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West Wind: Russian Tanks Move

Not only the Russian tanks at the Ukrainian border are a subject of controversy in German media. Now, a Soviet war memorial in the capital becomes the symbol of diverging opinions regarding the Ukraine-Russia Conflict.

Soviet war memorial in Berlin

Soviet war memorial in Berlin, Robert, source: flickr

 

This is the fourth edition of the new series West Wind featuring European media voices on the EU’s Eastern neighbours. Read the third episode Ukraine Crisis Like Borscht Soup“.

 

Germany, Der Spiegel, April 14, 2014

No lessons learned

The government in Berlin accuses Russia of directing the armed forces in the East of Ukraine.  Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the Social Democrats and vice chancellor, accusing Russia of being ready to let tanks roll over European borders. During a memorial on occasion of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, Gabriel warns of forgetting the lessons taught by two world wars. The German government calls on Russia to contribute to a de-escalation of the tensed situation in Eastern Ukraine.  A spokeswoman of the government stresses, ‘’it has to be clear that violence is no acceptable means of solving a conflict, this also applies for Russia.’’

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Germany, taz, April 15, 2014

No Russian tanks at the Brandenburg Gate

The most popular German tabloid newspaper BILD called for the removal of tanks from a Soviet war memorial in the city centre of Berlin. The print version of their edition from Tuesday 15th of April, included a cut-out template for a petition stating ‘’in times when Russian tanks threaten a free and democratic Europe, we don’t want to see Russian tanks at the Brandenburg Gate.’’ The reaction of the German population to the petition remains as reserved as to the real tanks at the Eastern border of Ukraine. In time when a majority of the population prioritises peace and comfort over abidance to international law, only the yellow press offers a catchy position against the former cold war enemy Russia.

See the petitition

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Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 15, 2014

Polls: Public opinion is turning

Until recently most Germans had a rather good opinion about Russia. This is however changing drastically at the moment. While 55 percent of the population identify Russia as a dangerous country only 10 percent still trust in the former partner in the East. While many appreciate Russian cultural prosperity, they feel alienated by the country’s politics. In the West of Germany the objection against the annexation of Crimea prevails, while in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) a majority insists on dialogue based on understanding. Overall agreement can be found when it comes to military interventions, only four percent would like the West to threaten Russia with military intervention.

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Germany, Der Tagesspiegel, April 15, 2014

What to do next?

With his involvement in Ukraine, Putin has clearly quit the partnership of convenience with the West. After he has crossed one boundary after the other, columnist Gerd Appenzeller points out, it is time for the EU and US to think about how to react when Russian tanks and soldiers are crossing the Eastern border of Ukraine. A  NATO involvement seems as much out of question as a membership of Ukraine in the defence alliance. However, it is time to give clear support to the NATO countries in Eastern Europe, increase financial support to Ukraine and send serious signals about the country joining the European Union in the near future.

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Germany, Die Zeit, April 16, 2014

Steinmeier is fed up

In an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit, the German minister of foreign affairs Steinmeier  showed himself angry and disappointed with the behaviour of Russia. After weeks of diplomatic efforts, the Russian president Putin once more made a fool out of him and continues his provocation by stirring up Eastern Ukraine. Steinmeier clearly warns Russia that violating territorial integrity under the pretext of self-determination, will backfire on the multi-ethnic Federation itself. The once strict advocate of change through cooperation and dialogue, has changed his mind. The time has come for re-evaluation, emotional and possibly economic austerity, and eventually a new Ostpolitik.

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Germany, Die Welt, April 17, 2014

Geneva exceeds expectations

The summit in Geneva closed with a concrete road map towards a de-escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine. The Russian foreign minister Lawrow did not admit his country had supported pro-Russian aggressors in Eastern Ukraine, instead, he named them illegally armed forces. American foreign minister Kerry assigned Russia a special responsibility in resolving the conflict. He threatened with increasing sanctions on Russia, in case  there won’t be any progress within the next days. All parties agreed that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will take over a leading role in monitoring the implementation of the Geneva summit outcomes. For the moment a deep divide is still visible; whether Geneva will be declared a success or failure in a historical sense depends on Putin’s reaction to it.

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This is the fourth edition of the new series West Wind featuring European media voices on the EU’s Eastern neighbours.

Read the third episode: Ukraine Crisis Like Borscht Soup“

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