March 3, 2022

Germany is Not Taking Sides with Putin—4 Things I’d Like to Set Straight.

 

Some folks accused Germany of taking sides with Putin’s Russia.

I have seen several anti-German posts on social media lately. And I understand the resentments toward Germany’s actions.

First, Germany wasn’t willing to give up the North Stream 2 pipeline. Shortly after that, the new German government decided not to send weapons to Ukraine. And then, the internet remembered that former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is a business partner and friend of Putin.

I know, this looks really bad at first sight.

But let me explain why bashing Germany as an ally of Russia is more than wrong.

Here are four things to keep in mind before judging Germany:

1. Gerhard Schröder is the most-hated German right now. 

If you are upset to hear that a former German chancellor is a lobbyist for the biggest Russian gas company, please take a moment and imagine how upset Germans are about this.

It sounded quite reasonable 20 years ago to diversify our energy supplies. At that time, Putin was even asking to join NATO. And you might remember Germany’s opposition toward the war in Iraq. Maybe this helps to understand why Schröder might have thought that it was a good idea to secure access to fossil fuels.

You can blame the former German government for trusting the wrong partner, but we shouldn’t forget that George Bush Jr. and his war on Iraq also played a role in this.

But none of that excuses the fact that Schröder failed to distance himself from Putin during the last weeks. There is no excuse for him not to step down from these well-paid positions.

He does not represent Germany or its public opinion in any way.

 

 

2. Annalena Baerbock’s speech at the United Nations.

Speaking of who represents Germany these days: it’s Annalena Baerbock, current German Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

She studied international relations at the London School of Economics. Most of her political opponents say that she cares too much about climate change and human rights. Is it even possible to care too much about these two topics?

Baerbock directly attacked her Russian counterpart Sergej Lavrov at the United Nations and told him, “Mr. Lavrov, you can deceive yourself, but you won’t deceive us, and you won’t deceive our people, and you won’t deceive your people.”

She also explained that this war in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine; it’s about every country that has a more powerful neighbor. And as she added, this applies to almost every country on this planet besides the United States, China, and Russia.

At the same time, Baerbock also explained that Germany decided not to send weapons to Ukraine because of our history. Germany was afraid that more weapons could harm diplomatic efforts. Germany’s role in the international community is defined by diplomacy and not by force.

But the new German government also acknowledged that this approach had failed—especially after the Russian military started attacking civilians.

So, yes, you can blame Germany for believing in diplomacy for too long. But please do not forget that solving conflicts with weapons is not really our first approach—for reasons that we all know.

But the world changed on February 24, 2022. Russia attacked a sovereign nation in Europe. Germany is slowly adjusting to these new realities.

It was never about taking sides with Russia; it was always about diplomacy.

3. Fracking gas is not an alternative to Russian gas. 

Germany bought gas from Russia throughout the Cold War. Besides a few coal mines, Germany doesn’t really have any natural resources.

Where is Germany supposed to get its energy from? Saudi Arabia? Qatar? Or fracking gas from the United States?

Accepting Russian gas seemed to be a good option before Putin went nuts. The alternative to Russian gas, as Donald Trump kept reminding us, was to import fracking gas from the United States.

Anyone here who wants to promote fracking and destroy the planet?

As you can see, there are no easy solutions to this dilemma. But Germany’s Secretary of Economy, Robert Habeck, just announced that our new goal is to become fully independent from fossil fuels.

Germany is going all-in on renewables. Isn’t that great?

 

 

4. It’s also about geography.

It’s easy to risk a nuclear war when you are located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. But I saw two U.S. military helicopters yesterday. This morning, I saw four planes flying right next to each other and checked it on a mobile app. Apparently, these four planes were F-16 Fighting Falcons.

How would you feel about that?

I totally understand the urge to help Ukraine. I also want to help the people in Ukraine. I am sure that Putin is wrong. But how much does being right help me if a nuclear missile hits my home?

I understand that we cannot let bullies like Putin get away with their cruelties, but do you also understand that getting nuked is extremely scary? There are no easy solutions, and reacting to an attack by attacking usually makes things worse (think of relationships).

As you see, things are a bit more complicated than it seems. Being mindful about using weapons is not the same as taking sides with someone.

You can blame previous German governments for this (including Angela Merkel), but the new German government is a coalition of politicians who always pointed that out. Now, it’s their chance to find alternatives.

Please give Germany some time to adjust to these new realities. But importing fracking gas is not the way to go, right?

And I am not sure if Americans are actually aware of how much oil the United States buys from Russia. That also needs to change, right?

I feel that the only way to stop Putin is helping the Russian opposition. Russia needs to change from within—and there are a lot of brave Russians who deserve our support on that. Let’s focus on that.

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Another good read: Why calling Ukraine “Relatively Civilized” is Wrong on so many Levels.

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