Why Do Nearly 40 Percent of Germans Endorse Russia’s Annexation of Crimea?

This is the question asked by the Washington Post on November 28.

President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea has found supporters in an unlikely country. Last Sunday, an opinion poll in Germany found that nearly 40 percent of the country’s population accept the move.

The surprising result has stirred debate in Germany, prompting some to ask: Is Germany – which just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet-era communism – Russia’s closest ally in the West? The answer is, of course, fairly complex.

Last week’s opinion poll was conducted by Infratest dimap, a well-regarded German institute that interviewed 1,000 Germans above the age of 14. It also determined that 43 percent of Germans do not feel immediately threatened by Russia’s foreign policy. But that does not necessarily mean Germans consider Putin’s actions justified. Case in point: An Infratest dimap survey conducted in August found that 80 percent of Germans blamed Putin for the escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine.

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A partial answer may be found in this extract from George Parker’s article about Angela Merkel in the current New Yorker (December 1).

“…For most Germans, the [Ukraine] crisis inspired a combination of indifference and anxiety. Ukraine was talked about, if at all, as a far-off place, barely a part of Europe (not as the victim of huge German crimes in the Second World War).

“Germans resented having their beautiful sleep disturbed. ‘The majority want peace and to live a comfortable life,’ Alexander Rahr, a Russian energy expert who advises the German oil-and-gas company Wintershall, said. ‘They don’t want conflict or a new Cold War. For this, they wish the U.S. would stay away from Europe. If Russia wants Ukraine, which not so many people have sympathy with, let them have it.’

“In a way, Germany’s historical guilt – which includes more than twenty million Soviet dead in the Second World War – adds to the country’s passivity. A sense of responsibility for the past demands that Germany do nothing in the present. Ulrich, of Die Zeit, expressed the point brutally: ‘We once killed so much –therefore, we can’t die today.’”

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2 responses to “Why Do Nearly 40 Percent of Germans Endorse Russia’s Annexation of Crimea?

  1. Eric, I think you answered this question a few weeks ago with the interview with Kissinger. The West (US) blundered in. Putin behaved badly, but, arguably with justification. Situation “zero sum game”. Germany may be able to see a little bit more clearly we need a “no war game”.

  2. Elisabeth Ecker

    Germany’s economy is heavily integrated with Russia. The last thing Europe wants is a war with Russia. They are heavily dependent for gas on Russia and Canada is dreaming in technicolor to think Germany would prefer to buy our energy.