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West Wind: German Press Divided Over Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Critical voices regarding the harsh sanctions against Russia dominate the German media landscape. While Chancellor Angela Merkel takes a clear stance, most Germans hope for a peaceful, diplomatic solution beyond power games. Defending European values in Ukraine will come at a price. Will the German economy – and citizens – be ready to pay for it?

Review of German Press on Ukraine, Nicholas Boos, source: Flickr

Review of German Press on Ukraine, Nicholas Boos, source: Flickr

This is the first edition of a new series featuring European media voices on the EU’s Eastern neighbours.

 

Germany, Spiegel Online, March 18, 2014

Germans have to be ready to pay the price

The columnist David Böcking calls for the German state to take over more responsibility in foreign affairs, disregarding national economic interests by imposing severe sanctions against Russia. German CEOs have expressed their concerns during the last days as they fear negative consequences for their businesses. The fight for political ideals, however, does not come for free and the German economy will have to bear the costs. In case the EU replaces their gas imports from Russia with other sources, the energy costs will rise. Böcking sums up that if the German people are standing truly behind taking over more responsibility, they will have to be ready to pay the price as well.

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Germany, Die Welt, March 18, 2014

Deterrence and appeasement against war

Michael Stürmer recommends to carefully examine a plan for de-escalation offered by the Russian ministry of foreign affairs. He warns that penalties can easily gain an unwanted dynamic. The Russian proposal aims for a fast normalisation process in Ukraine but does not show any readiness to renegotiate about Crimea. If politicians and the media are talking about a new cold war, they should keep in mind that a balance between deterrence and appeasement has always been the formula to prevent the Cold War from getting hot. Stürmer points out that only a Western willingness for dialogue can show whether Russia’s offer is just a strategy to avoid sanctions or a serious attempt to cooperate.

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Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mach 18, 2014

Talk show guests accept status quo

Kerstin Holm resumes about the last episode of the popular political talk show “Hart aber fair” [Tough but fair] with the title “Do we have to be scared of Russia?”. During the German TV panel airing on Monday evening, 17 March, the Russian journalist Iwan Rodionov compared the annexation of Crimea with the reunification of Germany in 1990. The historian and political scientist Guido Knopp admitted that the referendum, despite being against international law, has at least been democratic. He further criticised the ignorance against Russia’s fear of being encircled by NATO members and the failure of having involved Putin in mediating in the Ukraine crisis during its early stage. The expert round seemed to have accepted the status quo created by Putin and was mostly discussing economic consequences.

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Germany, Der Freitag, March 19, 2014

Political world order in crisis

Lutz Herden sees the G7 summit on 24 March in the Hague as a platform to build alliances on the highest political level. The message of the conference is not one of appeasement, instead it signals the world community’s unity against Russia. Moscow is meant to feel isolated, relegated and condemned. For the West, this crisis is not about Crimea, it is mainly about Russia letting the EU and US look like weak fools, Herden explains. Putin has questioned the political world order that has existed since the end of the Cold War.

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Germany, Spiegel Online, March 20, 2014

Opinion polls: Germans do not trust super powers

National opinion polls show that the traditional block thinking has vanished among German citizens. Instead, there is a general suspicion against powerful countries violating and reinterpreting international law to their own benefit, especially implying the US. The majority of survey participants said that they do not believe in Obama solving the crisis through threat, prefering diplomatic means. They differentiate between Russia and Putin as a person, who they consider an unpredictable politician craving power. Regarding the causes of the crisis however, they not only blame Russia but also the EU, the new Ukrainian government and the US. Having the trauma of the Afghanistan war still in mind, the majority of Germans do not want to be involved in any military actions and are worried about the economic consequences of aggressive politics.

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Germany, Die Zeit, March 20, 2014

There is no G8 anymore

For the German chancellor Angela Merkel, the G8 does not exist anymore as long as their is no common ground for discussions. Merkel further announces that soon there will be a decision whether the Russian-German intergovernmental consultations, planned for the end of April, will be cancelled. Russia is isolated in all international organisation, Merkel states, and the EU will be ready to intensify their politcal and economic sanctions if necessary. The opposition leader Gregor Gysi from the Left Party accuses Merkel of using double standards when it comes to adherence to international law. The leader of Social Democrats (SPD) in the parliament, Thomas Oppermann, criticises Gysi’s attempt to downplay Russia’s misconduct by pointing at the international law violations of other countries and warns of a pro-Putin doctrine.

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This is the first edition of a new series featuring European media voices on the EU’s Eastern neighbours.

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