The pacifism of European societies and traditional romance between Russia and Germany are what muffle Europe's resolution to give a firm response to Russia's policies in Ukraine, says Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, the head of international news desk at the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in an interview to DELFI.
Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin
© AFP/Scanpix

A PEW research shows that less than half of people in NATO member states think that their countries should use military force if Russia attacked a NATO ally nation, while 42 percent would oppose the move. In Germany, the share is even bigger, 58 percent.

The latest PEW research has shown that NATO nations are hesitant to escalate their involvement in a conflict, especially militarily. How could you comment on these results? It seems that Europeans did not learn much from Russian aggression in Ukraine, in other words, they do not believe it could affect them somehow, don't you agree?

I am not quite sure that reluctance to defend a NATO member in case of a Russian aggression is a failure of learning. It is foremost an unwillingness to military interact with Russia (i.e., go to war with Russia), an unwillingness, disappointing as it is, to accept NATO responsibilities and obligations.

And in more general terms it shows how pacifist many European publics have indeed become, not the least Germany. This trend has been going on for some time. The majority of the public clearly thinks even the idea of a major war in Europe was dangerous.

Experts in European Forum Wachau drew attention to the fact that NATO members are not only reluctant to defend their neighbours but also themselves (Spain was put as an example). Experts point out that public opinion in Europe is among the other big challenges and that it must be explained to the audiences why security is increasingly important and why countries have to dedicate both, human and material, resources for that. How to achieve this?

Governments have to lead and prepare, time and again, the public for the necessities of an unruly world and a very difficult security environment. In Germany's case the public may finally assent to higher spending on defence, but the question, 'What is it that Germans are willing to die for?' is one that will only bring disillusions.

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, F.A.Z. nuotr.
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, F.A.Z. nuotr.

What do you think of the idea of establishing an EU army?

Not much. There are the eternal questions of national sovereignty and decision-making. Who would make the ultimate decisions? These decision should rest with national parliaments. Finally, a European army would do nothing to address security challenges in the short term and in the middle term.

Seems that Russia has much sympathizers in Western and Central Europe, even after annexing Crimea and supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Why? Could you elaborate on the German case.

There is a considerable part of the German public that is sympathetic towards Russia, not necessarily towards Putin, even though he has quite a few sympathizers as well.

There is a traditional romance with Russia; the devastating war experiences, actually on both sides; commercial interests, and sympathies which are the flip-side of a good dose of Anti-Americanism, particularly in East Germany. These people think it was the West who was to blame for what happened over Crimea and what is happening in the Dombass.

How could this balance be changed and is it important?

We have to faithfully report what is going on and confront our readers time and again with the nature and the policies of Russia's political system. And we have to expose Russian propaganda for what it is: propaganda. But we have to remind ourselves that those sentiments toward Russia which are a consequence of growing Anti-Americanism will not be easy to change.

As you mentioned in our discussion, Russia is a declining power, but it positions itself differently. What is your prognosis for Russia's foreign policy over the next five years?

Russia will continue with its hyper-nationalism domestically, show a mixture of confrontation/cooperation with the West and seek allies in Asia and elsewhere. But these alliances will not help solve Russia's major structural problems domestically.

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