU policy towards Russia under the German Presidency.

Could it be that someone is trying to put pressure on Merkel so that she no longer stands up for a German-Russian energy partnership? Could it be that the United States wants to use all means to prevent the concept of a common area from Lisbon to Vladivostok from being implemented in order to cement its concept of a transatlantic Europe from Vancouver to Donetsk? Or is Russia itself so unwise to lose the chance of a rapprochement with the West via Germany through permanent conflicts such as the Skripal case, Berlin zoogarden murder, hacker attacks, human rights violations in Syria, etc.?

What is actually going on behind the scenes? Who can answer this question?

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