Neue Neue Ostpolitik

On June 15, the US Senate approved an act to sharply expand sanctions imposed on Russia in retaliation for its intervention in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The broadly bi-partisan move that enshrined Barack Obama’s earlier executive orders – intended as a response to Moscow’s alleged cyber interference in US elections – was a stunning rebuke to US President Donald Trump’s Russia policy, essentially taking a broad swath of foreign policy out of his hands.

In light of Trump’s stance toward Germany, the EU, and NATO, one might have expected a gigantic sigh of relief from Berlin. But this was not to be. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel reacted with immediate indignation to a provision of the bill that would allow the US to target companies cooperating in the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline project. A joint declaration with his NS2 partner, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, invoked a sort of euro-populism: “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America … Instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests.” The irony of citing such a principle in defense of NS2, considering Putin and Gazprom’s labyrinthine record of political and economic pressures on Ukraine, appears to have eluded the pair. Continue reading.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2017 Issue of the Berlin Policy Journal

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Thomas O'Donnell

Thomas O’Donnell was a DAAD/AICGS Research Fellow in April and May 2015. He is an academic, analyst, and consultant with expertise in the global energy system and international relations. At AICGS, his focus is “U.S. Expert Perspectives on German Energy Vulnerabilities.” Dr. O’Donnell’s teaching and research have encompassed the EU and Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, China, and the USA. His PhD is in nuclear physics from The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; for the past 15 years he has primarily taught post-graduate international relations and development with a focus on energy and natural resource issues, including at The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, at The New School University’s JJ Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (NYC), and at Freie Universität’s JFK Institute (Berlin). At his blog, the, he follows issues of energy and international affairs, and he also writes frequently for the IP Journal (Berlin), Americas Quarterly (NYC), and Petroguía (Caracas).

Throughout 2008-09, Dr. O’Donnell was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor in Caracas at the Center for the Study of Development (CENDES) of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). He is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and consults with various other geopolitical, business-intelligence, and advisory firms. Before doing his PhD, Dr. O’Donnell spent a decade working in U.S. industry, gaining technical experience in automobile manufacturing, railway operations, large-scale HVAC, and in power generation. He has also worked as a radiation safety and health-physics officer at a research nuclear reactor and in medical and other settings. In experimental nuclear physics, he conducted basic research at several particle-accelerator and national laboratory facilities in the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere; and is author or co-author on about 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Since 2012, he has lived in Berlin with his wife and youngest children. He speaks English, Spanish, and functional German.