Former Bundeswehr Chief of General Staff Gen. Harald Kujat (ret.), and former Minister President of the state of Brandenburg and Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chairman Matthias Platzeck, dominated this week’s “Maybrit Illner” TV talk show, whose theme Thursday night was “Russian Roulette.” General Kujat challenged to German government, as a NATO member, to demand an immediate convening of the NATO-Russia Council to work with President Putin on the Ukraine crisis. He pointed out that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is merely the post he holds, but that NATO is comprised of its member states. Defending its own members is one thing, everything else is “escalations rhetoric.”
General Kujat spoke with humor about how sending of a minesweeper to show force in the Baltic Sea, looking for old World War I and II mines, would be seen by the Russians as doing them a favor. Platzeck, now head of the Russian-German Forum, after reporting on a recent event at which one person in the audience remarked that, “one or two more comments from Rasmussen and we have World War III,” proposed postponing the elections in Ukraine, as it would be an election without the east of Ukraine and would solve nothing.
Q: Will Putin and the West wait for internal solutions (federalization)?
Kujat: No. The longer the West temporizes and the longer it sits aside, and certainly, the longer one tries to control this crisis with sanctions, or showing the fleet in the Baltic Sea, the more Putin has time to let things ripen and to use it for his own purposes. The West must come concretely with proposals what a solution would look like. It must declare that Ukraine is neither, not only in any kind of condition to become a member of NATO, and that for a long time, nor, can NATO have it as a member as it is in no position to guarantee its security.
And we are also prepared to talk about the future of Ukraine. Naturally there is a solution, as we have seen in the past. Czechoslovakia became separated into two separate states, on its own initiative, and without difficulty, without civil war. Why shouldn’t that be possible in Ukraine? We could also try to do it with a federal system—why isn’t a federal system that is good for Germany not also good for Ukraine? Why should it not function in Ukraine? And above all in this federal system, it must be clear that minority rights must also be guaranteed and not only for Russians. There is strong Polish minority in Ukraine, and other minorities that are not so big…. Why shouldn’t that be possible? But above all the West has to finally pry itself out of the armchair, and stand up and approach Putin, and with proposals.
When we proceed further with sanctions, then we are only hurting ourselves. A country like Russia can much more easily deal with sanctions, more easily than us and, at this very moment we are in the process of destroying all those economic connections with Russia which we have built up over many, many years, the trust we developed, and threatening jobs in Germany. This isn’t crisis management, it is a declaration of political bankruptcy!
[Illner showed a video of Putin’s famous speech in 2001 before the Bundestag, where he got a standing ovation, and then asked:]
Q: Mr. Platzeck, did the West push aside Putin’s outstretched hand, and are we now facing the consequences?
Platzeck: I continually ask myself that; sometimes one has check oneself, what is going on. I don’t see how it happened…. After he came back as President in 2012, I saw it as a negative development and was also bitter, despite all my love for Russia, the laws about the NGOs and then on the traditional sexual practices, and … and … and. But, I notice over the last months something else, we have a mainstream reporting here in Germany in the last months that remind me, I was born in East Germany, and for 35 years had to put up with Neues Deutschland, where you were always challenged “Are you for or against peace?” There were no other questions. And something similar just like what I experienced again with the Russian question. I find myself obligated to defend Putin, even though I don’t want to. Being so facile in dealing with facts shouldn’t be tolerated. The issue is multifaceted, and we need to explore it more deeply. When we think of Putin’s 2007 speech at the Munich Security Conference, characterized as Putin’s Wutrede [outburst], when one really reads it and doesn’t start with “Evil lives in Moscow, and the Good in Brussels and Washington,” then one sees it wasn’t an outburst, he was simply disappointed. The guy, with all his strengths and weaknesses, was disappointed. He made a proposal for a joint economic realm from Lisbon to Vladivostok—think about it. But it was pushed aside. He made a proposal to develop a Common Security Architecture, with Russia. With what did we, the West answer, missile defense against Russia! Pushed aside! And in the end he was bitter…. It is all alarming, and then just now in Welt am Sonntag, who wants to understand Putin, is a Putin friend, and a Putin friend is a spy! When that is the point we have reached, then, Goodbye Germany!