Tag Archives: German public opinion

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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Germans Are Very Pro-British But…

“Germany is suffused with a terrifically pro-British sentiment and wants to be full allies with the British,” says Neil McGregor, director of the British Museum. “They are bewildered by the British obsession with the Second World War.”

In a series of programs, BBC Radio 4 commissioned McGregor to explore six hundred years of German history “addressing both triumphs and tragedies.” It is to be called Memories of a Nation.

Speaking of the German people, he said “they have huge admiration for the political traditions and for the way Britain fought in the Second World War, and are fascinated and delighted by [British] sport. But they are very dismayed that when they come to Britain they are greeted with the Nazi salute. They are bewildered that Britain does not want to appear to know about Germany now but wants to freeze the relationship it was seventy years ago.”

Germans believe that this is not the case in other countries “which have far more reason to be obsessed with German evil” because they were occupied.

Source: The Guardian, October 1