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Germany's relationship with Vladimir Putin's Russia is the most puzzling and troubling feature of modern European politics. Not only is Germany Russia's biggest trading partner, it is also her biggest ally. It is Germany that has derailed Nato expansion. Germany reversed the EU's initially tough line on Russia after the invasion of Georgia. Germany prevents the Council of Europe scrutinising Russia's flawed elections. Germany forces the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to channel money to companies run by Kremlin cronies. Germany keeps Europe's energy market rigged in favour of Russian gas imports.

Germans find these accusations infuriating. In the past eight years, they say, Vladimir Putin, the judo-loving ex-KGB officer, has transformed Russia from a basket case to a great power: self-confident, wealthy, even belligerent. The cost has been political freedom, spiralling corruption and the erosion of the rule of law. But for many people inside and outside Russia, this is a price worth paying. Western policy towards Russia in the Boris Yeltsin era was triumphalist and clumsy, force-feeding Western-style democracy, and it didn't work. Now Russia is running its own affairs, with the broad assent of the vast majority of the population. Political developments are distressing, but they are surely only temporary. And there's not much we can do about it anyway - Russia is now too big and too rich to push around. So if we don't like it we can lump it.

Germans who argue along these lines feel that they are carrying out a vital role - helping Russia integrate economically with Europe. The worst way to deal with Putin's Russia, they say, would be the mixture of paranoia, posturing and provocation exemplified by Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili and his nutty East European and American neocon backers.

Setting up such straw men only to incinerate them is the usual, rather facile, German approach to criticism. Nobody is suggesting that we ignore Russia. Nor is anyone arguing for broad economic sanctions. And it is possible to support Georgia's desire for freedom and security without endorsing its reckless and ill-advised president. The truth about the Putin regime is that it has been startlingly incompetent, as well as aggressive abroad and repressive at home. The fall in the oil price is making that increasingly clear.

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Tobias Stetter, Berlin
January 15th, 2009
11:01 AM
I think the core problem with this article is the black and white scenery. The Germans are like this, the Russians are like that. Here is democracy there not. What a pity we haven't read so much about what the British's are about. Just to annotate London is absolutely into Russian money and this has nothing to do with pushing the democracy in Russia. The city just wants to get a part of it. There are many parts in the article i'd like to talk about. Just let me say that the author’s opinion to the north stream pipeline and Gerhard Schröders part with it doesn't make sense. In fact, the whole western world is dependent on oil and gas. I actually can't say what is better to fight a war with more than 100.000 dead or to be dependent on a state who provided over 40 years gas to western europe without any delivery problems ever and without fighting a war! The problem is we are all dependent on states who do not want democracy. It not necessary to mention that in Saudi Arabia women can't drive cars. The problem like the author would say “from the German view is” that we can’t just blame Russia for the broken democracy and the Saudis (many others as well) are still our best friends. The author didn’t answer why we have these two measurements? Just to say we made it wrong with the Saudis now we change that for Russia is not an explanation or a strategy at all. The western world has used the resources of the world to establish a extreme high standard for many centuries now. We the us, the Brits, the Germans, the French,… supported so many regimes just because we’ve got the resources cheaper (colonies, military junta in South America, dictators in Africa… ). There are still elections in Russia, and as we know with democracy it is as well not a black and white thing. Its not that we got a 100 percent democracy and Russia a zero one. In fact our democracies aren’t perfect. (probably it would be better, we care more about us than others) The west should change the system of steeling resource all over the world, than we really can talk about human rights and democracy. Actually the rest of the world just laughs about us, because they know we only talk about democracy because its for our own advantage. There is no altruistic part in this discussion. This is the profound problem of this article and one big problem in Britain, the US but as well in Germany and everywhere in the western world. What strategy is the author recommending not only for Russia, for all countrys we are dependent on resources? The author nothing says about that, because the strategy he offers for Russia is a million miles away from a strategy that would work for every country we’re dealing here. Tobias Stetter, Berlin

A German
January 15th, 2009
10:01 AM
Without wasting to much time on such a pathetic piece of (neocon?) pseudo-journalism, it takes one simple question to proof that your analyzis is biased, flawed and as a result: plain wrong: What part in 'UKRAINE switched of the gas supply' didnt you understand, Edward?

January 6th, 2009
2:01 PM
Uncle Joe starved Ukraine by stealing their grain and Uncle Vlad wishes to freeze Europe by withholding gas. Trust Europe however to come up with a new Directive on the environment or a new mission to the middle east while Russia increases its stranglehold on all our energy. It appears that dying by the hands of Russia is preferable to many Europeans than living with the aid of a strong USA.

January 4th, 2009
3:01 PM
Mmmm-hmmmm...seems like a lot of Euros are willing to accept enslavement to their EU masters as long as they can say they are "standing up to the Great Satan, America". Nothing Orwellian in that, that you naifs can see, eh? And if you think 'enslavement' is a little too harsh, give it a few years...

January 3rd, 2009
4:01 AM
As a US expat in China, I'd like to just add to the other commentators: it's mad to link all your oil/gas to Russia. Just look at what's happening today to envision what could be possible tomorrow. I agree that there is most probably too much hoopla about human rights abuse, since I read the same about China, where it is certainly true, but not on a grand scale (I dare say that these are true in many powerful countries: try throwing a shoe at Bush in the US and see what happens to you). Still, common sense dictates that the EU pauses in giving so much clout, or potential power, to Gazprom, er, I mean, the Russians.

January 1st, 2009
4:01 AM
It is in the interest of both Russia and Germany to establish and maintain as close relations as possible. As for article itself it does not deserve a serious thought The same few lines you can find all over Anglo Saxon "free" media with "human rights" and "lack of democracy" as main themes. Do they really believe that a thinking human being from anywhere around the world would for a second take seriously or believe in this propaganda? The only Russia they want and would praise is weak one, one from Yeltzin era when ordinary Russian would literally starve while billions were taken out of the country. More their schemes and plans of taking hold over Russian oil and gas resources seem to vanish in the haze louder they scream bloody murder Same old same old

December 31st, 2008
2:12 PM
Germany is still anti-american. There are many ways to be "anti-american". The leftwing moralism against USA is dumb, but stategically Russia is a good partner to make Germany more independend from USA. The US try to destroy EU or it´s ambitions to become some kind of state and great power cause they wan´t to keep us depended, we Germans must make clear that we have other options: Germany, France an others can create a new EU without UK and Poland an use the support of Russia for that, or Germany becomes more nationalistic and builds nuclear weapons under protection of Russia. The pipeline between Russia and Germany is only a problem for those which want to keep Europe under control of USA or the Angloalliance. This is so or so not acceptable, but also a existencial threat cause the support for a globalist society by massmigration and Turkish membership in EU. Poland will not have problems if the have trouble with Russia or Germany, but the must avoid to have trouble with both. The best protection for Poland and the Baltic would be a strong EU-Army and defence infrastructure, but who is against this? - USA und GB.

Riaz Ahmad
December 29th, 2008
11:12 PM
This article is nothing but right wing clap trap. Putin saved Russia from decay and collapse that was happening under the rule of Boris Yeltzin Vodkachov. Indeed the west hates Russia because the later has found the confidence to stand up to western designs to weaken Russia. Russia is the thorn that stops the west from controlling the central Asian oil and gas. This is the core problem, as for lack of democracy and human rights it is nothing but the usual western hubris, peddled around for far too long to have any meaning or credibility.

December 27th, 2008
5:12 PM
As a German, I found the whole article somewhat puzzling. Mr Lucas refers to "the Germans" as if we were some kind of coherent mass. He is apparently not aware of the fact that a lot of Germans (including myself and most fellow Germans I know) are very disappointed about our government's "appeasement" policy when it comes to the authoritarian, expansionist policies of the Russian government and the sad state of human rights/civil liberties in Russia. The reason for this failure is, as far as we see it, simply the fact that Germany heavily depends (because of previous policy mistakes) on Russian gas and oil. Mr Lucas' assertion that the German government's stance towards Russia is motivated by some kind of twisted colonial ambition sounds absurd to me. Ultimately, the whole article has the familiar "bash the Germans" ring to it which I often encountered during my years in Great Britain. And, of course, it also contains the usual reference to Nazi Germany. Why do British commentators so often desperately try to establish a connection between the Nazis and the Germany of nowadays? Yours sincerely Niko Rollmann

December 20th, 2008
4:12 AM
More frothing from Standpoint's resident Russophobe, mostly the same old but... is it just me, or do I detect a sudden sea change in Lucas' attitude towards the formerly 'brave leader of plucky little Georgia etc' Sakaashvili? I'm sure he was standing up for him in that debate he did with Mary Dejevsky a few issues back. I'd have a look but I can only take one Lucas rant every two months or so. And now, a 180 degree swing without any explanation. Maybe he's hoping we won't notice. Maybe he's already forgotten his former stance. Got to keep your positions profitable after all, and Sakaashvili will soon be dropped by his former defenders. No point standing up for a dead duck. Hmm... do tell us Ed, what led you to change your mind?

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