Merkel and Hollande…or Hollande and Merkel. Sounds like a law firm; but, it is probably closer to In-Laws. Parts of two Families, which are bound together; but, are composed of different backgrounds. And oftentimes, they don’t see eye-to-eye.
As the Leaders of Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are–at least in politically correct circles–referred to as the Two Leaders. But, if you look beyond the ceremonial proceedings, in the end, Frau Merkel is the real Boss. She calls the shots…no questions asked.
Back in 1957, at the Treaty of Rome, Europe formed the “Common Market”, the precursor to today’s European Union. But, this story still unfolds ironically like “The Emperor has No Clothes”. The E. U. has grown to include 28 countries; however, they are still as different as Night and Day.
Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande recently met to send Russia a Warning…of further sanctions if they don’t disengage in meddling in Ukraine. But, how can there actually be any impact from this formality since no one really believes that they can,
or will, enforce any such sanctions. Each of these Leaders has to contend with totally different constituencies back home.
Keep in mind, however, that only one of the two has any real power. The linked article from NY Times describes what they are trying to accomplish as follows: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/world/europe/merkel-and-hollande-send-russia-a-warning.html?ref=europe. And even Frau Merkel does not have the full support of the German People, as noted in the linked Op-Ed from NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/opinion/why-germans-love-russia.html?_r=0.
The original concept to the European Common Market as well as the European Union has been to bring all of the Nations of Europe together, with the assumption that that would deter them from being the Warring Factions of millennia past. But, it sure doesn’t look like the E. U. has become anything more than a Country Club. Anyone for lunch?
Each of the countries within the E. U. has varying degrees of reliance on Russia–both for Trade and/or Gas imports. That dependence seems to be greater for the countries that are further east–closer to Russia. Europe in general is still recovering quite slowly from the Great Recession; however, the countries to the North appear to be in better shape fiscally since conservative management appears to be in their chemistry. Ones to the South, however, sometime referred to as “Club Med”, act like everything will take care of itself.
Chancellor Merkel, according to the second linked article, “Why Germans Love Russia” , has to deal with an Aryan preference for more order and authoritarian leadership. That, coupled with a greater economic reliance on Russia, causes the average German to opt-out of any consideration of the Ukrainian stand-off.
Now, the U. S. is not able to impose unilateral economic sanctions, even though it has much less Trade with The Bear, and virtually no Gas requirements. But, there are two reasons why it cannot act alone to punish Vladimir Putin. Tougher U. S. sanctions would merely result in American corporations losing business to their European counterparts. Also, since the U. S. Space Program has taken the Space Shuttle off-the-line, NASA must relay on the Russian Soyuz to travel to and from the International Space Station.
So, the situation in Eastern and Southern Ukraine remains a tense one. I certainly don’t believe that Sunday’s impromptu referendum does anything more than cause Confusion, Uncertainty and, perhaps, Greater Violence in the near term.
Russia, for its part, might have gotten into this mess even further than it had intended. Ukraine had already agreed to provide greater autonomy for the Regions by converting to a Federalist Constitution. Moscow’s own economy, as I have suggested before, is a basket case, and Crimea is basically dysfunctional as nothing is working. So, the addition of further political and economic responsibilities is definitely not something that Putin can handle at this time. Perhaps it never will.