The worldwide consequences of an avoidable war

In two interviews in June, Angela Merkel, speaking after a few months of silence, attacked Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. But she, at the same time, she defended the policy towards Russia that she led throughout her sixteen years as chancellor, stating that she would do exactly the same policy again. An important statement, considered fundamental her role in establishing relations with Germany in that long period full of political changes in Europe and worldwide.

It is therefore worthwhile to return briefly in particular to relations between Germany and Russia during her long chancellorship..

 A premise is required. Special relations between Germany and Russia date back to more distant times. We have to go back to the end of the 1960s to grasp the turning point in relations between Germany and Russia under the chancellery of… which astonished Europe by surprising even the United States. The trip to Warsaw and the visit to the cemetery where the Jews killed by the Nazis were buried became memorable.

A few decades later, with the unification of Germany and the end of the Soviet empire, Germany definitively assumed a central role in Europe. Putin, just elected to head the Russian government, went to Berlin to meet Schroeder and on that occasion also visited Angela Merkel at the head of the opposition CDU. A meeting that we can assume to be friendly and, in some ways, familiar. Merkel speaks Russian and Putin is fluent in German having spent five years in East Germany when he was a member of ...

During Chancellor Schroder, Germany's relations with Russia intensified. Not surprisingly, at the end of his mandate, in the following years Schroeder will be called to lead the first Russian-German gas pipeline.

For Angela Merkel, who will lead Germany for sixteen years - the longest period ,together with Kohl's, at the head of the government - relations with Russia have become an essential part of Germany's European policy. A policy Politics that meets with growing hostility from the United States aiming at the isolation of Russia.

The relationship with Russia acquires particular significance with the second meeting in Minsk which, after the Maidan demonstrations, takes place between the new Ukrainian government, France, Germany and Russia.The European initiative aims to start a new path after the detachment of Crimea which, on the basis of a popular referendum, became associated with Russia, and after the clash in Donbass, a region that had claimed  its autonomy within a federal organization of Ukraine.


It is a region where Russian is the predominant language. Indeed, according to 2004 statistics, fourteen million Ukrainians speak Russian. Language differences are no exception. In Spain there are regions such as Catalonia where Catalan is an officially recognized language along with Spanish, as well as in Belgium Flemish is spoken in the northern regions while French is the language of Wallonia. But it is a prospect that the new Kiev government rejects. The armed conflict in the Donbass intensifies, causing destruction and thirteen thousand deaths.

In December 2019, a new meeting between the representatives of the four signatory countries of the Minsk Agreement is held in Paris, which has not been implemented.

The meeting sees the participation of Angela Merkel,… ..Putin and Zelenski at the helm of the new Ukrainian government. The meeting ends successfully. Putin is satisfied. The agreement will have to be defined in detail in the first months of 2020.


But again the deal did not follow. With the approval of the new constitution, Ukraine definitively excludes the federal configuration of the country and the legitimacy of the Russian language in the regions where history makes it by far the most prevalent. The clash that seems to be resolvable on the basis of other European experiences has no outcome. The opposite happens. The government of Kiev with American assistance strengthens its armament. The attempt at peace, which still saw the commitment of Germany, France and Russia, is on the way to failure.


Angela Merkel remains convinced that at the center of European politics there must be a relationship of collaboration with Russia. In August 2021, less than a month before her term ends, she travels to Moscow. The meeting with Putin ends positively and a large bouquet of flowers is given by Putin to Angela Merkel. The second pipeline, despite clear American opposition, is completed and should be up and running within a few weeks.

Summing up, with the second pipeline, Germany will have a total of over 100 million tons of gas per year. This is enough to replace nuclear energy which is already close to closure and al-so achieve a sharp reduction in the amount of coal still used and also give some of the gas to neighboring countries that need it.

But the illusion of a new order in the availability of energy doesn't last long. The United States, unlike the major European countries, sees Russia as its main opponent in the Western sphere. The gas pipelines linking Russia to Germany are a clear sign of a collaboration that the United States has always opposed. And now the abandonment of Angela Merkel opens up a new un-predictable scenario.



Indeed, on February 24, Putin launches an attack on Ukraine. The war has to be to be condemned for the consequences of destruction and death that it entails. Russia could still bet on France's position di lei and on a possible readjustment of German politics in an attempt to redefine acceptable relations within the European Union. The attack in Moscow nullifies any further possibility of an agreement.

The United States, which has conducted (and lost) many wars over the last half century, this time has the advantage of not having to use its own armed forces.

The goal is the isolation of Russia in order to focus American policy on China's confrontation. In reality, the opposite happens: Russia strengthens relations with China. A first pipeline carrying gas from Siberia to China's borders has already been inaugurated in 2019. A second one that will pass through Manchuria will supply additional gas to China which has a population three times the European Union and the need for large supplies of gas to reduce the use of coal.

 At the same time, Russia extends its relations with  Narendra Modi’s India. With the effect of tripling the current limited gas supply. Taken together, the most populous countries on the planet with about three billion inhabitants become tributaries of Russian gas.

Germany endowed with superabundant energy for its economic development in a collaborative relationship with Russia is at the heart of Europe, or so it seems. But the United States hasn't given up on their plan. Gas is the seal of a more general economic relationship with Russia that the United States regards as an essential adversary in the new global geography.Scholz, the Social Democrat leader, has promised to carry on Merkel's policy. But in the coalition that supports it, the Greens have a starkly opposite position: Germany must reduce its dependence on gas and distance itself from Russia. The France of Emmanuel Macron is of the opposite opinion. who takes over the EU presidency in January and would like to consolidate political relations with Russia. The central-eastern countries, Poland and the Baltic countries, have a contrary position and are aiming to break off relations with Russia.

Ukraine is the bone of contention. At the end of January there is still a high-level meeting be-tween the US and Russia, but the United States excludes the question of Ukraine's entry into NATO, stating that it is up to each country to choose its own location. Furthermore, Crimea must be returned to Ukraine and the Donbass provinces are an integral part of the Ukrainian state and cannot claim the legitimacy of Russian as an officially  complementary language.

The meeting proves not only useless, but an accelerator of the confrontation. The United States heralds the invasion of Russia to the Zelenski government. The American secret ser-vices are not wrong.

The United States insists that Western Europe gives up the supply of Russian gas. The second pipeline has already been blocked, thus canceling the money invested in it

The gas, along with the oil needed by European industry, will have to be provided by an increase in existing supplies from Algeria, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A new source of gas could be in Nigeria via the Sahara. The United States is also interested in sending liquefied gas. All uncertain and expensive sources compared to the supply conditions from Russia that Europe had successfully experienced.

Relations with Russia were not only important for gas supply. Russia is not only an exporter of gas and some raw materials but also an importer of industrial products made in European countries, starting with Germany and Italy. Von der Lajen, head of the European Council wrote in January:..

This prediction becomes true. European growth is stalled. Public investment is needed, but the ECB raises interest rates. Euro bonds depreciate heavily. The consequences fall on the income of households subject to devaluation. Interest rates are rising, as is the already very high public debt in countries like Italy. And growth falls short of previous forecasts, heralding a further rise in unemployment levels.

In many countries, particularly in Africa and the Mediterranean, there is a shortage of wheat of which Ukraine is a major producer, being blocked in Odessa where the sea is littered with mines set up by the Ukrainian government. Russia, with the collaboration of Turkey, declares its willingness to let go of the grain, but the Ukrainian government does not intend to collaborate in defusing the mines. And the grain remains in the silos at risk of rotting.

 The hub of economics and politics is increasingly clearly on the Pacific shores dominated by the United States and China with India behind them.

Russia was to be a bank for Western Europe. Despite the obvious responsibilities attributable to Germany in the years of the economic crisis exacerbated by her position, Merkel had recently tried to place the European Community in an intermediate, unsubordinated position between the United States and Russia. The purpose has failed.

Post-electoral France could relaunch her initiative and pos-t Germany Merkel could resume an active role. The European Union could try to get out of the corner where it has been relegated, and has relegated itself.

But any prediction risks turning out to be unfounded. For now, all that remains is to note the consequences of a wrong policy as has happened in the crises that have swept the planet in recent decades. This time with profound consequences on the present and future of Europe, reduced to a peripheral condition with respect to the new trends in politics and global history.

Antonio Lettieri

Editor of Insight and President of CISS - Center for International Social Studies (Roma). He was National Secretary of CGIL; Member of ILO Governing Body and Advisor for European policy of Labour Minister. (