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Konrad Werner: Crimea – why do we have to pick sides?

The whole Crimea thing is getting really confusing, especially if you're trying to figure out Germany's role.

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Photo by Jedimentat44 (Wikimedia Commons)

This Crimea situation has got really confusing, hasn’t it? It’s got so confusing that Gregor Gysi, more or less the best politician ever, is now on the same page as Nigel Farage, more or less the most disingenuous cock-dribble ever. They both think that the EU is at least partly to blame for an international escalation that is, as a lot of historians keep pointing out (don’t want to make you nervous or anything) like the run-ups to World War II or World War I or the Crimean War or even the English Civil War. Basically any war. Basically any fight ever, because the thing about fights is that they always start when one of two sides decide that it would be too humiliating not to actually fight.

So whose side are you on? You can’t be on Vladimir Putin’s side, who seems to be turning more and more into a cliche of a paranoid dictator – destroying human rights in his own country, persecuting vulnerable minorities, tolerating corruption, secretly killing enemies in other countries. Then again, as a lot of other people have pointed out, Russia is, despite Putin’s hard white nipples, a weak force in the world. And so the expansion of the EU and NATO into Eastern Europe feels to the Russians, and especially to Putin, like we’re the ones keeping the Cold War going, not them.

As Gysi pointed out, the West politely ignored Gorbachev’s suggestion that NATO be dissolved at the end of the Cold War. That’s what happens when you lose and your whole system collapses – you don’t get to decide these things. The Russians think Putin was being patient enough already. He kept his cool when NATO put missiles in Poland and bombed Serbia and invaded Afghanistan and bombed Libya and armed the Syrian rebels. The idea that we could just make Ukraine part of the alliance too was just one humiliation too far. Having another photo taken with no shirt on holding a massive fish couldn’t make up for being unmanned like that. He had to do something. He went and invaded a country, which, some might say, is starting a war. Now it’s our turn to keep cool.

Meanwhile Merkel’s position in all this depends on your perspective. If you’re a lefty inside Germany, like Gysi, there is no daylight between her and NATO and the EU – she’s partly to blame and she’s making things worse now by condemning Putin all the time – but if you’re a lefty outside Germany, especially in the UK, like The Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins, she’s great because she’s notably more restrained than the “sabre-rattling” Britain and America.

But whoever you believe, pointing this out doesn’t mean that you’re “siding with Putin” – that’s the whole point. There shouldn’t be any sides anymore. We all just want to get rich. What we need is more international security organizations like the OSCE, which includes Russia, and fewer like NATO, which was created specifically as a western alliance against the Soviet Union, and whose continued existence only makes paranoid dictators get even more paranoid and need to show they still have a penis. Whatever you think of Putin, we’re only going to get peace with Russia, not against Russia.