US Foreign Policy under Joe Biden: The External Values

The US President-elect wants to change many of Donald Trump’s political legacies immediately. But not everything is turned back.

Aus MAGA wird „American Leadership Plan“: same same but different? Photo: Carlos Barria / reuters

In his last 48 hours as US President, Donald Trump tried to rule into the term of office of his successor Joe Biden, who was sworn in from Wednesday. On Monday, Trump ordered the lifting of the corona-related entry bans for foreigners from most European countries and Brazil, in force since March last year, on January 26th.

The future White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki immediately stated that Trump’s measure would not be implemented. Because of the dramatic pandemic situation in the USA, a tightening of the entry restrictions is to be expected.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration then imposed the first sanctions against the German-Russian pipeline project Nord Stream 2. With this, the outgoing President merely implemented the corresponding legislative resolutions that Congress had already passed in 2019 with a large, bipartisan majority. Therefore, there was no objection from the Biden camp.

Earlier statements by the new president and his foreign minister-designate, Anthony Blinken, even suggest that the new government will take even more decisive action against the pipeline project. This could very soon lead to a conflict with Angela Merkel’s government, which has so far been resolutely sticking to the project.

Russia in future “main opponent”

In addition, Biden had even called Russia the “main opponent” of the US in the election campaign, while Trump had always assigned this role to China. As different as Biden’s reactions to the last foreign policy measures of his predecessor, as different as – supposedly – contradictory, the new US leadership will continue to behave in the various fields of international relations and politics.

Apart from the fact that Biden, Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris appear much more objective, friendly and authoritative than their predecessors: The Biden government will only partially or completely correct Trump’s policy on some points, but will continue it in other areas or even aggravate. And it will do so according to its definition of US national self-interest.

It is still unclear how the commitment of Biden, Blinken and Co. to “multilateralism” and “international cooperation” is compatible with their very clearly formulated claim to a “global leadership role of the USA”.

The clearest thing is the turning away from Trump’s policy on climate protection and the fight against the corona pandemic. As his first official foreign policy act, Biden wants the US to return to the Paris Agreement on Wednesday.

Change of course: Climate, Corona, Iran

He also announced the goal that the USA – like other industrialized countries – want to bring their carbon dioxide emissions to zero by the year 2050. Even the national environmental protection agency EPA, which was completely neutered by Trump, wants to strengthen Biden financially and personally as well as by appointing a committed environmentalist as director of the agency.

In addition, the new president wants to revoke the approval for the controversial Keystone XL natural gas pipeline from Canada to the USA – against which the Canadian government protested violently on Monday.

Even before he officially took office, Biden had appointed his team to fight the corona pandemic. This is thus immediately able to act. In addition, the president announced spending of initially 1.9 trillion US dollars to cope with this challenge, which Trump has neglected.

This will be Biden’s government’s top priority for the foreseeable future. Their success or failure is likely to determine whether the Democrats can hold their current majority in both houses of Congress in the mid-term elections in November 2022.

Complicated conflict with Tehran

The USA can only benefit from the return to the World Health Organization (WHO) announced by Biden and the resulting improved opportunities for cooperation with other countries in dealing with corona and future pandemics.

As the third correction to Trump’s policy, Biden has announced a return to the nuclear deal with Iran. However, only on the condition that Tehran initially reverses the incremental contractual violations that have taken place since the United States left in 2018.

Tehran, on the other hand, demands that the US take the first step and lift the drastically tightened sanctions imposed under Trump. The conflict is compounded by calls for the nuclear agreement to include restrictions on Iran’s conventional missile armaments and other issues.

The time to reach agreement and rescue the agreement is pressing. The hardliners in Iran have been strengthened by Trump’s policy of “massive pressure” on Tehran. With the majority they won in the last parliamentary elections, they have already implemented further violations of the agreement. And in the presidential elections on June 18, a hardliner threatens to win.

Course tightening: NATO, China, military

The Biden government will adhere to NATO, which Trump has devalued as “obsolete”. After all, regardless of all internal controversies, this institution is still the most important instrument for the USA to exert influence in and to have partial control over Europe.

The pressure from Washington on the European allies to take on more financial and military burdens, however, will increase. To the extent that the US is actually turning to Asia, which ex-President Barack Obama announced ten years ago. However, this is where the greatest uncertainties lie.

The Obama administration – which in addition to Biden also included many other members of the new administration – spent eight years unsuccessfully discussing a correct strategy towards China. Hard confrontations, including military ones, due to massive increases in US armed forces in the Asian Sea and the Pacific, or the inclusion of China in international regulations, cooperation and institutions, was the question that was never decided.

As the first official act, Trump announced tomorrow four years ago the free trade area negotiated under Obama between the USA and all economically relevant states in Asia except China. In addition, Trump waged an economic war against China, which as a result did more damage to the US economy than the Chinese.

USA has long been losing influence

The decisive factor for the future behavior of the USA towards China will be whether Biden’s government actually takes its claim to a “global leadership role” for the USA seriously, or whether this is more of an empty phrase. Because given today’s global political framework, this claim is unrealistic.

The USA has been in a relative decline in power since the 1990s. One of the many indications for this is their declining competitiveness against other highly developed capitalist industrial countries.

The EU’s gross national product is already larger than that of the US. China is expected to overtake the US in two years. In the field of science and technology, too, the future world power China has already reached or even overtook the USA.

Russia is at least on a par with the USA as an approximately equal nuclear power. And in a few years, India will be the fifth to join these four strongest geopolitical actors.

New Cold War?

Should the Biden government not recognize the multipolar reality of the world and actually insist on the enforcement of a “global leadership role” by the USA, this would only be possible – if at all – by maintaining and constantly expanding its own military strength and superiority over others.

That would mean that Biden’s administration would stick to the nuclear and conventional armament and modernization projects that were decided and launched not under Trump, but under Obama. Then the military budget, which in the past was almost always decided by broad consensus between Democrats and Republicans and reached a new record high of more than 778 billion US dollars for 2021, would continue to grow.

With a “global claim to leadership” by the USA, which is essentially enforced through military strength and superiority, the danger of a new bipolar Cold War confrontation between the USA / the West and China increases, and this with the risk of escalating into a hot war.

In addition, without a reduction in gigantic military spending, Biden’s government will lack the urgently needed funds to repair the infrastructure and cope with other pressing domestic political challenges.


EU puts pressure on vaccine deliveries – politics

After a second pharmaceutical company, Astra Zeneca, announced problems with vaccine delivery, the EU wants to increase pressure on manufacturers to ensure punctual delivery. “We expect that the contracts that the pharmaceutical industry has signed will be kept,” said Council President Charles Michel on Sunday. Above all, one must be clear about the reason for the delay. If necessary, the EU will use legal means, he said. The EU Commission also says that the legal options are being examined. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides wanted to remind Astra Zeneca by letter on Sunday that the company had contractually agreed to start production before the vaccine was released.

Astra Zeneca announced on Friday that it would initially deliver fewer corona vaccines in the EU than planned. The reason is lower production at one location in the EU supply chain. Astra Zeneca’s vaccine is not yet approved in the EU, but it is expected to be released next Friday. The Commission secured 400 million doses of vaccine from Astra Zeneca on behalf of the Member States in August. According to unconfirmed reports, the delivery volume is reduced by about 60 percent.

Before Astra Zeneca, the German-American manufacturer Biontech-Pfizer had already announced delivery problems. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte criticized the companies heavily. “These slowdowns in deliveries are serious breaches of contract that are causing enormous damage in Italy and other European countries,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday. He also announced legal action. Since the purchase contracts with the companies are based on the EU quotas, but ultimately concluded by the capitals themselves, they can also take action against the suppliers themselves.

According to Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), Germany is also affected by the reduced delivery volume. “If the Astra Zeneca vaccine is approved at the end of January, we expect at least three million vaccine doses for Germany as early as February,” said Spahn Picture on sunday. However, he admitted that this was less than expected. Spahn did not comment on any legal action taken against the company.

The reduced deliveries are causing delays in vaccination plans in the federal states. There are no new first vaccinations in North Rhine-Westphalia this week. In Bavaria, fixed vaccination appointments were canceled at short notice in individual districts and postponed by up to two months.

As Spahn further announced, the federal government is now also relying on drugs that can cause a milder course of the Covid infection. The Ministry of Health bought 200,000 cans of the corresponding preparations for 400 million euros. According to the ministry, these are contingents of two different drugs that contain antibodies. “According to the available studies, the medication could possibly help to limit the amount of virus in the body and thus have a positive influence on the course of the disease,” said a ministry spokeswoman. Former US President Donald Trump is said to have been treated with such a preparation when he contracted the corona virus.


Classification by the Protection of the Constitution: Suspected case of AfD

The protection of the constitution has been investigating for two years, now it apparently wants to declare the party a suspected right-wing extremist. The announced lawsuits.

Attention, Alexander Gauland: The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has you in its sights! Photo: Kay Nietfeld, dpa

BERLIN taz | The Office for the Protection of the Constitution obviously wants to classify the AfD as a suspected right-wing extremist case in the coming week. The taz learned this from security circles. The secret service believes that right-wing extremists in the party are so formative that monitoring the party as a whole is justified. Intelligence means such as telephone surveillance or informants can then be used against the AfD.

Two years ago the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the AfD as a test case. The right-wing extremist “wing” around Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz and the AfD youth were already classified by the secret service as a suspected case, one level higher. In March 2020, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution even declared the “wing” to be a full object of observation: it was a “proven extremist effort”.

The “wing” officially dissolved as a result. His supporters around Björn Höcke remained active in the AfD. Only co-leader Andreas Kalbitz was excluded from the party for formal reasons. Since then the question has been: How great is the influence of the right-wing extremists on the party as a whole?

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been checking this since the first classification in 2018 and gave itself two years – which are now over. The Federal Office is said to have submitted an approximately 1,000-page report to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. It apparently stated that the former “wing” supporters continued to be influential in the party. At the beginning of next week, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution will meet for a round of officials after which the classification could be announced.

Checked for two years

The AfD had also founded a working group months ago to repel an observation by the constitution protection. In the event of a classification, she announced lawsuits against it. At the last federal party conference, party leader Jörg Meuthen spoke out strongly against right-wing extremist tones in his party. One last evasive maneuver – in vain.

When reporting the approaching classification, AfD boss Tino Chrupalla told the taz: “We will, as we have repeatedly announced, take legal action against it.” Party vice-president Stephan Brandner also emphasized: “Everything has already been prepared. We expected that. The protection of the constitution is used politically in the year of the federal election. ”The Brandenburg AfD is already taking legal action against their observation. On Tuesday she wanted to file an organ dispute with the state constitutional court and a complaint before the administrative court. As the regional association announced, an interim order is being sought to prohibit the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior from reporting on the classification.

The Brandenburg State Association has been monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution since last June. The Thuringian secret service had previously classified Björn Höcke’s regional association there as a suspected right-wing extremist.


Scheuer blocks toll investigators – politics

A few days before the showdown to clear up the toll debacle in the Bundestag, a tough argument broke out between the Bundestag member and Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU). According to information from Süddeutsche Zeitung Scheuer blocks the work of a special toll investigator. The FDP, the Greens and the Left had used him to check Scheuer’s MP mailbox. The goal: to find out whether it was used as a secret communication channel to exchange sensitive toll information.

But the minister lets the lawyer and former Green Bundestag member Jerzy Montag appear as an investigator. This is the result of a current interim report to the Bundestag’s toll investigation committee. The minister has for the time being revoked his consent to view the e-mails, it says.

At first, Scheuer agreed to the viewing of his mailboxes

The report describes the explosive processes in detail. A first meeting with Scheuer on December 1st took place “in a collegial and extremely friendly atmosphere”, noted Monday in the paper. Scheuer had promised “his consent to the viewing” of his MPs and other mailboxes. But shortly before Christmas comes the U-turn: The ministry announced that Scheuer is “postponing” his consent to the viewing of the e-mails. Reason: He wants to await a decision by the Federal Court of Justice on a lawsuit by the opposition. A second appointment with the investigator was canceled and with it the search for important e-mails before the decisive questioning of Scheuer on this Thursday in the Bundestag.

In the opposition, anger is growing about the minister’s unwillingness to provide information. MEPs speak of black holes in the files. Scheuer himself had aroused interest in the mailbox with Volten. It was only after a long delay and in response to inquiries that the Ministry made e-mails available to the committee and justified the delay with an “office mistake”. The opposition suspects that further agreements were made through the mailbox. Scheuer denies that.

The ministry refers to the lawsuit

Mistrust is growing in the committee. “Scheuer has promised complete transparency. He is now withdrawing it with flimsy arguments,” says FDP chairman Christian Jung. “We suspect that on the subject of tolls, secret communication took place via private accounts or the MdB account,” says Jung. Scheuers behavior is the opposite of education. “This is secrecy. We suspect that he is holding back documents that he should have made available to us. That strengthens doubts about his reputation.”

The ministry, however, refers to a complaint by the opposition, with which they demand the submission of log files of the account. “We had already organized the workflow in detail with the investigator,” says a spokeswoman. When the lawsuit came, it had to be stopped. The opposition sees no connection to the lawsuit. The committee of inquiry is working on the failure of the car toll project worth billions. The European Court of Justice had stopped the CSU prestige project in 2019. Scheuer is in distress because he had concluded toll contracts before there was legal certainty. That could be dearly for taxpayers. The operators are demanding damages of 560 million euros from the federal government.


After Laschet was elected CDU chief: Merz steers in – a little

Friedrich Merz is now calling for support for the new CDU boss Laschet. For many delegates, however, that might come too late.

No beginning of a wonderful friendship: Merz and Laschet Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa

BERLIN taz | Will Friedrich Merz still get the corner? At least he turned into this a little on Monday evening. Merz, who failed for the second time in the election as CDU chairman on Saturday, called on his supporters in a letter to support the new party leader Armin Laschet. The Union needs unity and good cooperation: “We have to fight together: for our convictions and our country,” says the letter that was emailed to all CDU members on Monday and is available to the taz.

Merz was just inferior to his rival Laschet with 55 votes in the election for chairman at the CDU party convention on Saturday. He had turned down a candidacy for the party presidium.

Unlike the third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, Merz had not initially said himself that he would now support Laschet, nor had he asked his supporters to do so. Both would have been signals that could have brought the split party together. Instead, shortly after the party conference ended, Merz let it be known on Twitter that he was offering Laschet to join the federal government as Minister of Economic Affairs, which the Chancellor immediately refused.

With this admission, Merz had caused incomprehension even among his most convinced supporters. Carsten Linnemann, deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag and as head of the SME association something like a Merz-Ultra, told ntv that the Merz push had “more than irritated” him. In his letter Merz now writes: “I ask all delegates to take part in the final written vote and to give our new chairman Armin Laschet a strong vote. And then we go to work together. “

Have the letters already been sent?

For legal reasons, the delegates have to confirm the result of the vote in a postal vote. However, only Laschet’s name will be on the ballot paper. The result, which should be available on Friday, could therefore be a first mood test for Laschet. Merz had set the bar high in the run-up to the party congress: In the written election, the new party leader would have to reach more than 80 percent.

His request to support Laschet now could come too late for many delegates. The CDU had asked the delegates to post their election letter by 6 p.m. on Monday so that it would arrive safely at the CDU headquarters by Thursday evening. Many delegates should have voted long ago when they received Merz’s letter, which was attached to an email from CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak. According to information from ARD, this was on Monday evening around 9 p.m. What Merz is really aiming at with the letter and what he plans to do remains open.

In his letter, Merz goes on to say that a year ago the CDU leadership at the time proposed to him that he should contribute in a very specific way. “I was and still am open to this idea,” said Merz. “At the same time, I very much regret that irritations arose around my person over the weekend in this context.” He wanted to make it clear: “Even without an office, I will keep my promise to continue working for the party.”

In “this historic hour” of the corona pandemic, Germany should not be left to red-red-green experiments, Merz continued. If the party is not closed, Germany threatens “to slide into right-wing populism or green-left neo-socialism. Our country would be seriously damaged ”. Merz did not comment on the candidacy for chancellor or his specific plans.


Corona News: 12 257 new infections in Germany – politics

There was a corona outbreak at the aircraft manufacturer Airbus in Hamburg. A total of 21 employees had tested positive for the corona virus, said Martin Helfrich, press spokesman for the Hamburg health authority, the German press agency. Around 500 employees would now have to go into quarantine.

The “Bild” newspaper had previously reported on the incident. The cause of the cases is still being investigated, said Airbus. The health authorities can say in the middle of the week at the earliest whether the virus is a highly contagious mutation. With more than 12,000 employees, Airbus is Hamburg’s largest industrial employer.

RKI reports falling number of new infections and deaths

The German health authorities reported 12 257 new corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day. In addition, 349 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours, as the RKI announced on Sunday morning. Last Sunday, the RKI had recorded 13,882 new infections and 445 new deaths within 24 hours.

The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was 111.1 on Sunday morning, according to the RKI. Its previous high was reached on December 22nd at 197.6. The number fluctuated after that and has been falling again for a few days.

The RKI has counted 2,134,936 detected infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic (as of January 24th, 00:00). The actual total number is likely to be significantly higher as many infections are not detected. The total number of people who died with or with the involvement of a proven infection with Sars-CoV-2 rose to 51,870. The RKI stated the number of those who had recovered at around 1,807,500.

According to the RKI situation report on Saturday evening, the nationwide seven-day R-value was 1.01 (previous day: 0.97). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 101 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a long time, the infection process subsides. After the R value was below 1 in the past week, it is now apparently increasing again despite the falling number of infections.

Spahn is apparently buying corona drug based on antibodies

Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn has bought a corona drug based on antibodies for Germany, like Picture on sunday reported. “From next week, the monoclonal antibodies will be used in Germany as the first country in the EU. Initially in university clinics. The federal government has bought 200,000 cans for 400 million euros,” the paper quoted Spahn in the preliminary report.

“They work like a passive vaccination. The administration of these antibodies can help high-risk patients in the early phase that a severe course is prevented.”

According to the report, ex-US President Donald Trump was also treated with this form of antibody after his corona infection, who received a drug from the US biotech company Regeneron. Drugs of this type can reduce the likelihood of a severe course, according to the US FDA.

Berlin clinic stops admission due to corona mutation

The British coronavirus mutation “B.1.1.7” is spreading in Berlin. The Humboldt Clinic in the Reinickendorf district is now stopping further patient admission to prevent it from spreading. Like the state-owned hospital company Vivantes on Friday evening announced on Twitter, new patients and emergencies are to be admitted to other clinics.

The admission ban that has been imposed since midnight applies until further notice. Emergencies have been diverted since then. The hospital employees are under what is known as commuting quarantine: They are only allowed to travel between their home and the clinic.

Routine screenings in the ward for internal medicine and cardiology have shown positive evidence in 14 people so far, as the clinic confirmed on Saturday. Already on Thursday it was said that the infections of patients and staff could not be explained with travel.

Again Daily mirror reports, there will be a crisis switching conference on Saturday with Health Senator Dilek Kalayci (SPD) with representatives of the RKI, Vivantes, the district and the rescue service.

Federal government classifies more than 20 countries as high incidence areas

Because of the particularly high number of corona infections, the federal government for the first time classified more than 20 countries as high-incidence areas, for which slightly stricter entry rules then apply. As the Robert Koch Institute announced on its website on Friday, the countries involved are: Egypt, Albania, Andorra (Principality of Andorra), Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Iran, Israel, Colombia, Kosovo, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, USA.

So far, the federal government had only differentiated between areas with particularly contagious virus variants and “normal” risk areas. There are now three categories:

  • “Normal” risk areas: These are countries or regions with an incidence value of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days. This currently applies to almost all of Europe with the exception of individual areas in Greece, Finland, Norway, Austria and Denmark. Well over 100 countries worldwide are risk areas.
  • High incidence areas: These are countries with significantly higher numbers of infections than in Germany. As a rule, this includes countries with an incidence value of over 200 (incidence in Germany: 115). However, other countries can also be declared “high incidence areas” under this brand under certain conditions.
  • Virus variant areas: These are areas in which highly contagious variants of the coronavirus have occurred. So far the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Brazil fall into this category.

Travelers from “normal” risk areas must be tested for Corona no later than 48 hours after entering Germany. In addition, they have to be in quarantine for ten days, but can be freed from it prematurely by a second negative test from day five. The difference between the high-incidence and virus variant areas: The test must be carried out a maximum of 48 hours before entry. In addition, the exception rules for the quarantine can be restricted. But that is a matter for the individual federal states.

DGB fears “wage theft” in the home office

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) is pushing for clear rules for working in the home office in order to prevent unpaid overtime. “We are currently experiencing that working hours in the home office are generally not recorded at all,” said DGB chairman Reiner Hoffmann New Osnabrück newspaper. Employees in Germany already work one billion hours of overtime every year that are not paid. “This is wage theft. And it is intensified if there are no sensible rules for the digital world of work.”

Hoffmann once again called for the right to work from home and emphasized that the topic must remain at the top of the agenda. The design of the digital working world will be one of the big tasks after the corona pandemic. And the right to work from home is a very important element “if we want to use the opportunities offered by digitization”. In this way, people could get more self-determination about “working hours that fit their life”.

Steinmeier is planning a central memorial service for victims of the corona pandemic after Easter

After Easter, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is planning a central memorial service in Berlin for the dead in connection with the corona pandemic in Germany. Together with other constitutional organs, Steinmeier wants to “set an example that we as a society mourn together, that we do not forget the dead and the suffering of the bereaved.” The Office of the Federal President announced this on Friday in Berlin.

Until a commemoration ceremony, the Federal President called for the #lichtfenster campaign. As a sign of common remembrance, citizens should put a light in the window from this Friday and share a picture of it with the hashtag #lichtfenster on social media. In Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the Federal President, a light will be clearly visible in the central window above the portal. “We put a light in the window because we know that people are suffering all over our country,” he said. The coronavirus pandemic deaths are not just statistics. “Every number stands for a loved one who is infinitely lacking,” said the head of state. The light in the window should stand for warmth and compassion in a dark time, said Steinmeier. Many would have to mourn relatives. Far too many fought for survival in intensive care units and nursing homes. Far too many would have to fear for loved ones.


Case Alexei Navalny: Logic of the Autocrats

Dealing with members of the opposition like Navalny is not a Russian specialty. In the long term, this weakens autocratic regimes.

Dealing with critics of the regime like Navalny is a long-term threat for autocrats Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky / ap

Russia’s actions against Alexei Navalny not only make fun of the rule of law. It also goes against the rulers’ own interests. Because nothing increases the effectiveness of an opposition more than its ruthless persecution. This persecution may ignore political opponents and condemn them to silence. But every day that an apparently innocent man spends behind prison walls makes him more of a martyr – and thus an even greater threat to those in power.

The dilemma that Russia is facing is inherent in the system, of course. An autocratic regime cannot act like an established parliamentary democracy. The latter can withstand systemic opposition well. A change of power at its head does not shake the foundations of the state, but is one of the rules of the game.

An autocratic system, on the other hand, must not allow its own leadership to be questioned. It strikes back so ruthlessly because a change of power is not part of the game, but the foundations of the autocracy are shaken and thus dangerous to the state.

Therefore the persecution of Navalny is not a Russian specialty. There are hundreds and thousands of women and men of the type of Navalny – in Belarus, China, Uzbekistan and other countries, but also in some formally democratic states whose governments are characterized by corruption and nepotism. For those in power here, deprivation of power is synonymous with their downfall.

In the short term, the imprisonment of those who criticize the regime will always benefit these leaders. But in the long run they are digging their own grave. Vladimir Putin’s administration can put Alexei Navalny in jail for ten years. The only thing she will achieve with it is to have created a role model. The result will be a hundred new Nawalnys who will continue on his way.


Condemnation of Alexei Navalny: fear of the Kremlin critic

The tense economic situation and the tough crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny could give his colleagues a boost.

Alexei Navalny on Sunday in Berlin before his return flight to Moscow Foto: Mstyslav Chernov / dpa

Pathetic: That is the performance that has been going on in Moscow since Sunday evening. The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is sentenced to 30 days’ arrest in a fast-track trial; his arrest at Sheremetyev Airport followed the script of the Federal Penitentiary Authority (FSIN): retrospectively converting probation for violating conditions into three and a half years imprisonment – a plan that itself is following Russian law is legally questionable.

The foreplay was also instructive. Wnukowo airport besieged by security forces, dozens of arrests and a diversion of the machine for “technical reasons”. There is a surprising amount of fuss about an allegedly political nobody whom the FSB secret service, to speak to President Vladimir Putin, could have easily transported into the afterlife if he had been willing.

The demonstration of strength lets you look deep. There is obviously fear in the Kremlin, and for good reason. Even if Navalny were to disappear behind bars for years, the “problem” for the Russian government would not be over, also with regard to the Duma elections in September. On the contrary: In view of the growing resentment in the population, also due to a tense economic situation, the crackdown on Navalny could even give his fellow campaigners a boost.

The reactions of many Western politicians are as ritualized as they are helpless: the demand for immediate release and compliance with the rule of law. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shoots the bird with his statement that Nawalny’s arrest is completely incomprehensible.

The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have called on the EU to give a clear response to Moscow. It is precisely these voices that should be taken seriously in Brussels. Anything else would mean a further loss of credibility and would be no better than what is happening in Moscow.


Russia: Tens of thousands demonstrate for Navalny policy

In Yakutsk, Siberia, people protested at minus 50 degrees Celsius, in the exclave of Kaliningrad in pouring rain. “Down with the Tsar,” they shouted in front of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, and in Yekaterinburg they threw snowballs at the police.

Tens of thousands of people protested against President Vladimir Putin on Saturday in at least 85 Russian cities across eleven time zones. There weren’t any reliable numbers that evening, but they were more than they had been in years. The Kremlin is also likely to be worried about the large span: The wave of protests that rolled from Khabarovsk in the Far East to Kaliningrad covered a distance of more than 9,000 kilometers as the crow flies. It was worn by people of all ages.

The crowds were particularly large in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The police reacted accordingly nervously and sometimes violently, blocking off metro stations and squares. Special forces, equipped to make their way through the masses, carried or dragged protesters to the police buses. Occasionally there were open brawls, sometimes protesters attacked emergency services.

In Saint Petersburg, they broke a police barrier and flooded the city’s main thoroughfare. In Moscow, the police forcibly cleared Pushkin Square, the starting point of the demonstration. The people then spread out in the city center. A video in which a child is arrested caused a stir. Another shows a police officer kneeling on the neck of a young man. As of 7.30 p.m. Moscow time, the independent organization OWD-Info counted more than 2,100 arrests nationwide.

While in custody, Navalny called on people to protest on Saturday

There was a clear trigger for the protest: The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested in Moscow on Sunday. Navalny has been arrested many times, but this time it happened immediately after his return from Germany and – if you will – practically after his return from the dead. In Germany, Navalny had recovered from life-threatening poisoning in the past five months.

While in custody, he called on people to protest on Saturday. But the motivation of many participants is likely to have been more complex, it wasn’t just ardent Navalny fans who came to protest. The people demonstrated against a regime that wants to silence its critics and take away more and more freedoms from its citizens. They also demonstrated against a government that is abusing its power to enrich itself.

“Putin is a thief,” shouted people from east to west of the country. This is not a new protest call, but one that fitted particularly well this time: Nawalny’s team had published a video on Wednesday about a palace on the Black Sea, the property is being managed according to research by confidants of the president. “I have a palace for a billion dollars,” read a protest sign with Putin’s portrait. “My citizens have no right to freedom.”

Navalny’s wife Julia was also arrested by police in downtown Moscow

Nawalny’s video had 70 million clicks by Saturday afternoon – the opposition’s most successful reveal film to date. The Russian security forces apparently immediately suspected that it would fuel the protest: on Thursday evening they arrested several of Navalny’s employees, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysch, the head of his anti-corruption fund, Georgij Alburov. The opposition party Lubow Sobol was released on Thursday evening, but was arrested again on Saturday – for the third time this week. She was telling some journalists how happy she was to see so many participants when Omon Special Forces circled her and took her away.

Navalny’s wife Julia was also arrested by police in downtown Moscow. She published another photo: “Very bad light in the Awtosak” she wrote underneath – that’s the name of the police buses with which those arrested are taken away.

The Kremlin had issued even louder than usual warnings of the protests. Universities warned their students not to take part, and some threatened to de-register. The media supervisory authority Roskomnadzor threatened online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram with fines if they did not delete calls to protest. For example, she asked the video platform TikTok and the Russian Facebook counterpart VKontakte to remove, in particular, entries aimed at minors. On TikTok, a particularly large number of young Russians had campaigned for Navalny, and hashtags on the topic quickly received hundreds of millions of clicks. At the protests, however, there were not many minors to be seen.

Navalny himself reported on Friday with a message from prison, pleased with the reaction to his palace video. He wanted to make it clear “just in case,” he wrote, that he did not plan to hang himself on the bars in front of his window or write down his wrists. “I walk stairs very carefully,” he wrote, and his blood pressure is monitored, “a sudden heart attack” is out of the question. According to Navalny, he knows that “many good people out there” will come to his aid.


Armin Laschet speaks at party conference of the CDU Baden-Württemberg – Politics

Was there something? A week ago, large parts of the CDU in Baden-Württemberg wanted to prevent Armin Laschet from becoming the new federal chairman. Now the party leadership in the southwest is aggressively trying to bring calm into their own ranks and to demonstrate unity with the new party leader. The motivation is clear: In the next seven weeks, attention should focus exclusively on the election campaign in their own state. Because on March 14, the CDU in Baden-Württemberg will be concerned with whether it can replace the Greens as the strongest force in the state.

Some prominent Merz supporters have turned into Laschet fans quite smoothly in the past few days. Above all the state chairman Thomas Strobl. At the digital party congress of the regional association, Strobl paid tribute to the newly elected federal chairman. A year ago, together with top candidate Susanne Eisenmann and General Secretary Manuel Hagel, he positioned himself very early and clearly behind Friedrich Merz, to whom they ascribed a particularly high level of business competence. A week ago, Eisenmann called for the new federal chairman to be inspired by Merz on this topic.

No more of this was heard at the party congress on Saturday. Instead, Strobl emphasized how successfully Laschet was leading the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia as Prime Minister. He also praised its security policy and praised the new federal chairman as someone who could integrate well and counteract a social division. Strobl also emphasized that the election of the new CDU chairman was preceded by a “fair competition”, “which was also good for us”. Even more: “That was a celebration of democracy.” It is now clear that the CDU of Baden-Württemberg will “support the new federal chairman Armin Laschet with all their energy and without reservation”.

Daimler, Porsche and a plea not to rely solely on electric mobility

The hug was mutual. Laschet had come personally to the south on Saturday to speak at the party conference, although in addition to Strobl, Eisenmann and Hagel only a small team of employees and technicians was present in the Wagenhallen in Stuttgart. It should be a signal of appreciation, which was also understood in this way: General Secretary Hagel had already proudly pointed out the day before that Laschet would make his first appearance in Stuttgart as officially confirmed federal chairman. In the end, that was not entirely true, because Laschet stopped by Mainz on the way to Stuttgart, where the CDU Rhineland-Palatinate swore to the state elections on March 14th. But that was just a so-called small party conference.

Laschet had prepared well for his appearance. In the morning, he mentioned in passing in the speech, he had called the CDU member of Baden-Württemberg and well-known tunneling contractor Martin Herrenknecht. Knowingly, he incorporated the names of all incumbent CDU ministers in Baden-Württemberg. He did not forget to mention that he likes to spend his vacation in this “beautiful” state and otherwise put a clear focus on the economy. Daimler and Porsche came naturally and made a plea not to rely solely on electric mobility. Above all, however, Laschet raved about the “strong, medium-sized family businesses” and the entrepreneurial spirit in Baden-Württemberg. Politicians must give these companies leeway and should not regulate too much. “We don’t need any regulations for home offices either.” The CDU stands for this spirit.

In Baden-Württemberg, the party also fulfills the claim to represent cities and rural areas equally: it is “strong in the districts and is still able to appoint the mayor of Stuttgart,” said Laschet. And if the Green Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann is not typical for his party, so Laschet, then it is also due to the strong CDU, which is getting him on the right track.

Laschet: “Of course we also need Friedrich Merz”

The new CDU chairman also took a protective stand in front of the top candidate Susanne Eisenmann, who, as Baden-Württemberg’s minister of culture, has recently been vehemently advocating the opening of kindergartens and primary schools in Baden-Württemberg and is therefore under criticism. The state party conference had just started in the morning as a message from the news agency Dpa caused unrest: Hans Georg Koch, government spokesman for the former CDU Prime Minister Erwin Teufel, had announced that he was leaving the CDU after more than 40 years out of anger at Eisenmann. In a letter to the editor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he justified it like this: “Firstly because the top candidate of the CDU has been trying for weeks to make political capital out of the Corona crisis; secondly, because there is obviously no one in the CDU Baden-Württemberg who (or who) is tries to slow them down. “

Against this background, Laschet emphasized that it was important to keep addressing the educational issue in order to “find a good balance” when weighing up the slowdown of the pandemic and the social consequences.

Laschet expressly thanked all CDU delegates who accepted the result after the federal party conference and took it upon themselves to print out and send in the ballot. Behind it is an “inner attitude” that makes it easy for him to get started. “Of course we also need Friedrich Merz,” he added. He wants Merz to stick with it. The party faces major challenges in the super election year. “We’ll only be able to do this if we then stand together.”