On Wednesday past the US congress extended legislation imposing sanctions on Russia. However, under this new legislation companies working on Russo-German joint projects that Germany regards as essential to its economic wellbeing become liable to punitive action in the US courts. These projects include the north stream pipeline that is planned to bring Russian gas to Germany. Germany has responded that it does not think this is really about sanctions so much as a ploy to force Germany to buy American gas rather than Russian. Germany has said that if any German firms do get prosecuted under these new laws, there will be retaliation from the European side.

I have believed for some time now that the tension between the USA and the EU was bound to increase and the advent of the Trump presidency is hastening this process as President Trump seems willing to confront the constituent issues more directly than his predecessors. Rising living standards in Europe mean that it is no longer the "poor relation", yet it remains the case that EU countries can get away with spending a lot less on thir own defense because the USA will do it for them. Then Germany especially now exports a great deal more to the USA then flows in the other direction. These are all facets of a shifting balance. However, the consequence of really taking on the implications are not so easy for politicians to face given that the post-WWII arrangements have now been in place so long. This latest twist rachets up the tension another notch. It also means that Germany is forced into a position of making a choice between Russia and the USA and, in this instance, will almost certainly choose Russia. The symbolism of this will have far more impact than the direct specific consequences of this single issue.

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