If there’s a moment that betrays Germany’s wobbly geopolitical instincts, it is Berlin's we-won't-think-of-fighting response to Russian military maneuvers that followed Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.
About three weeks after Russia’s flag was hoisted over Crimea’s parliament building in 2014, up to 40,000 of its troops were reportedly massing along Ukraine’s eastern border. U.S. General Phillip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, speaking at a German Marshall Fund event in Brussels, described the build-up as "very, very sizeable, very, very ready" and "very worrisome."
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a Christian Democrat, responded with solidarity and concern, saying that it is important for NATO countries bordering Russia that the alliance "show its presence" there.
Then she got clobbered. "The impression must not be given that we’re playing with military options, even in theoretical terms," warned Sigmar Gabriel, then the Social Democrat economy minister and vice chancellor.
Rather than defend von der Leyen, Chancellor Angela Merkel stayed silent. Gabriel’s words — signaling doubt about a U.S. general’s description of a real-time Russian threat and making clear Germany’s flight from military commitment — were allowed to define Berlin’s position at a critical point in modern European history.
More immediately troubling in Germany’s relations with America and Russia — and arguably more important than the effect of any perceived disruption caused by U.S. President Donald Trump — is the increasingly unfavorable view of the West, and the refusal of obligations to the West, that has hardened in the German mindset.
A German majority rejects the country’s pledge to meet NATO’s target for rising military spending; 69 percent of the German public want more cooperation with Russia and only 35 percent with America; a consistent German polling majority refuses to defend Poland and the Baltic states if Russia invaded them.
Now, a singular exclamation mark has been added to Germany’s wobbling: Gabriel has been nominated to become chairman of Atlantik-Brücke, a nonprofit association of wealth and influence founded in 1952 as an "elite” — in its words — organization seeking ‘’to strengthen and preserve the [German] bond with the West.’’
This would be a miserable choice. (end of excerpt)
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