What's behind Steinmeier's criticism of NATO?
It seems that the issue of relations with Russia once again divided the European political community. At the beginning, the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, announced in an interview to 'Interfax' that his country will not allow automatic renewal of sanctions and will initiate the discussions on course of execution of the Minsk agreements by each side. The decision to extend anti-Russian sanctions may be adopted on June 22 at the European Council session. At the end of last week it seemed that the "winds of change" blew from Berlin. Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, representing Social Democrats in the federal government, clearly spoke against "loud saber-rattling of NATO weapons" near the eastern borders with Russia, basically condemning ongoing maneuvers of the Alliance. "Those who think that symbolic tank parades can help to achieve greater security are wrong. We must not gave cause for a new and (at the same time) old confrontation," Steinmeier stated in an interview to 'Bild' publication. Later, Steinmeier added more fuel to the fire of criticism in his address, noting that during the meetings of Foreign Ministers of NATO member countries, there is an impression that Russia is the only military opponent of the Alliance. "But there is a completely different picture when the United States and Russia are working together to resolve the problems in Syria," Steinmeier noted.
Not everyone liked these statements - the representatives of the CDU in particular. Jurgen Hardt, foreign policy speaker of the CDU, noted that "Germany and Foreign Minister should not doubt who is responsible for current tensions. And it is certainly not NATO and its "saber-rattling", but Russia itself." His party colleague Rottgen agrees with him. He believes that Steinmeier pursues domestic goals using such statements. 'Die Welt' publication considered the words of the minister "an unprecedented act of disloyalty" in relation to allies in the Alliance.
Are the statements of Renzi and Steinmeier notes of one political composition, conceived by European socialists? Current situation is controversial. It is not groundless to think that Steinmeier's criticism of NATO just before the summit of the Alliance has domestic political motives. It is 2016, there is a little more than a year before next elections to the Bundestag. But today there are many signs that currently ruling "grand coalition" of the CDU/CSU and the SPD faces the threat of collapse. In a recent interview to 'Spiegel', the chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, clearly stated his desire to create governmental coalition, which would include, in addition to the socialists, "Left" and "Green" parties. According to Gabriel, united left-wing political spectrum should be ready for a historical fight against increasing far right trends in the German society. Another reason for Gabriel to review coalition partners, of which is not the politician aloud did not say aloud, is a very low rating of social democrats (about 20%). Electoral losses of socialists during the period of joint work with christian democrats are too high. This situation raised the issue of political prospects of Sigmar Gabriel himself, who is now forced to initiate saving combinations for his party and himself.
Many political commentators beleive that Frank-Walter Steinmeier's criticism of NATO is a certain nod to the 'Left' party, which is traditionally friendly to Russia and which speaks for the abolition of Europeans economic sanctions. In the 'Green' party, which is known for its critical attitude towards Russia's domestic and foreign policy, Steinmeier's statements, to the surprise of many observers, were not perceived "negatively". Former chairman of the 'Green' parliamentary faction and current member of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Bundestag, Jurgen Trittin, even supported the Foreign Minister's statements. It is likely that after Gabriel's hint at possible creation of coalition in a trilateral format a cautious check of the sides' positions is carried out.
However, internal political discussions in Germany are clearly not the only reason for criticism of NATO. The thing is, 'Anaconda' maneuvers, held by the North-Atlantic Alliance held in Poland, in the course of which rescue of Poland from foreign aggression was carried out, are perceived as too provocative and obviously directed against Russia. Moreover, Poland also invited Ukraine and Georgia, who dream of joining the Alliance, to participate in the maneuvers. If we add extremely complicated relations between Berlin and Warsaw since new Polish government came to power, Steinmeier's statement about "loud saber-rattling" gain additional meaning. It is obvious that observed bipolarity of opinions regarding how to deal with Russia can be explained by political disorder between the countries of Europe as a whole and in Germany itself.