You couldn't believe your eyes and ears.

Wasn't that John Cleese, the English comedian who had previously parodied "se Germans" fabulously?

Or was a video artist from Kiev satirizing Germany's position in the Ukraine crisis with a biting montage?

No, it was actually the head of the German Navy who, in the manner of a regulars' table strategist, said in India that Putin deserves respect and that the problem is not Christian Russia, but China.

With his appearance, the inspector of the navy not only damaged his own reputation.

This was also clear to the Secretary of Defense, who immediately retired him.

With his remarks, the vice admiral fueled the long-growing suspicion among the allies that Germany was an insecure cantonist who sympathized with Moscow and was unwilling to resolutely counter the aggressive policies of the Kremlin.

Loud declarations of solidarity, meek consequences

Germany cannot complain about this reputation. It owes it not only to Schröder and the pipelines. The picture that German politics is giving in the current Ukraine crisis is also anything but laudable. The Scholz government has not failed to make loud commitments to the inviolability of the borders in Europe and to solidarity with Ukraine. But when it comes to drawing conclusions from these assurances, people in Berlin become subdued, hesitant and vague across all parties.

Putin's confrontational course is not only a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He lays hands on the entire European peace order and its principles.

Putin wants to create a front yard from which democracy and the rule of law have been driven out.

Those are the threats to his regime he fears, not the few NATO tanks in the Baltics.

But there is still a narrative in German politics, and by no means only on the left, that the Russians were betrayed and humiliated by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union;

What the vice admiral also explained as Putin's main motive, they really just wanted the recognition they deserved as a great power.

And great powers have spheres of influence, so the Ukrainians shouldn't do that.

Russian propaganda has it particularly easy in Germany

In Germany, the Kremlin's propaganda has it particularly easy. Deep-seated feelings of guilt (World War II) as well as gratitude (reunification) feed into the debate. The German government justifies its decision not to supply arms to Ukraine and even to prevent other states from doing so, also with the German past. You should always think carefully about who you give weapons to and for what purpose. However, denying Ukraine the means to deter an aggressor and, if necessary, to defend against him on the grounds that the country itself was once attacked and devastated is not only difficult for Ukrainians to bear. Even the Greens had been further ahead when it came to the question of what lessons to draw from German history.

But old reflexes are tough, as statements from other parties show.

The SPD is not alone in clinging to the myths of Brandt's Ostpolitik, although one can long argue about the success of concepts such as "change through trade".

However, there is no denying that Putin does not want change, at least not in the sense of democratization and liberalization in Russia.

The estimate is not credible

But how do you stop Putin from extending despotism to the West if, unlike him, you don't want to resort to military means? The West has opted for the dual strategy of carrot and stick, Germany for a particularly sweet version of it. So far, however, talk of the "high price" has not stopped Putin from further strengthening his invading army. In particular, the cost estimate from Germany is not particularly credible. How are threats of sanctions supposed to impress the Kremlin when there are already doubts about their effectiveness in this country and people emphasize how much they themselves suffer from them? The leaders of the CSU and CDU have done the same. Putin need not fear such a whip.

Mourir pour Kiev?

In Germany, people don't even want to freeze for the freedom and self-determination of Ukraine.

Yes, sanctions would also affect the West itself.

Firmness to principles also has a price.

Of course, sooner or later this would increase immeasurably if a free Europe strengthened Putin's belief that democracies are weak, divided, naive and reluctant to conflict.

The German attitude in the Ukraine crisis cannot yet have made him doubt it.

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