How they see us: Russia sanctions hurt Europe
Germany’s economy risks becoming collateral damage in the showdown between the U.S. and Russia, said Jorge Valero in Der Tagesspiegel (Germany). The Russia sanctions bill passed by the U.S. Congress last week contains several sensible measures: It imposes new penalties on Moscow for its election meddling and codifies Obama-era sanctions, so they can’t be repealed by President Trump. But the legislation also provides for new sanctions to be imposed against any company that contributes to the development or maintenance of Russian gas pipelines. That means German firms helping to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea—intended to bring Russian gas to Germany without going through volatile Ukraine—will be hurt. German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries is now calling for the European Union to retaliate. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker backed her up. He told the Americans that the EU would “respond within days,” presumably with measures targeting U.S. energy companies. “America first,” Juncker said, “must not mean that European interests come last.”
“Bravo, Congress!” said Pyotr Akopov in Russia’s Vzglyad.ru. American lawmakers passed this legislation to punish Trump for his outreach to the Kremlin but ended up handing “Russia a gift.” The Europeans had been divided over the Nord Stream project, but this “intervention in their affairs will only push them to implement it.” Europe feels doubly betrayed because Russia sanctions had previously been a joint affair, negotiated between the EU and U.S. so as not to harm either’s interests. Congress “has torn one more thread out of the rope that binds Europe and America together.”
Let’s “take a deep breath” before lashing out at the U.S., said Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany). The sanctions bill does explicitly say that any measures targeting energy companies be taken “only in coordination with allies” in Europe. German companies won’t be immediately punished. And if they do suffer, we should remember that “German interests can not be equated with European interests.” Eastern European countries have rightly pointed out that Nord Stream 2 merely increases European dependency on Russian gas. We mustn’t reward “Russian power politics” by allowing the West to be divided.
President Vladimir Putin has been masterful in his response to the new sanctions, said Mikhail Rostovsky in Moskovsky Komsomolets (Russia). His decree that the U.S.’s diplomatic mission in Russia be reduced by 755 people was timed perfectly: after Congress passed the bill but before Trump signed it. He is “making it clear that he is punishing Congress, not Trump” and “giving America a proportionate symbolic answer while refusing to get involved in a sanctions war that nobody can win.” But in a TV interview this week, Putin warned that further U.S. measures would bring a much harsher response. The question now is, “Will Putin’s self-restraint be understood in Washington?”