Germany and Russia are renewing an alliance that is shaking the world. These two countries’ newest joint project, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, seems like a mere business deal. It is not. In fact, analysts and officials have informally labeled it the “Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline,” after the pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin that facilitated World War ii.
Completed but not yet operational, Nord Stream 2 will transport natural gas directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland and Ukraine. It will enable Russia to blackmail Central and East European countries by cutting off their gas supply while continuing to sell gas to more lucrative West European clients, increasing Russia’s economic and political power over nations it lost when the Soviet Union collapsed.
When Nord Stream 2 comes online, it will allow Russia to dominate Eastern Europe, and Germany to dominate the rest of Europe, even more than they already do.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that she does not support the pipeline, but that she was powerless to stop it (article, page 2). This raises the question, who really is pushing Germany into this new alliance? And why?
The pipeline’s main financier is Gazprom, which is controlled by the Russian government and, significantly, employs former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as Nord Stream’s chairman. The next two largest financiers are Wintershall Dea and E.ON, which have together contributed more than 30 percent of its funding. The former is part of the German company basf, the largest chemical company in the world. E.ON is a European electric utility company, also based in Germany.
Gerhard Schröder: Schröder was voted out of office in 2005, but before he handed over power to the new government, he hastily signed an agreement to create the original Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany.
“That is an ugly thing for a politician to do,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in 2018. “He knew the people had already voted him out, yet he decided to set this project in motion. This indicates what is happening with this German-led European power: It is being hijacked by leaders who don’t always act in their people’s interests!” (Trumpet, September 2018).
Remarkably, the politicians who have succeeded Schröder over the past 17 years have continued to support the project.
Wintershall: This is Germany’s largest oil and gas producer. Its parent company, basf, also relies heavily on natural gas supplies from Russia to maintain its dominance as the world’s largest chemical producer. With an annual revenue of about $67 billion and 122,000 workers worldwide, about half of whom are in Germany, basf wields strong influence over German politicians.
Wintershall has been working with Russia’s Gazprom for decades and has stakes in two large natural gas fields in western Siberia that connect to the original Nord Stream pipeline. Wintershall ceo Mario Mehren said in 2018, “Russia is the most important region for Wintershall! And Russia will remain the most important region for Wintershall” (emphasis added). That is a telling statement. Apparently Russia is a more important partner to these German business leaders than the United States or the rest of the European Union.
OMV: Austrian energy company omv, a third of which is owned by the Austrian government, has a 10 percent stake in Nord Stream 2. Its ceo, Rainer Seele, was previously the ceo of Wintershall, and he has led both companies in close cooperation with Russia. Seele is also the president of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce Abroad, which has a membership of 50,000 and is supported by Germany’s Economics Ministry. He is surely using all the pressure of this powerful lobby group to launch the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But businesses working directly on Nord Stream 2 aren’t the only ones pushing Germany and Russia closer together.
A Deep Relationship
About 4,000 German businesses have a presence in Russia, and they collectively invest nearly $4.5 billion annually. “No other European country comes close to the German presence” in Russia, wrote the Economist last year. “Most of these companies have no intention of leaving. On the contrary, more may be piling in” (March 27, 2021).
An Ernst & Young study found that German businesses had started more than 400 projects in Russia over the last 20 years, more than any other European country. The Leibniz Center for European Economic Research noted that German family-owned businesses listed Russia as the emerging market they trusted most.
German supermarkets Metro and Globus each employ over 10,000 people in Russia. German manufacturers of staples, gypsum, precision-measuring equipment, pharmaceuticals, farming equipment, water pumps and heating systems have all set up shop in Russia.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported, “Many of Germany’s largest companies also have extensive business ties to Russia. … The influence of big business within Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (cdu) has limited the center-right’s appetite … for a confrontational approach to Moscow even though the chancellor herself is comparatively hawkish.” These businesses are substantially influencing Germany’s foreign policy toward its eastern neighbor.
Russia’s invasion of Crimea in February 2014 demonstrated how this political pressure works.
Going to Bat for Russia
After Russia forcibly annexed Crimea, it proceeded to invade eastern Ukraine. The world was outraged. Many liberals were shocked, having believed that this kind of naked aggression was a thing of the past. Politicians from Germany, Europe and the United States planned economic sanctions to punish Russia.
But then German businesses leaped into action to thwart the sanctions. It started in March of that year, at the height of the crisis, when Siemens ceo Joe Kaeser visited Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was no small gesture. Eighty percent of Russian power stations use advanced turbines manufactured by Siemens. This German company has been instrumental in upgrading Russia’s transport infrastructure. bne IntelliNews, a site focused on business news in emerging markets, wrote: “Siemens probably has one of the best and closest relations to the Kremlin of any foreign company working in Russia” (April 17, 2018). Kaeser’s visit sent a very public message that no matter what the politicians decided, Siemens would work to continue business as usual.
Kaeser was broadly criticized for the visit, but the tone had been set. Many other businesses took similar, though less public, measures. “Although German companies have toned down their public criticism of sanctions since the ceo of Siemens was vilified in the press for meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in late March, a behind-the-scenes lobby effort remains in full force,” cnbc reported. “Out of public view … lobbyists for German industry continue to warn loudly against steps that might lead to a full-blown economic confrontation with Russia in the hope that Merkel could waver” (May 16, 2014).
The German-Russian Chamber of Foreign Trade, which at the time represented over 800 businesses (now over 1,000), sent a private paper to the German government warning that existing sanctions were having a “massive impact” on German business and their extension would cause “irreparable damage.”
These lobbying efforts did not prevent Ms. Merkel from imposing sanctions on Russia. But they did ensure the sanctions did not entirely cripple Russian-German trade. And Ms. Merkel herself confirmed that the businesses’ lobby directly contributed to the success of one of the most geopolitically significant projects in recent history.
A Historic Partnership
The idea that Germany has a special relationship with Russia, and a special destiny in the East, goes back centuries. Starting in the 13th century, the German Hanseatic League dominated eastern trade. Russia’s oldest city, Novgorod, became the heart of East-West trade, dominated by this league of great German trading cities.
Moscow has hosted German colonies since the 16th century as German businessmen and settlers set up shop in the Russian capital. Czar Peter the Great (1682–1725) was a regular visitor. He hired German and Italian architects to design his new, more European looking capital city: St. Petersburg. Peter’s regard for the German colony led to a close political relationship between Russia and Germany. He built alliances with the German principalities. His children all married into princely German families.
Russia’s other “the Great,” Catherine (1762–1796), was herself a German princess. She introduced German-style schools into Russia. She encouraged German craftsmen to come to her empire, so much so that Russian words for trades common in her day have German origins. She also brought in large numbers of German migrants, promising to shield them from conscription and many taxes. They were even allowed relative religious freedom. By the time Russia took its first census in the late 1800s, around 2 million people living in Russia listed their first language as German.
These business and personal links frequently helped Germany and Russia form alliances, which repeatedly dominated and divided Europe between them. Under Catherine the Great, Russia, the German state of Prussia and Austria divided Eastern Europe among themselves—chopping off lumps of Poland until, by 1795, nothing was left. Otto von Bismarck, arguably Germany’s most successful leader, famously quipped, “The secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia.”
Less well known is the way Germany worked with Russia to try to return to power after World War i. On April 16, 1922, Germany and Russia signed the Treaty of Rapallo. The treaty made Germany Russia’s main trade partner in Europe. But the full extent of the cooperation was not uncovered until much later. It has since been revealed that within months, German manufacturer Junkers was illegally manufacturing German aircraft and Krupp artillery in Russia. German industrialists helped Stalin’s factories catch up to the Western world.
More secretly, Germany conducted military research, development and training—which was outlawed by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War i—in Russia. In exchange, Russia trained with the German Army and shared in the military advances. Germany set up secret bases, factories and airfields in Russia.
This was 20 years before Germany would fight the United States. Adolf Hitler, just 33 years old, hadn’t even begun his rise to power. Yet Russia and Germany were already conspiring against the West. This secret alliance was one of the main reasons Germany was able to explode into power once Hitler became chancellor in 1933.
When German and Soviet ministers met on Aug. 23, 1939, to divide Eastern Europe between them, it was hardly the start of a new relationship. “For two decades this evil stream of exchanges had flowed underground,” writes historian Paul Johnson in Modern Times. “Now at last it broke the surface.”
Known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, or the Hitler-Stalin pact, the deal was announced as a “nonaggression pact.” It was the opposite: It defined which parts of Eastern Europe that Russia could attack with German approval, and vice versa.
It also paved the way for worldwide Communist support for Nazi Germany. Stalin sent Germany 1 million tons of grain, 900,000 tons of oil, 500,000 tons of iron ore and other minerals, allowing Russia’s vast natural wealth to fuel the German war machine.
This was exactly the sort of relationship that Cold War strategists feared. Hans Morgenthau warned that Germany reaching an accommodation with Russia “would signify a drastic change in the distribution of world power.” He warned that Germany has “rational arguments … in support of an Eastern orientation.”
In 1953, T. H. Tetens issued similar warnings in Germany Plots With the Kremlin. He said that “after the Germans have squeezed from us all possible concessions, after they have extorted additional billions of dollars, and after we have relinquished important rights of control, the Germans will turn their backs on us and start their bargaining with the Kremlin. Such a development would not only spell the doom of our whole containment policy in Europe, but it would also result in a new threat by a German-dominated third power bloc.”
This fear proved well founded. German-Russian accommodation freed up both nations, for a short time, to direct their military might elsewhere—at the ultimate expense of tens of millions of lives.
Today a similar scenario is playing out, and among sharp analysts, the same unease and fear is reviving. Andrew A. Michta, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, recently warned that Putin aims to “coax Berlin into a ‘neo-Bismarckian’ accommodation that would, in effect, divide Europe into two spheres of influence, rendering the United States increasingly irrelevant to the overall strategic balance in Europe.”
“The above worst-case scenario is less farfetched than it may seem,” Michta wrote. “It rests on historical patterns of Russian imperialism going back three centuries and has its roots in how Moscow understands Germany’s role in Europe since Prussia unified the German states” (19forty-five, Dec. 27, 2021). Such an arrangement would kick the U.S. out of Europe and allow Germany and Russia to dominate.
For a German empire to reemerge and dominate Europe, it would have to push out the United States. The best way to do that would be through a partnership with Russia. It is no coincidence that some prominent people within the business community are working to facilitate that alliance.
Russia is actively working to destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Right now, Russian troops sit poised on the border of Ukraine. And Putin is pushing the U.S. to accept a list of humiliating concessions (article, page 10). If these demands are not met, Russia has promised a “military response” similar in magnitude to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
These demands alone do not resurrect the Iron Curtain and Warsaw Pact, but if the U.S. gives in, it would be a significant step in that direction. Ukraine and others would become second-class states, unable to make decisions regarding their sovereignty without Russian permission. It would amount to a public declaration by the U.S. and nato that Russia is the overlord of Eastern Europe and that the U.S. operates there only with Russia’s permission. If met, these demands would effectively destroy nato as a defense alliance.
It is telling that Russia waited until the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was completed before issuing these demands. But the moment winter arrived—when countries need energy and are vulnerable to blackmail—Putin went on the offensive. Nord Stream 2 clearly plays a major role in his plan. Those who built it have given Putin enormous leverage in expanding his empire.
If the United States is pushed out, Germany would be substantially strengthened as the natural leader of Europe. East European nations, unable to look to the U.S. for their defense, would have to turn to Germany. And Germany, absent America’s protection, would be forced to significantly muscle up militarily.
A Boiling Anxiety
In 1870, Bismarck sought to unify the divided states of Germany. To accomplish this, he needed an enemy. Bismarck tricked France into attacking Prussia and used the ensuing conflict as a tool for forging a new, united Germany. Today, German elites hope to score a similar unity—not just within Germany but across the whole of Europe—by using Russia. They know that empowering Putin is a calculated risk. They know that Germany and Russia have been foes as well as friends. But thus far, Germany has been unable to unite Europe as a major power under itself. It needs a stronger tool to put more pressure on European states to put aside their differences and come together.
In the November-December 2008 Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “[D]id you know that Germany and Russia have probably already dealt with their most urgent differences? … I believe that Germany’s leaders may have already agreed to a deal with Russia, a modern Hitler-Stalin pact where Germany and Russia divide countries and assets between themselves. This agreement would allow each to turn its sights on other targets. Any such deal that may have been struck between Germany and Russia is a precursor to war!” (theTrumpet.com/5560).
If such a deal is in place, it would have to cover what Russia has been doing in Eastern Europe. Does the completion of Nord Stream 2 mean we are reaching a new stage in this partnership? Russia has laid considerable groundwork already. Under “Putin’s Other European Invasion,” the Atlantic Council noted that Putin’s regime is gaining influence over European bankers, lawyers and other elites. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former French Prime Minister François Fillon and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl are all now board members of Russian government-controlled energy companies.
In his 2018 article “Germany and Russia’s Secret War Against America,” Mr. Flurry noted that not just Russia, but even Germany seems intent on destroying nato. “Nord Stream 2 binds Russia and Germany together in a way that undermines nato,” he wrote. “In fact, though Russia and Germany will not say so, this pipeline project is clearly intended to wreck nato. …
“Many elite Germans feel their nation has now gotten all it can from the U.S. and they are ready to move on. Some powerful Germans today are thinking more and more about the Holy Roman Empire, and they want modern Germany to assume more power of its own in the spirit of that empire. They want to establish Europe as a mighty, German-led superpower. …
“History shows that Germany and Russia are not actually partners. When they enter into peace deals and economic partnerships, it is a signal that either or both are preparing for some kind of imperialistic exploit. This makes the Nord Stream 2 deal extremely concerning” (theTrumpet.com/17565).
In that article, Mr. Flurry referenced Jeremiah 1:13, in which God gave a prophetic vision of “a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.” “This symbolic language is describing modern Germany,” Mr. Flurry warned. “Beneath the surface, that nation is full of simmering dissatisfaction with the current world order. Germans are angry at the U.S., and especially furious with President [Donald] Trump. The imperialistic ambition that prompted Germany to start both world wars is alive and well. It is ‘seething’!”
Evidence of a Russo-German deal are also signs of this seething pot: It exposes how diligently both countries are working to overthrow the U.S.-led world order.
Where This Deal Is Leading
Prophecy warns that a German-led Europe is about to boil over, spreading its power across the world. It also warns of a “prince of Rosh,” or Russia (Ezekiel 38:1-2; New King James Version), whose aggression will likewise spread around the world.
History shows that the Germans and Russians sign secret deals that remain underground for decades. Modern observers like to think that everyone wants peace and that all nations just want to get along. Past and present events reveal otherwise. Nations want power, and they will conspire and go to war to get it.
In May 1962, the Plain Truth—the Trumpet’s predecessor, led by editor in chief Herbert W. Armstrong—wrote: “Once a German-dominated Europe is fully established, Germany will be ready to negotiate and bargain with Russia—and behind the backs of the Western allies if necessary.”
History offers ominous warnings about the results of such bargains. The German-Russian relationship has been at the heart of the most destructive conflicts in man’s history.
The Bible offers the same warning, but it also contains a wonderful hope. Mr. Flurry concluded his article: “Men are going to continue in their futile attempts at forging peace. They will have to suffer until Jesus Christ returns. … But His return is tied to this German rising power and this Russian rising power. He says He will return before war has ended all human life! (Matthew 24:22). The rising military powers in Russia and Europe are a big part of what will make it necessary for Christ to return.
“God wants us to respond to Him. He says He will help us in any way we need if we will just obey Him. ‘[W]hy will ye die, O house of Israel?’ God pleads in Ezekiel 18:31. He doesn’t want any of us to have to suffer! He is eager to spare us from the coming cataclysmic violence and to bless us.
“We need to understand these Bible prophecies. They are preparing the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to this Earth. That means all the bad news is about to end. He is going to bring peace, joy and happiness to this world forever.”