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Thread: Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump

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    Putin Moves to Capitalize on Europe’s Fury With Trump

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/w...e-tariffs.html

    By Steven Erlanger and Neil MacFarquhar

    June 5, 2018

    BRUSSELS — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia arrived in Austria on Tuesday sensing an opportunity almost unimaginable just months ago: to overhaul frosty relations with a European Union infuriated by President Trump on a host of issues, from climate and Iran to, most recently, tariffs and trade.

    Never mind that Mr. Putin was until recently virtually a pariah in Europe after his military interventions in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria; after meddling in European elections and working hard to foment right-wing populist uprisings throughout the Continent; after polluting the political environment with fake news; and after allegedly poisoning a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, charges Russia denies.

    Mr. Putin was now gaining considerable traction by casting himself as a reliable friend and trading partner to Europe even as the Trump administration was treating its closest allies there as strategic and economic competitors.

    “It is not our aim to divide anything or anybody in Europe,” Mr. Putin said in a television interview before he went to Vienna. “On the contrary, we want to see a united and prosperous European Union because the European Union is our biggest trade and economic partner. The more problems there are within the European Union, the greater the risks and uncertainties for us.”

    Though careful not to gloat, Mr. Putin had to take great satisfaction in the recent turn of events. Often dismissed as a tactician and opportunist, he was looking more like a grand strategist as Mr. Trump bluntly rejected European demands for an exemption from what Brussels considers illegal and unilateral tariffs on steel and aluminum.

    Populist, Russophile parties are in power in Greece, Hungary, Italy and Austria. The prospect of attaining Mr. Putin’s immediate goal of throwing off economic sanctions imposed by the European Union over the last several years suddenly seemed within reach, even without compromise in Ukraine.

    Indeed, in recent days, with the G-7 meeting of the world’s largest advanced economies looming, Mr. Trump has had unusually bad-tempered telephone calls on the tariff issue with both the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the British prime minister, Theresa May.

    These tensions will be on display this weekend at the G-7 meeting in Canada. That normally American-dominated meeting is likely to see Mr. Trump isolated on the issue of trade, six against one.

    Such internal divisions probably amuse Mr. Putin, who saw Russia “suspended” from what was the G-8 after the annexation of Crimea, but who now sees a far more welcoming landscape in Europe.

    Austria, officially neutral, has always had close ties to Moscow and takes over the revolving European Union presidency next month. Austria’s young chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, refused to expel any Russian diplomats following the poisoning of the ex-spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter Yulia.

    In contrast, most other European allies and the United States readily lined up behind Britain and were quick to isolate Russia diplomatically. More than two dozen countries ejected more than 150 Russians, including people listed by their embassies and consulates as diplomats, and military and cultural attachés.

    Mr. Kurz is in a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which in 2016 signed a partnership agreement with Mr. Putin’s own United Russia Party and has called for economic sanctions to be lifted.

    Italy’s far-right populist League party — now also in government — last year signed a similar deal with United Russia. Its leader, Matteo Salvini, now deputy prime minister and interior minister, has spoken about his admiration for Mr. Putin and his desire to end sanctions against Russia. He famously wore a T-shirt with Mr. Putin’s face in Red Square.

    The new Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told the Italian Senate on Tuesday that it was time for “an opening toward Russia,” which he said had “strengthened its position” in various international crises. He called for lifting sanctions against Russia that he said harm “Russian civil society.”

    The admiration of Mr. Putin is real from France’s far-right National Front, too, as well as from the leftist populist government in Greece and the far-right opposition party in Germany, Alternative for Germany. And there are strong suspicions that all these parties benefit from Russian funding, according to Western intelligence agencies.
    Image
    At a conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Emmanuel Macron of France complained about President Trump while Mr. Putin listened sympathetically.CreditLudovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    In the interview with the Austrian state channel ORF, Mr. Putin said that Russia’s ties to such parties were merely fraternal, with no strategic motive. Russia, he said, wants to cooperate with those who want to cooperate with Moscow.

    “This alone is the reason why our political parties, groups and movements have contacts at the political and party level with certain European ones, and not the wish to ‘rock’ or impede something within the European Union,” he said.

    But Austria is clearly a friendly gateway for Moscow. Mr. Putin said that the two countries had maintained “very good and close relations,” adding that Austria had traditionally been Russia’s “trusted partner in Europe.”

    Mr. Kurz harks back to Austria’s self-styled Cold War role as a mediator.

    “We want to be a bridge between East and West, and keep the lines of communication with Russia open,” he has said. That has traditionally translated into a belief that dialogue is the answer to every confrontation, from the Georgian war and the annexation of Crimea to the poisoning in Britain and Russia’s support for the Syrian regime.

    Stefan Lehne, a former Austrian diplomat, said that the Austrian sympathy for Russia is decades-long, based on the history of neutrality, economic interests, pragmatism and an “element of anti-Americanism,” the view that “all big powers behave similarly.” He noted that Mr. Putin had been invited to Austria within months of the annexation of Crimea. But so far, he said, Austria has gone along with the European consensus on sanctions.

    But with Italy and Greece pushing to end them, that may not continue.

    Mr. Putin would clearly like to end his isolation. In his current term as president, Mr. Putin has two clear goals, said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a research institution.

    “First, to keep Russia together, and that’s a helluva job, and second, to make Russia a great power again and seen to be one,” Mr. Trenin said last weekend at a conference in Estonia.

    To accomplish those goals, however, “you need economic success.” And for that, Mr. Putin needs European financing, energy markets and technology, Mr. Trenin said. Mr. Putin also wants good relations with Europe, he said, to concentrate on his real priority, which is China, a rising neighboring power with resource needs and ambitions.

    But it is not only Europe’s populists who are looking for warmer ties with Russia. Last week, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, called for an end to the demonization of Russia.

    “I do think we have to reconnect with Russia,” Mr. Juncker said.

    Both Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Mr. Macron visited Russia at the end of May to discuss salvaging the Iran deal. And Mr. Macron complained at a conference in St. Petersburg about the damage being done to world trade — clearly alluding to Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Macron, the guest of honor, was particularly effusive in evoking the cultural and historical links that tie Russia to the rest of Europe.

    Ms. Merkel, who has few illusions about Mr. Putin and has been vital to maintaining economic sanctions against Russia, also finds herself and her country a particular target of Mr. Trump. In addition to the tariffs on steel and aluminum, which Germany can live with, he is now threatening unilateral tariffs on imported cars, which it cannot.

    He has also raised the prospect of tariffs on those companies involved with building Nordstream II, an energy pipeline from Russia to Germany that entirely bypasses Ukraine.

    Austria was the first country to import Russian energy 50 years ago, another reason for Mr. Putin’s visit, and Europe now gets a third of its gas supply from Russia, a figure likely to increase.

    At the same time, both Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron noted the nagging sores that continue to infect relations with Moscow, including the continuing wars in Ukraine and Syria. Ms. Merkel underscored that both were impediments to better ties, and there seems little movement possible from Moscow on either front.

    Many European governments remain deeply concerned about Russian meddling in their internal politics, ranging from spreading false information on social media to fostering far-right opposition to trying to widen divisions among European states themselves over Russia.

    Still, Russia is cognizant of the fact that Mr. Trump has created a sudden opportunity for them.

    “A battle for Russia has begun in international politics!” Vladimir R. Solovyov, the host of a prime-time talk show on Russian state-run television that often reflects the government line, said on Sunday. “Europe is compelled to change its policies on the fly since Trump has declared a trade war.”

    Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said on Tuesday, “I am closely watching how the situation evolves and when the necessary volume of political will is there — and I see this tendency — then the E.U. perhaps will take the necessary decision to change its course.”
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Populist, Russophile parties are in power in Greece, Hungary, Italy and Austria. The prospect of attaining Mr. Putin’s immediate goal of throwing off economic sanctions imposed by the European Union over the last several years suddenly seemed within reach, even without compromise in Ukraine.
    Reads like the China play for ASEAN and at less cost.

    In the interview with the Austrian state channel ORF, Mr. Putin said that Russia’s ties to such parties were merely fraternal, with no strategic motive. Russia, he said, wants to cooperate with those who want to cooperate with Moscow.

    “This alone is the reason why our political parties, groups and movements have contacts at the political and party level with certain European ones, and not the wish to ‘rock’ or impede something within the European Union,” he said.
    Ya
    Last edited by Double Edge; 06 Jun 18, at 20:37.

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    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world...eaf_story.html

    Trump’s tariffs teach Europe a lesson, Putin says

    MOSCOW — As he watches Europe’s confrontation with President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be enjoying an “I told you so” moment.

    European leaders long ignored his warnings about the dangers of a world dominated by the United States, Putin said Thursday during his nationally broadcast annual call-in show . With Trump’s new metals tariffs, Putin said, Europeans are now finally getting their comeuppance for showing excessive deference to Washington — and getting a taste of the way the United States had long treated Russia.

    “In essence, these are sanctions,” Putin said of the tariffs. “What, did they ‘annex Crimea,’ as many of our partners say?”

    Putin went on: “Our partners probably thought that these counterproductive policies would never affect them. . . . No one wanted to listen, and no one wanted to do anything to stop these tendencies. Here we are.”

    One of the show’s hosts responded, “They got what they deserved.”

    Putin’s 16th call-in marathon, which lasted 4½ uninterrupted hours, provided a window into the president’s mind-set — and a prime display of the stagecraft that the Kremlin deploys to boost Putin’s image and promote his worldview to Russian households. During the broadcast, state TV correspondents fanned out nationwide to deliver live footage of Russians showing their leaky floors or describing the sorry state of their small-town hospitals. After hearing a complaint, Putin often turned to one of Russia’s scores of state governors who were at the ready in live video feeds.
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    “You need to find out who these officials are,” Putin told Governor Sergey Zhvachkin after the head of the Tomsk region blamed a mother’s problems obtaining land for her family on poorly informed officials.

    The videoconferencing element was a new addition to the yearly call-in show. It was the latest example — on the heels of last month’s elaborately choreographed presidential inauguration and Putin’s opening of a new bridge to Crimea — of the Kremlin’s work to hone the theater of Putin’s made-for-TV presidency. Although polls show that Putin remains popular, the fact that he first became president 18 years ago means the Kremlin needs to ward off any public fatigue with the leader.

    Putin didn’t fire any of his governors on live television, as some Russian journalists had speculated he might. But the leader’s lectures to officials that they must do better to resolve people’s daily problems helped deliver the underlying message, which many Russians accept, that any difficulties they face in their lives are the fault of Putin’s subordinates rather than the president.

    Putin also used the interview to cast himself as a pragmatist who wasn’t always going to take a hard line on foreign policy or civil rights.

    In response to a question calling on him to enact sanctions against Latvia for allegedly mistreating ethnic Russians there, Putin said he wanted to resolve the situation with talks and not with any measures that would make matters worse. Asked by a young blogger whether the government had plans to shut down Instagram and YouTube, Putin insisted that it does not.

    There were no questions about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, but Putin brought up the subject. One of the hosts asked him to tell a joke. Putin mentioned seeing a German news headline declaring, “Donald Trump pushes Europe into Putin’s arms.”

    “So, we influenced the U.S. elections, and he gifted us Europe in return?” he asked. “Utter idiocy. You can’t describe this as anything other than a joke.”

    Seconds later, Putin was asked what piece of advice from his father would he like to pass on to his grandchildren.

    “Don’t lie,” the Russian president said.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Senior Contributor GVChamp's Avatar
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    Not really sure I see the strategic value in shifting to Russia from the US. You would prefer to have decent working relations with Russia, since it's such a large nation so close to you and you are connected through economic and energy ties, but you can't substitute one nation for the other.

    The worrying part in the article (which overall is pretty speculative) are the right-wing parties saying that sanctions on Russia should be lifted. But aren't these parties best described as Euro-skeptic? There's a bit more going on there than just "we don't like Trump."
    "The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood"-Otto Von Bismarck

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    For Germany with North Stream 2? Are you serious?

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    I am really starting to believe that Putin has something on the guy.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...rimean-crisis/

    Trump calls for readmitting Russia to G-7 four years after it was expelled for its role in Crimean crisis
    by Washington Post Staff June 8 at 8:34 AM

    President Trump said Russia should be readmitted to the Group of Seven leading economies, breaking with other world leaders who have insisted Moscow remain ostracized following its involvement in the 2014 Crimean crisis.

    Trump’s comments, made as he was departing to Canada for the annual G-7 summit, have the potential to further upend talks with other world leaders. U.S. officials believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and part of this year’s G-7 summit was supposed to focus on protecting democracies from foreign meddling.

    Trump has sought to improve relations between the United States and Russia since taking office. The U.S. government and other nations have imposed strict sanctions on Russia related to its involvement in Crimea, and those penalties remain in effect.
    This is a developing story. It will be updated.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    “Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare … But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump said Friday as he left the White House. “It may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. … They should let Russia back in.”
    He has a point

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    Russia's not interested in running a world in conjunction with other countries in the post-WWII construct; they seek a world where US power is broken, with spheres of influence that will allow them to dominate each individual smaller country.

    Russia can go stuff themselves.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Dominating is a future aspiration but until such time they play kingmaker and that is where interacting with them comes in

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    Kingmaker? By materially (ie to make a difference) interfering in the US election? No. We do not (or should not) speak to those who seek to undermine our democracies and unity. They are already at war with us - I have seen it in Ukraine. Time for talking at all but the lowest level is done. You can speak to dictators with imperialist ambitions until the cows come home (though goats need fetching) and nothing will change. Chamberlain tried it and sacrificed Czechoslovakia (as it was). They have attacked us, we are at war. F*ck talking.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    The sentiment is fine but pragmatism is necessary at times

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    the only pragmatism Russia needs is that of a fist to the face.

    i was previously of the sentiment that Russia was a nuisance power. with their actions they have made themselves rather more than a nuisance, and should be dealt with accordingly.

    if not under this feckless POTUS, then assuredly the next one.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    I would not negotiate with a trespasser or someone whole stole my computer files. They are in the wrong; not I. They may excuse themselves and give guarantees that such conduct will stop if they wish but there is no sign of that. It is not upto us as democracies/alliances to offer negotiations to a criminal regime that has invaded us and interfered in our democratic processes. It is for them to apologise and "gerroff mah lawn!" as a friend of mine would say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    the only pragmatism Russia needs is that of a fist to the face.
    What does that entail practically? There are already sanctions in place right especially against Putin's cronies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    the only pragmatism Russia needs is that of a fist to the face.
    They've received one. 300 Russian mercs, an entire battalion, died under American bombs. Their Syrian allies lost a chemical staging point.

    At the end of the day, Russia is still an 800lb bear that has to be dealt with. Trigger points, both theirs and ours, has to be defined, communicated, respected, enforced, and executed. If we are to start WWIII, then I want all the i's dotted and all the t's crossed and not over a misunderstanding.
    Last edited by WABs_OOE; 08 Jun 18, at 18:20.

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