German scholars argue for a re-alignment of Russo-German relations

20 January 2022, 02:13 PM

More than 70 German scientists and experts on Jan. 4 signed a letter urging a fundamental realignment in Russo-German relations – away from the current business-like relationship between the two countries.

Rutgers University political science professor Alexander Motyl, writing in a column for NV, endorsed the central point of the open letter, arguing that Germany has no right to “encourage Russian aggression and imperialism, especially against countries like Ukraine, which were devastated by the Third Reich during WWII.”

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“And yet German political and business elites are seemingly oblivious to this point. (Former German chancellor) Gerhard Schröder must’ve known that working for Gazprom (Russian state-owned natural gas enterprise) is hypocritical, if not criminal,” he added.

Motyl also suggested that former chancellor Angela Merkel could hardly claim ignorance of the nature of Putin’s regime, and pointed out just how universally supportive German business is of the Nord Stream-2 natural gas pipeline.

Ever cordial Moscow-Berlin relations can be explained by a “long history of friendship between the Germans and Russian authoritarians,” according to the professor.

“Otto von Bismarck kept Germany closely tied to Russia, culturally and politically,” said Motyl.

“After the Weimar Republic signed the Treaty of Rapallo with the Bolsheviks in 1922, Nazi Germany entered into the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Stalin in 1939, which paved the way for their joint invasion of Poland and WWII.”

Both German Socialists and Christian Democrats tolerated and encouraged Putin’s revanchist imperialism, according to Motyl. While socialists were blind to Russian militarism due to their rigid pacifism, the democrats were merely informed and influenced by their reliance on German business interests.

But the current German attitudes on Russia are not universally shared:

“This recent open letter once again highlighted that a great deal of German intellectuals refuse to support the country’s political and economic elites in their immoral opportunism,” Motyl wrote.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated back in June 2021 that Ukraine seeks to purchase German defensive military equipment, such as patrol boats, rifles, field radios and armored personnel carriers.

In response, Heiko Maas, who was German foreign minister at the time, said that the conflict in eastern Ukraine “could only be resolved by political means,” and that “arms sales would do no good.”

A former spokesperson for the German government, Steffen Seibert, said that Germany remains bound by its pledge to not supply conflict zones with weapons. However, despite this pledge, Germany has in recent years sold weapons to countries involved in conflicts in Yemen and Libya.

On Jan. 12, UK newspaper The Financial Times quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on the subject of Germany blocking sales of NATO weapons to Ukraine, saying, “They (the Germans) are still going through with the Nord Stream-2 natural gas pipeline, while simultaneously blocking us from purchasing defensive weapons – that is hardly fair.”

According to German newspaper Bild, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was opposed to NATO selling arms to Ukraine, and asked the Dutch to support the German position.

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