Germany finally seeing Vladimir Putin for who he really is

March 9, 2015
Newly mobilized Ukrainian paratroopers fire machine gun during military drill near Zhytomyr

Newly mobilized Ukrainian paratroopers fire a machine gun during a military drill near Zhytomyr, March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

When Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Berlin on Thursday, he heaped praise on his hosts: “At no time in my experience has the relationship with Germany and the United States covered more issues around the world, covered them in a deeper fashion and in a more collaborative fashion than we’re doing today. It is truly extraordinary.” President Barack Obama is especially grateful for his partnership with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Blinken added.

Blinken’s effusiveness went beyond diplomatic protocol. Ready or not, Merkel has become the unlikely leader of the pro-Ukrainian cause. The war in Ukraine followed a long chain of unintended consequences, of which Germany’s new role may be the most surprising. Before Russia’s intervention in Ukraine a year ago, Obama was happy not to think about Europe at all. Russian President Vladimir Putin counted on commercial ties and World War II guilt to keep Germany neutralized. And Merkel placed an emphasis on “dialogue” with Russia and stability in Europe.

Russia’s unilateral redrawing of Ukraine’s borders has refocused minds in Germany. Putin’s annexation of Crimea, his lies that Russian troops were not involved, and his covert war in eastern Ukraine have eroded trust in the Kremlin. Germany’s political elite — unlike the isolationist, latently anti-American population at large —has no illusions that Putin’s actions are posing the greatest danger to European security since the Cold War.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who hails from the traditionally Russophile Social Democrats, is the starkest example of this evolution. Steinmeier, together with his French and Polish counterparts, tried to negotiate a settlement between Viktor Yanukovych, then Ukraine’s president, and anti-government protesters in February 2014. Later, Steinmeier spearheaded Merkel’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the spiraling conflict through the revival of the so-called Minsk agreement. In the process, he suffered the same Kremlin lies that Secretary of State John Kerry complained about last month.

Coincidentally, Steinmeier has just completed an internal review process to bring the Foreign Ministry up to speed with Germany’s increasing responsibility in the world. The biggest change is the creation of a crisis management department whose function will be to identify — and prevent — crises before they blow up. After decades of being denied a foreign policy that went beyond external trade and development aid, Germany is learning to think strategically again.

The 28-member European Union, however, hasn’t even started to consider its strategic purpose. After the collapse of the Soviet empire 25 years ago, trade was supposed to become the new basis for peace on the continent, and the EU took in one eastern European country after the next — until it reached the borders of Ukraine. “We need a strategy,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at the Munich Security Conference last month. That realization has come a little late and shows how the EU stumbled into the conflict in Ukraine, trumpeting an association agreement while harboring no intention to offer the country membership anytime soon.

For Putin, on the other hand, Ukraine is of strategic significance, and he pounced on Crimea after his client Yanukovych fled Kiev. Although the Kremlin propaganda machine portrays the Maidan protest as a CIA-engineered putsch to oust Yanukovych, U.S. involvement in Ukraine
could best be described as an example of Obama’s foreign policy of studied disinterest. After failing to “reset” relations with Russia in his first term, the last thing the U.S. president wanted was to give Putin an opportunity to reappear on his radar. From the point of view of the White House, Europe was done and dusted — and Putin an alpha dog best not woken.

During Blinken’s visit, Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to Washington and the head of the Munich Security Conference, said that he had missed greater American leadership in Europe over the past year: “If we always had the U.S. at the table when we’re talking to the Russians, things might be more balanced and slightly more successful.”

It was unclear whether Ischinger was being more critical of Merkel for barging forward alone or Obama for holding back. In any case, Merkel seized the initiative last month, jetting to Kiev, Moscow, and Minsk with French President François Hollande to save the original cease-fire accord signed in September. Demands in the U.S. Congress to arm Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in his fight with Russia’s proxies provided the impetus for Merkel’s helter-skelter diplomatic mission. Obama seemed relieved to leave the heavy lifting — and risk of failure — to the Germans.

Even though pro-Russian rebels captured the town of Debaltseve after the Minsk-2 agreement, Western leaders are choosing to ignore the violation in the hope that eastern Ukraine will finally calm down now. Merkel’s team is stressing “strategic patience” in Ukraine — after all, Germany had to wait 45 years to achieve its peaceful reunification in 1990. “Maybe it will last a generation to create the conditions that we can talk about a solution of the conflict,” Steinmeier said last week.

So far, the White House is playing along, postponing a planned military training mission in western Ukraine and leaving the issue of arms shipments up in the air. “We’ve worked to pursue diplomacy, which remains the only sustainable answer to the conflict in Ukraine,” Blinken said in Berlin.

“Anything we did in terms of military support for Ukraine is likely to be matched and then doubled and tripled and quadrupled by Russia,” he said. “Then you may well get into an escalatory cycle that is hard to control and hard to predict.”

The Kremlin’s strength lies in its ability to supply a theoretically unlimited amount of weapons, since Ukraine has lost control over hundreds of miles of border. The West should play to its own strengths, Blinken said, meaning economic sanctions that can be tightened or loosened depending on Putin’s behavior.

The biggest problem with Minsk-2 is that it’s a last resort. If there is a repeat of Debaltseve — for instance a springtime rebel assault on the port of Mariupol — there is no mechanism of enforcement, not to mention adequate monitoring by outside observers. Putin remains in a position to increase pressure on Ukraine as he sees fit.

The West wants to believe sanctions will make Putin crack first. Putin is betting the war will bring Poroshenko down faster. It’s a race to the bottom with no strategy in sight.

40 comments

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Just two examples of brilliant journalism from this piece:

“For Putin, on the other hand, Ukraine is of strategic significance, and he pounced on Crimea after his client Yanukovych fled Kiev.”

So Yanukovych was not fully democratically elected President of the Ukraine but just “Putin’s client”, huh? He has not fled Kiev to save his life after the armed coup and pursuit to kill an uncomfortable witness, eh?

“Although the Kremlin propaganda machine portrays the Maidan protest as a CIA-engineered putsch to oust Yanukovych, U.S. involvement in Ukraine could best be described as an example of Obama’s foreign policy of studied disinterest.”

Meaning that the $5 billion spent by the US for “democracy support” in the Ukraine are just a small change not worth mentioning? Victoria Nuland blessing people for top positions in Kieve was just because of “studied disinterest” by the US? Here we are talking only about publicly known facts, assuming huge role played by the CIA is a safe bet really. “Pouncing” by Putin on Crimea with huge applause of local population proved itself in light of what putschists did to the Ukraine. Then there is geopolitical strategy, one look at a map makes clear strategic objective of the US in containment of Russia: tweezers Donbas-Georgia with support from bases in Crimea. Call Putin however you like but he is not an idiot, right?

Posted by wirk | Report as abusive

Germany for Germans!

Posted by waggg | Report as abusive

Excellent reporting!

Posted by JohnTurnbull | Report as abusive

Another western propaganda article paid for by the highest bidder, NATO! For the one hundredth time, why doesn’t a western article publish the truth about the capturing of Debaltseve. During the Minsk 2 talks Putin asked Poroshenko how he wanted to handle the 5,000 Ukraine troops surrounded in the Debaltseve cauldron. These were troops that were surrounded deep inside rebel held territory. Poroshenko had been denying that troops were there and were actually surrounded. It was the biggest military blunder in war history. Poroshenko said he would look into the situation and get back to everyone. Well, poroshenko being the lying, murderer he is did nothing so the attack on Debaltseve, deep inside rebel held territory, was not a violation of the ceasefire agreement. Poroshenko left those people there to die inside this cauldron. Western media sucks and the only time I go there for facts is when I need a good laugh.

Posted by johnlocke445 | Report as abusive

Another such article, hurrah for the Western free press!
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1 43037/stephen-kotkin/the-resistible-rise -of-vladimir-putin
Our Russians commentators should try the Audio version ;-)

Posted by Exwaan | Report as abusive

“Although the Kremlin propaganda machine portrays the Maidan protest as a CIA-engineered putsch to oust Yanukovych, U.S. involvement in Ukraine
could best be described as an example of Obama’s foreign policy of studied disinterest.”

Except that the CIA as well as Western NGOs *were* involved in fomenting civil rebellion against an elected President, a fact proven since early last year. Then there is the potential NATO expansion into Ukraine to consider which even everyday Russians, much less Putin, has long considered to be an act of aggression if not declaration of war. Why is NATO still around anyway? That alliance had a Cold War era mandate and last I checked, the Warsaw Pact hasn’t been around for 25 years.

“During Blinken’s visit, Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to Washington and the head of the Munich Security Conference, said that he had missed greater American leadership in Europe over the past year”

Right, more US meddling is just what this world needs. This sentence is a clear example of the deluded post-Cold War, “World’s Policeman” line of thinking. Not everything the US touches turns into gold. In fact, they have turned into coal more often than not here in the 21st century.

The above two quotes pretty much illustrates this opinion piece as blatant and shameless Western propaganda. Goebbels would be proud.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

>Ukraine but just “Putin’s client”, huh?
yes, indeed he was. being so corrupt that even in his native region his support was not reaching 20%.
>Meaning that the $5 billion spent by the US for “democracy support” in the Ukraine are just a small change not worth mentionin
What billions are you talking about? Which Ukraine received in span of 25 years? Do you know where they were spend?
Do not make up lies based on Russian TV
>“Pouncing” by Putin on Crimea with huge applause of local population proved itself in light of what putschists did to the Ukraine.

Blatant lie. Crimea was occupied by Russian forces. 28 of February Russian helicopters with special forces crossed Ukrainian border. This was start of invasion. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D13_khSl E0A
If you talk about pustchist you should talk about Aksenov
who sized power using Russian military. His party got 4,02% on 2010 election.
https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A0%D1% 83%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B5_%D0%B5% D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B E
That’s real support what Russian invaders had.

Posted by PetrKamen | Report as abusive

Look up “More Newspapers caught working for CIA”.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

This article is helpful, especially as Putin is currently being so candid about his aggression in the Ukraine. It took a long time for the scales to drop from Germany’s eyes, but they see more clearly now.

Posted by BruceA2 | Report as abusive

These types of articles always lack mention of Crimea. In Crimea, press freedoms are now non-existent. Most private businesses have been robbed and taken over by the Russian government. Folks are afraid to speak out because thousands of people who have spoken out against Putin have gone missing, presumably killed by Putin’s proxies.

Posted by georgeparis | Report as abusive

Reuters is clearly used as business tool for Rothschilds who allegedly own the News Outlet everyone is copying. If you don’t give them what they want they smear you to death and this is what is going on now with Russia and Putin, after Putin expelled all Rothschilds’ proxies (i.e. Khodorowsky).

Reuters leads the circle of biased, unprofessional, journalistic garbage. AVOID.

Posted by VicD | Report as abusive

Vladimir The Righteous has at least 1 billion supporters around the globe even that more money are spent on propaganda war against him then all medical research and space exploration together.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Excellent article. Very informative, and very precise!

Posted by CanadianRealist | Report as abusive

I see there are, quite predictably, many Russian trolls on this board.

Posted by CanadianRealist | Report as abusive

Mr. Kim seems oblivious that the Obama administration lead the sanction regime presently in force against Russia. The ruble and Russia’s subsequent economic spiral, and the EU – led by Germany – reluctance to commit to further sanctions in the face of continued violations of every peace plan agreed to by the Russians and its separatist proxies. Besides that, an excellent piece of analysis.

Posted by CWBaris | Report as abusive

This article could not be more wrong. Right now there is a huge disagreement between Germany and US that has not been there 2 weeks ago. The Germans see United States and their agents (rightly) as undermining their peace efforts in Ukraine and trying to stir up war in Europe. They had enough. Here is a detailed article on the issue from Germany.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/worl d/germany-concerned-about-aggressive-nat o-stance-on-ukraine-a-1022193.html

Posted by Jiri_Klouda | Report as abusive

You know… at one point in near future, we might be in urgent need of some journalists that do not work for CIA.

Posted by Jiri_Klouda | Report as abusive

The Western “leaders”(?)remain the same idiots who allowed Putin to reach this far.

And they will be the same idiots who will watch Putin reach Moldova by year’s end.

How sinful for those same leaders to discount the many lives that were murdered because there was insufficient firepower by Ukrainian forces to fight back.

500 civilians murdered as the Russian guns pounded Debaltseve and AFTER the ceasefire treaty had been signed…..How will History condone such behaviour!

Posted by bohdanyuri | Report as abusive

Like other pluralistic countries there were differences of opinion before the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine. Western Ukraine supported further integration into the European Community and Eastern Ukraine, where 30% speak Russian, looked the other way when Russia’s special form of Gangster Capitalism was blackmailing Kiev with natural gas and leveraging their ‘monopsony’ (sole supplier) in natural gas in a lesser way to strong-arm Western Europe.

The propaganda apparatus was revved up and the Putin junta took pages from history (Hitler’s playbook) to annex Crimea a la Austria and make inroads in Eastern Ukraine (Putin’s ‘Sudetenland’). Hitler spoke of Lebensraum while Putin and his henchmen dream of a Neo-Imperial Russian Empire, a reworked USSR with room for billionaires.

Germany in particular, and Western Europe in general need to pony up and increase their defense spending to 2% of GDP for starters when the US is trending downward from +4% and can’t continue to carry double or more than double the burden.

Posted by JimVan | Report as abusive

Now that Putin have himself accepted that annexation of Crimea was a pre planned armed coup and invasion, everything falls in place. What Ukraine has been claiming all along has been proven.
The Telegraph: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has revealed the moment when he initiated a military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, weeks before a referendum which the Kremlin offered as endorsement for the annexation.
Speaking in a trailer for a documentary on state television, Mr Putin also described how Russian forces prepared to swoop into eastern Ukraine to rescue Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s fleeing pro-Moscow president.
To the sound of dramatic music, Mr Putin said that he told commanders from the army and security services that “we are obliged to start working on the return of Crimea to Russia”.

The video exposes in detail how Putin planned the military invasion. There is NO doubt that Yanukovic was a Putin poodle and there is no doubt now who is calling the shots. It is shocking that Putin is brazenly airing this in his state TV as he believes this will increasing his ‘rating’ inside Russia. But the opens a convenient way to bring him to Hague. He is a self admitted war monger and invader now.The responsibility of massive deaths in Ukraine squarely lies on him now. So he also a criminal against humanity.

Posted by UnitedUkr | Report as abusive

I gather that Mr. Putin & Co. don’t keep their hard earned petrodollars in Sberbank… so what’s a problem with making them a little nervous about seeing their $$ ever again? Oh, and reminding them (politely) that Russia isn’t the only country that has a nuclear bludgeon, btw.

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

I posted two polite posts on here regarding this article both pointing out proved facts, neither one has been shown. Is this because the points are honest detailing not just the Russian failings but more importantly the US inference and cause of this mess.

Posted by Moties001 | Report as abusive

If your comment outlines the TRUTH of the matter here at Reuters, you can expect your comment to not be published. Reuters is a patsy for the US Government. Americans are catching on more every day.

Posted by owlafaye | Report as abusive

The article is the typical rubish manufactured by the cult of the American Empire. Most of the comments below do a great job of refuting this article.

The author has an American Empire mentality. It consists of some of these notions:

Only the US can unilaterally invade, occupy, fly pilotless planes to kill people with a joystick, place sanctions on foreign countries and people. Only the US can issue a “report card” on foreign governments chiding them over abuses the US government commits themselves.

Only the US can expand NATO to the borders of Russian Federation and meddling in its affairs. Only the US can arm militant groups in Europe and in the Middle East. Only the US can have nuclear weapons.

Only the US can spy on heads of state, Americans and anyone else in the world. Only the US can invade, occupy and terrorize a country of Iraq for nearly 25 years!

When is enough enough? How many enemies? How many wars? At what costs to lives and people’s property?

The three branches of government in the US are the Pentagon, CIA, and the NSA. These are the drivers of Empire. These are criminal organizations.

Posted by truthseeker987 | Report as abusive

Nice to see the Russian trolls alive in well as they have disappeared about everywhere else. If the Maiden event was a CIA brokered coup how were they able to pull that off under the FSB’s nose. This would be a level of incompetence equal to someone killing a political figure within sight of the Kremlin. Oh wait! That all ready happened. CIA can’t even hide a station in Libya much less run a coup under Putin’s nose.

I keep seeing allusions to 5 billion. If you look at the original article that is the sum of aid beginning in the early 90ties. Most of that money was spend years ago when there actually was hope the fall of the Soviet Union would allow for the evolving of a free society in the former republics including Russia.

And lastly I laugh at the allusion to Obama as some sort of schemer. A warning to the trolls. The last time an American president was humiliated the electorate voted in Ronald Reagan. If the Nationalists in Russia want a weak, cautious American president they need to build him up so that his proteges can follow, not make him look like the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

Posted by Borisbund | Report as abusive

Good analysis. Ignore all of the nonsensical Putin apologists in this comment section.

Posted by pumpkinsoftruth | Report as abusive

Merkel, as well as all Germans, should stay out of the Russian doings.

Posted by Anselment | Report as abusive

Königsberg belongs to Germany.

Posted by EsotericAbyss | Report as abusive

““Anything we did in terms of military support for Ukraine is likely to be matched and then doubled and tripled and quadrupled by Russia,” he said. “Then you may well get into an escalatory cycle that is hard to control and hard to predict.””

On the contrary, the solution to the conflict is to escalate. The only time in history the Russian army was defeated was in Afghanistan, and that was because the conflict escalated to a point they could no longer maintain an excessively large force there for nothing and had to pull out.

Posted by KVM342 | Report as abusive

Blink must think had there no truce,how many more would have died.Such people enflame the fire ultimately to become world war.Does he have heart ir a stone inside him?;\';

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

“The only time in history the Russian army was defeated was in Afghanistan”

And in WW-1, 1917, Brest Litovsk peace treaty

Posted by MortenJohansen | Report as abusive

Has anybody noticed that you have queens invizies in cars sat on your front seats? Also helps brainwashing when punishing someone that’s also one of Royals secrets how about Princesses Dianas death!?

Posted by Priestess | Report as abusive

If World war would to start because of someone constantly living in queens times England you first you lying… cheating… backstabbing… twofaced…. manipulatative… how low will you go with this method anybody else but not us English!!!??? Now you England! Whos first!? CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IS WHAT IM TAKING ALL OF YOU TO EUROPEAN UNION COURTS AND CORRUPTION AND GENOCIDE! ENOUGH!!! AND SHOW OTHER PARLAMENTS AND EUROPEAN POLICE RESPECT AND KEEP YOUR ILLS ON A LEASH!!!

Posted by Priestess | Report as abusive

It’s a Putin-created conflict, so I don’t know why people pretend that allowing people to properly defend their country is an ‘escalation’. An escalation implies a conflict in which both parties have grievances. The ONLY GRIEVANCES are that Ukraine wants to expand their sphere of influence into Europe and away from Russian corruption and to Putin (just like any dictator) this is intolerable.

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

To measure the quality of the information presented consider the source. Look who else this guys worked for. That says all that needs be said.

Posted by PorgyTyrebiter | Report as abusive

Why can the truth not be told, this is not a Putin created conflict. No nation would allow troops on its borders, you just have to look at a map of Europe to see how the US and NATO wish to restrict Russia. The constant response of oh its just Russian trolls is ridiculous. The facts are simple (which this article ignores) Regime change was forced in Ukraine by external forces and an elected government was brought down. All of the propaganda ignoring this can not eradicate that fact. At all times during this situation Russia has responded not instigated. And if people would just do some homework instead of reading this rubbish we may be able to stop this getting to a stage where the whole of Europe is embroiled in a conflict we cannot afford.

Posted by Moties001 | Report as abusive

I suppose that after all this praise, Chancellor Merkel will most likely feel morally compelled to fulfill all of Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expectations regarding Russia. Naming some forgotten hill close to Ukraine’s border with Russia “Merkel Hill” is probably in order right about now.

Posted by jan_svarc | Report as abusive

Beware of russian trolls loitering the commentaries and trying to spread the russian propaganda. These commentaries is the only way the russian propaganda machine can reach you and they do their best

Posted by LisaLin | Report as abusive

Moties001, you have never posted those comments, so stop complaining!

Posted by NoRussianTroll | Report as abusive

Majority of ordinary Germans are doubting the rabid anti Russian articles that the MSM copy pasts from Washington.
The overwhelming majority of informed Germans already know that the current media is a well oiled choir serving Nato and their puppeteers in Wall Street.

Keep on dreaming and spouting senseless propaganda

Posted by JohnnyKnows | Report as abusive