eXXpress columnist Christian Ortner finds it symptomatic of Europe’s complete self-marginalization that Germany does not want to supply weapons to the threatened Ukraine, but merely a few helmets.
About a hundred times a day, political analysts, media people and especially full-time Russia explainers are currently speculating publicly about what Russian President Vladimir Putin is up to with Ukraine and what his plan is in this whole affair.
The only reasonable and sensible answer to this question comes from local Russia expert Gerhard Mangott: "Nobody knows that." That’s right, period.
It’s all a question of might, not right
To a certain extent it is irrelevant, because this crisis is not about sensitivities and kitchen psychology, but only about power. Putin will behave no differently than any rational leader of a major military power: he will do what he can if he can be reasonably sure that the price he will have to pay (in the form of sanctions, for example) is smaller than the benefit to be expected (in the form of expansion of his own territory or sphere of influence, for example).
Not international law or even morality are relevant criteria here, but only the ability to assert one’s own interests.
You can like it or not, that is the reality.
Of course, this is also a reality that many Europeans, above all the Germans, more or less refuse to grasp. Obviously, the Allies succeeded so efficiently after World War II to remove militarism from the collective DNA of the Germans that they became structurally incapable of war.
Scorn and helmets
This may be sympathetic, but it weakens Europe as a whole enormously in crises such as the current one surrounding Ukraine. After all, with over 80 million inhabitants and the strongest economy in Europe, Germany would be the natural military leader on the continent. The fact that it neither is nor wants to be may be due to history, but it puts Russia in an excellent strategic situation. If Germany for the possible defense of Ukraine against possible aggression just 5.If Russia provides thousands of helmets for Kiev and even British transport planes flying weapons to Kiev cannot use German airspace, then this is a very clear signal to Moscow: we will abandon Ukraine if you attack it.
This is true, albeit to different degrees, for the whole West, no government really wants to let its own young men fight in this remote, poor and somehow uninteresting area against the militarily highly armed Russians.
No one will come to Ukraine’s aid militarily in any significant way should it be attacked by Russia – dying for Kiev is not an option for anyone except Ukrainians.
A victory without a fight?
In a sense, one could say that Putin has already defeated Europe before a single shot has been fired.
By the way, this also largely applies to the economic sanctions announced by the EU, including the economic nuclear bomb "Swift", the global money network of banks, from which Russia could theoretically be excluded. This would be very damaging for the economy there – but even more so for the Europeans, who would then no longer be able to pay their gas bills to Russia, which would lead to delivery stops and thus cold living rooms in the West. A good option looks different.
Most Europeans are probably quite indifferent to Ukraine in view of its location and its minor importance, and therefore also to the question of who rules there.
This may be coherent in itself, but it still leads to false and possibly highly dangerous conclusions.
Do we want to become the retirement home of the globe?
For a Europe that is perceived on the world political stage as an impotent, outdated, aging actor incapable of any kind of resistance, that cannot or does not even want to help a neighbor that is being burgled, will also be treated in the same way in the long run in this cold world out there – and will have to give in again and again and more often when more capable powers make economic or geostrategic demands.
Therefore, the really important question these days is not so much what Putin wants, but what we Europeans, above all the Germans, actually want to be: Adults who can and want to assert their interests, even if that doesn’t come for free – or the inmates of the senior citizens’ home of the world, with whom you can do as you please. If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will take you seriously either.