Germany wants no "strategic relationship" with Russiaby Constanze Stelzenmueller / January 22, 2015 / Leave a comment
The conflict in Ukraine is far more than that. It is a struggle between the west and Russia over a civil society’s right to chart its country’s course; over the future of the European Union, of Russia, and of the lands in between on the Eurasian continent; and over competing notions of modernity.
In all of this, Germany is central—because of its geographical location, its economic strength, its current position as the pivotal power of Europe, and its age-old special relationship with Russia. For centuries, relations between the two countries have been a dark tangle of reciprocal attraction and complicity; never more so than in the 20th century. The region which has set the two powers at odds once more today was the scene of some of the worst atrocities committed by both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Small wonder, then, that Germany’s neighbours and allies are nervous. These memories of man’s appalling inhumanity to man have become hardwired into our collective cultural DNA. They remain the backdrop for any debate about the future of the region.
There is cause for concern indeed. And yet some of the worriers-in-chief are getting it wrong. “The Ukraine crisis has reopened old questions about Germany’s relationship to the rest of the west,” writes Hans Kundnani in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Actually, Germany has answered them comprehensively.
When Germany’s President, as well as its Foreign and Defence Ministers, called for a more responsible German foreign policy at the Munich Security Conference in January 2014, few of those present—the speakers included—could have imagined the dramatic events that were about to unfold, or the sheer reach and magnitude of their consequences. Since then, the annexation of Crimea, the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the continuing destabilisation of eastern Ukraine by Russia, and the propaganda and harassment directed at Europeans, have produced a historic policy turnaround in Berlin, and a sense of urgency not seen since the fall of the Wall a generation ago.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has agreed to three waves of sanctions, despite opposition from the Ostausschuss, a subcommittee of the German Federation of Industries which is the mouthpiece of German businesses engaged in Russia; a May op-ed in the Financial Times…