Tag Archives: Crimea

The other side of the conflict: conversing with a Russian friend

 

Nadia's photo

I FIRST MET Nadia in the city of Toronto during the summer of 2008. Back then the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were being occupied by Russian troops and today, six years later, Russia is being accused of invading Eastern Ukraine. During the time Nadia and I shared in Canada, we discussed the Russo-Georgian war and many other related topics over lunch. I was interested in hearing her perspective on the current crisis.

I found her point of view particularly interesting not only because she is a Russian citizen who is currently living in the country, also because being fluent in English and Chinese as she is, she has worked and studied in China, Canada and South Africa, among other places. In other words, few people understand the West and the East the way she does.

First of all, I would like to know whether you consider you are receiving proper information from your government regarding the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s participation in it.

– I do believe that during a war no one actually receives proper information. We all only see what our governments want us to see and that’s not something exclusive to Russian society. The news that you watch in Spain and the news that I watch in Russia are totally different. And how you and I perceive the news is also different. For you, as well as for the greater part of the world, it is ‘yet another conflict’ taking place in some remote country. For me, as well as for most Russians, it is a war in which my friends and relatives die and get hurt. I do take it personally, and so it is hard to keep calm and objective.

The Western world portrays Russia as an invader. On your TV screens you can see Russian troops and military forces all over Ukraine. We in Russia see the war between Ukrainian national forces and forces of the Ukrainian opposition, in which many ethnic Russians die or get hurt and they are our relatives, or our friends, or our friends’ relatives. I cannot say that politics is one of my strong points so my understanding of what is happening is very limited, but the general idea of what I, as an average Russian, would get from the news here is that the current Ukrainian government is rather confused and basically does not know what to do next; that Russia is trying her best to help reconcile the two parts of the conflict; and that European and American news lie.

Now, which news source is really lying? I don’t know. And you don’t know. And I don’t think we will ever know. I think in such circumstances one should not believe any mass media since during a war everybody lies.

Back in July, the USA and the EU imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia in response to her involvement in Ukraine. The Russian government retaliated banning certain imports from those countries who took part in the sanctions. Have these measures affected your everyday life?

To be honest, not really. But it does not mean that all Russians are totally okay with the change. There might be somebody who is suffering because they cannot buy their favourite sort of Dutch pears any more. I would say there are many factors to be considered in this regard, starting with one’s geographical location and finishing with one’s income level. There was a big discussion regarding these sanctions and there were different opinions on the matter.  And I, as well as many Russians I know, believe these sanctions are fair in an “eye for eye” view of things.

Going back to the negative effect it might have had, my opinion is based on my personal experience. I personally have not experienced any difficulties or inconveniences caused by these sanctions. However, I live in the far East of the country and it is really, really far out: an 8 hour flight away from Moscow. We never had most of these banned imports anyway. In that region nothing changed. A couple of weeks ago I visited my friends in Moscow and St. Petersburg and one of them said that some fish became more expensive. But in general, I don’t think these sanctions have had a major effect on our lives.

What is your opinion, and what would you say is the general opinion where you are, regarding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula?

I really do not see anything negative in this. And I do not think there are many Russians who would be unhappy about it. You must also remember that we never really perceived Ukraine as a foreign country, there is so much history and blood relations that connect Russia and Ukraine, especially Crimea and Sevastopol. The population in this region is mostly Russian; they willingly became part of Russia so I cannot see anything wrong with it.

While I’m writing these lines my best friend is enjoying her holidays in Crimea and she says it is great there and people are happy. No one was killed in the process of this very episode of the crisis and I would say that all parties involved are actually happy about how it all was resolved. The American government was not very happy though. I came across a very interesting article on the Internet in which the author could not understand the American government’s involvement in this Crimean issue. He said it was nearly ridiculous that the USA would interfere, as ridiculous as it would be if a region of Mexico voted to become part of the USA and Russians would interfere. And I agree with that. I think the fact that the rest of the world has a problem with recognising Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia responds merely to political reasons. For me, this region was never truly separated from Russia, if you look at its people throughout history.

Do you consider the pro-Russian rebels who are currently fighting in Donetsk and other parts of Eastern Ukraine as rightful Russian citizens who should be given the chance to join the country?

Yes, because the people of Ukraine and Russia are historically connected and many of us have relatives and friends in Ukraine and naturally vice versa. Given the amount of propaganda and hatred towards Russians that is being cultivated in Ukraine – no matter how the crisis would be resolved – I do not think that any Ukrainian born Russian or any person with a Russian surname would have a peaceful life in Ukraine. It does feel wrong and sorrowful to me but I do not think that there is anything that could be done to change that.

What is happening now has been happening for so long and has become so complicated that no one can give a reasonable explanation to it or predict how and when it will all end. All this will cause some sort of discrimination, or even a genocide in the long term, making it impossible for Russians -or as you call them pro-Russians- to live in Ukraine. And to answer your question, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Russia now. And Russia will give a new home to every person from Ukraine who wishes to have one. And I think that is right, I think that is human.

Valentina Melnikova, president of “The Association of Mothers of Russian Soldiers”, estimates there are currently between 7000 and 8000 Russians fighting on Ukrainian soil. Have you heard of someone you know who’s been deployed there? What do you think about this sort of military involvement? Is it Russia’s duty to protect the rebels in Ukraine?

I don’t know of anyone who is currently fighting in Ukraine.  You never know what truth is so I would not take any current estimation as factual. The Internet is flooded with various rumours regarding Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine but I would not like to repeat the rumours: I believe one can only trust something he or she has personally experienced when it comes to war.

What do I think about this sort of military involvement? It is understandable for me if Russian people would want to go and fight for their families and friends who live in Ukraine. But as any sensible person, I think this war should stop. I think it should have never been started in the first place. It has always been beyond my understanding why people should kill people. Any war is wrong, but this particular conflict feels so wrong that I can hardly believe it is all really happening. I do not understand why people, regardless of their nationality, must pay with their lives and the lives of their loved ones for mistakes made by a group of greedy politicians.

The conflict was triggered by the violent protests that took place in Kiev last February, which managed to overthrow the government in what many viewed simply as a coup d’état fueled by the West. Would you say the USA and the EU are being somehow hypocritical denouncing other countries’ involvement in the region while supporting coups worldwide whenever they suit their interests?

I really do not feel that my knowledge of politics is anywhere close to judge such things. As I see it, every  government is hypocritical when they are trying to protect their interests. I think it is important for us to remember it. Our governments are hypocritical, the news that we watch is -if I may say so- ‘photo shopped’ according to our governments’ interests. And one of the negative side effects of this informational war is how we, people from different countries, let these things change our perception of each other.

I was on an international flight a week ago and there was a man from a Western country who sat next to me. There was a friendly chat between the two of us that lasted for a few minutes until I said I was Russian. After that this man just stopped talking to me, he turned away and acted as if I didn’t exist for the rest of the flight. Somehow it made me feel responsible for what my government does, or to be more precise, for what my government does according to his government’s news. I know I deviated from the question, but I feel it is important to say that we should not judge people on the basis of where they come from –  especially in such a tense international environment. We should not become victims of our governments’ hypocrisy.

Do you think the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were at risk of being violated or damaged after the former Ukrainian government was overthrown?

I do believe so. And I do believe that ethnic Russians in Ukraine will not be able to live there peacefully.

Should the Ukrainian regions inhabited by a majority of ethnic Russians be granted the opportunity to join Russia the way Crimea did?

It is another question I feel uncomfortable answering because of my very weak political background. On one hand, if these regions joined Russia the way Crimea did, it might cause a second wave of sanctions and unhappy American and EU politicians, which would make this crisis even more complicated and reduce the chances for a peaceful settlement in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it seems more than right to give Russians born in Ukraine an opportunity to live in Russia, to live peacefully with their loved ones in a country where they feel at home and are not hated for being of Russian descent.

 

To end this interview, I would like to briefly discuss with you a topic which has been pretty controversial among sectors of European and American societies. That is no other than Russia’s law against gay propaganda. I recently watched a documentary in which many people from all corners of Russian society publicly supported the law and advocated the need to protect children against inappropriate content and confusion. What are your thoughts on this measure? In the past Spanish society was probably more careful about the content children were exposed to. Now I think it is not far-fetched to say Spanish media exposes children to all kinds of violent and sexual content throughout the day. You have been to several Western countries; would you say our governments are becoming too permissive?

I do not think that media content in Western countries is much different to Russian media. Actually it is all the same TV shows, programmes and series that we watch. Though we do have this age restriction now in movie theatres, you know all those 12+ or 18+ markers that are shown before the movie begins.  I personally find them quite useless. I mean if a 15-year old wants to watch an 18+ movie, he’ll do it no matter what newly established censorship says. And I cannot say that governments are becoming too permissive about these things. It is just the amount of 18+ content today is so huge and availability of any information is so wide that no government will be able to control it. I think any restriction in a modern world is quite useless because today’s children are born with tablets in their hands. It is the parents’ duty to protect their children from all sorts of scenes they may find harmful that are shown on TV or available on YouTube.

As for gay propaganda and that documentary you watched, Russia historically is quite a traditional society and I have to agree that in general Russia’s tolerance level is quite limited nowadays. I think it has a lot to do with the Soviet times, when people went fanatical about morality and words like “gay” or “lesbian” were whispered in disgust. I frankly believe my mother did not even know such words before American movies were allowed on TV. But today things are changing, many people are starting to see it differently and maybe in some 200 years they will even allow gay unions in Russia.  I am sure that on that documentary you watched it was all 40+ 50+ people who were supportive of this law. Younger generations, at least in many cases, are not as traditional and if the director of that documentary had wanted to show Russians that support gay couples he or she would have easily found them in all corners as well. It is again, two sides of the same coin.

-Thank you very much Nadia for your insight. It has been a pleasure speaking with you again.

-The pleasure has been all mine.

 

By Alberto Aberasturi.

 

 

The Crimea Referendum, Europe and a New World Order

Darren

Darren

Pascale Muller and Maria Wokurka look into what the future holds for Europe following the annexation of Crimea, and whether a return to the days of the Cold War is likely.

History is back. Following last week’s referendum Crimea has been annexed by Russia. Poring over the European media in the following week, was like entering a time machine. The constantly changing circumstances and the lack of information from inside Crimea made and make it hard to keep abreast of the situation.

“Russia and the West: Fearing the abyss” was the headline of the German conservative daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Meanwhile Russian state TV said Russia could turn the US into “radioactive ash”. While a few days ago the British newspaper The Guardian published an article with the headline “Crimea crisis: EU prepares for trade war with Russia”. The french newspaper Le Monde describes the annexation of Crimea as a “Trojan horse strategy”. Rhetoric like this and the increasing military activity of Russia and NATO bring up old memories. Are we heading towards a new Cold War?

Europe finds itself in the midst of an East-West struggle for control of the buffer state of Ukraine. Putin, who has referred to the Soviet Unions fall as the biggest catastrophe of the century, has taken this opportunity to reestablish a Russian sphere of influence. While Obama is convinced that “Putin is on the wrong side of history” the Russian president wants a new world order – a world order in which Russia is a regional hegemon, a great power. The annexation, various German analysts suspect, is Putin’s revenge for 1989. On the Russian side, this historical parallel led to crude analogies, with Putin comparing the annexation of Crimea with the German reunification. The President says that Russia, in contrast to other countries, entirely accepted and respected the will of the German nation. Now in turn the West needs to accept the “reunification of the entity” in Russia. “I am convinced that the Germans will support us in terms of our wish for an reunification”, Putin was quoted on the German TV channel MDR.

But 2014 is not a copy of 1989. “Between whom should there be a new Cold war? Russia is not a big enemy for the USA, since the USA is economically and military-wise much more powerful than Russia. The USA remains the biggest power in our world”, says Serhiy Vanahiy, a Ukrainian activist living in Austria. Even if the US hegemony remains, the great power treads cautiously by imposing sanctions on Russia but refraining from military action. According to Vanahiy the crucial question is how and if the West will continue to respond to Russia’s break of international contracts. “The biggest problem of the situation right now is that Russia violated the law of the Budapest Memorandum from the 5th of December 1994.” A fact that can no longer be ignored by the West without weakening their position.

The Budapest Memorandum entails three declarations by the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, recognising the borders of Kazakhstan, Belarus and the Ukraine as fixed and respected their political and economic sovereignty. In return the three Eastern countries had to agree upon an abdication from nuclear weapons. Should there be a nuclear offensive the UN Security Council is allowed to immediately impose sanctions. With Russia’s unexpected and abrupt behaviour in Crimean affairs, this agreement is obsolete. No surprise, that Belarus immediately expressed deep concern and reached out to it’s NATO allies to ensure it’s safety.

Vanahiy says: “The US will lack credibility if they do not respond to this breach of agreement through Russia. Thereby diverse negotiations and agreements concerning an abdication of nuclear weapons with countries such as Iran, Libya and Syria could unhinge due to two reasons – on one hand there is perhaps not to count on sanctions in case of an agreement breach, on the other hand Russia’s holding of nuclear weapons might eventually render possible almost everything.” The impact of the events goes far beyond Ukraine, Russia or Crimea. After decades of cooperation some are not longer playing to the rules.

Within this frame the Crimea crisis marks the prelude of a strong and potentially armed conflict between East and West, and primarily a conflict between Europe and Russia. According to the German online newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, speaks of “a riot risk of an armed conflict” and elaborates that war might have returned to Europe. France’s minister of foreign affairs was therefore the first to declare Russia as no longer part of the G8 and Germany followed soon after.

NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, clearly condemned the annexation of Crimea. Moscow resides on a “risky way” Rasmussen said in Brussels. “Still Russia violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. Therefore Russia pursues its apparent breach of international commitments.” European leaders see the Crimea crisis as the worst within the last decades. A proof that war or the potential danger of war is still present and not to be underestimated. In Schulz’ opinion it is the EU that has to demonstrate to Russia that it will not accept a crossing of Russia’s achieved border. On March 16 BBC News quoted the European Union saying in a statement that the vote was “illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised.” Contrariwise a hardening conflict could bring great economic damage to Russia as well as the European Union – one reason the latter retains from blunt actions.

According to the political activist Vaynahiy the conflict across the Crimea crisis might eventually lead to a “Third World War”. His argument: “Once international agreements do not function any longer and ‘nobody’ observes the rules, we obviously face the signal that our current world system is weak.”

Vaynahiy points out that “the EU is completely aware of the dependence of Russia in terms of the energy sector and this dependence is dangerous.” That is why the EU seeks for alternative options as soon as possible. Germany gets about one third of their energy resources from Russia and exports machinery and cars, Italy owes as much as 28 percent of their energy resources to the Kremlin and France has a strong interest in continue to sell warships to Moscow. For Russia, in turn, the consequences are enormous, economic deprivations. 50% of Russia’s budget stem from gas and oil exports.

“If this income ceases to exist, Russia will face great economic losses. I believe that the Russian GDP won’t be the same in two or three years.”, says Vaynahiy. Russia has made a clear choice of ideology over economy, accepting economic damage. A strategy that was believed to be dead in the 21st century and a global convergence over the acceptance of capitalism. According to Vaynahiy, Russia seeks to prove his military power, especially towards the other Russian republics, such as Chechnya and Dagestan.

Disregarding power games and the international impact of the Crimea crisis ahead, Russia’s stronghold on the region and its population might be drastic. The East of Europe fears a wave of refugees from Ukraine seeking shelter from an eventual Russian invasion. Even if Putin keeps denying it, Russian forces at the East Ukrainian border are “very, very sizable and very, very ready”, says Gen. Philip Breedlov, supreme commander of Allied Forces in the New York Times. Meanwhile Bratislava is getting ready to provide shelter of an eventuality of 1,000 – 10,000 refugees from this region of Ukraine, according to the German TV channel Deutsche Welle. Their biggest fear is that Ukraine could vanish from the world map. Whether or not this scenario comes true, world order has been shaken leading us once again into an era of instability.

Skiing Champions, Economic Sanctions and more on Ukraine: German Fast news

pictures by ST

pictures by ST

From sanctions over Crimea to the retirement of a German skiing legend. Maria Wokurka provides a summary of the week in the Bottom Line for Pandeia.

Merkel is convinced there will be an intensification of sanctions

 The heads of states and governments of the EU will decide further freezing of accounts and travel restrictions on Russian officials due to the Crimea crisis. The German chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced economic sanctions.

According to Tagesschau Online it is easier for US President Barack Obama to speak of sanctions against Russia. The Foreign Minister of Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, is not surprised – referring to economic relations and business the EU faces higher stakes than the US. Furthermore, it is more complicated and complex to find an agreement on sanctions between the 28 member states. In other words, if the EU decides about sanctions there will always be compromise.

After the vote on Crimea the EU Foreign Ministers handed out entry embargoes and blocked accounts for about 20 Russian and Ukrainian politicians. This was the second of three levels of sanctions. Angela Merkel is convinced that there will be an intensification of the second level. She announced in the Federal Parliament: “We decided a second level two weeks ago and the heads of states and governments of the EU will decide about further sanctions of this level. Among these sanctions will be an extension of the list of responsible persons who will be affected by the travel restrictions and account blockings.”

European People's Party - EPP

European People’s Party – EPP

Level three sanctions entail concrete economic sanctions against Russia. Merkel emphasizes that “the EU board is willed to apply sanctions of level three if the situation worsens.”

The economic sanctions could have serious consequences for Russia. Under discussion the halting of Russian gas supplies. This would create problems for those EU states reliant on Russian gas.

A further, unpredictable scenario will be if the Russian government responds to the sanctions with counter sanctions.

Ex Secretary of Education loses action

The German magazine Spiegel has demanded it is high time that German universities act and make sure that doctor’s degrees are only be temporarily awarded.

Around 25,000 doctors leave university every year. Only a trickle of them is seriously encouraged to work in the scientific and research area. Nine out of ten postgraduates turn their backs on the field of research. The reasons include the lack of alternative non-dissertation options and very often the hope for better career opportunities. Last year every fifth deputy of the German Federal Parliament owns the two letters “Dr.” in front of the first name.

The former Secretary of Education, Annette Schavan, started a career of science and wrote a dissertation with the title “The person and the conscience”. She is convinced that she belongs to the scientific community even though her entire career has been a political.

The prestige of being a doctor remains for the entire life and is part of the identity.

Val 202

Val 202

There is a proposal by a Professor of Economics to delete the doctor’s degree from the identity card or to only be allowed to take the article within the area of research and science. Manuel Theisen suggests the doctor’s degree should be temporarily limited. After ten years the right to have the title will be automatically extended unless evidence emerges that the author plagiarised. The positive arguments of this idea are: no new administrative act, no additional effort and expenditures for the universities – the plagiarism will be not be described but the academic honour will be questioned.

The end of an impressive career – German Olympic champion calls it quits

Rationality predominated: the German ski Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch will not continue her sports career.

The best German female skier has decided to end her career, after 13 years, as triple Olympic champion and double world champion. After winning Gold and Silver in Sochi this year Hoefl-Riesch has reached the peak of her career. Even though she will be missed in the future winter sports her fans are saying goodbye with a crying and a smiling face at the same time – it utterly is the best moment to stop.

Hoefl-Riesch suffered a number of injury problems throughout her career but was able to triumph at three Winter Olympics. She retires at the age of 29.

Just another case of identity fraud?

rockcohen

rockcohen

With Ukraine in turmoil over what to do about Crimea and the build-up to the European elections across the continent Pandeia is pleased to launch our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

To identify yourself as a citizen of a particular nation on this planet is usually a birth-right. The many forms and documents that have to be filled in on a daily basis in civilised society, force each person to take a position on their nationality — and in turn their identity — from an early age. But, in this globalised world, where one single tweet can make a Blackpool beautician famous seemingly throughout humanity, what does it mean when we pledge an allegiance to a flag, a country or even a continent? It is this question with which Pandeia launches our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

The crisis in Crimea has brought the concept of nation states and ‘National Identity’ under intense scrutiny. The term ‘Ukraine’s territorial integrity’ has been the sound bite with which the West has criticised Russia’s actions. Ukraine’s territorial integrity with regards to Crimea, it is argued, comes hand in hand with the country’s national identity. However, it is undoubtedly more complicated than that. Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s claims to do everything within his power to protect ‘ethnic Russians’, while deeply worrying in an immediate conflict context, actually contains underlying connotations that are the crux of the main issue affecting not just the continent but the globe in the 21st century.

To declare a geographical area as belonging to one state government is to whitewash from history the many years that came before those particular state boundaries were drawn up. In Crimea for example, the Tatars who are indigenous to the peninsula, have for centuries battled against Russian rule. It is of course natural then that these are the people most worried about the looming Russian annexation of Crimea. Complications inherently arise when diverse ethnic cultures are banded together under one banner, or more usually one flag. As national identity is often as much of a construct, as the flag that represents it.

For examples of these complications, it is prudent to look no further than the last major conflict to afflict continental Europe — the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and in particular the recent struggles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the Dayton agreement, the aforementioned nation state was born and a new post-conflict era was heralded. However, nearly 20 years on, the country is blighted by structure of its government, designed to force the three ethnic identities — Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs — to collaborate together. As the inhabitants of Bosnia have learnt merely heralding a ‘new united nation’ doesn’t always result in a one. This struggle has prompted the recent protests with one banner reading “There is no ‘Bosnian people’” a concise assessment of national identity in the country.

The future of indigenous populations is at times most relevant when discussing ‘National Identity’. The North American indigenous populations have for years attempted to preserve and foster their cultures in an environment which often places the Nation at the forefront of any discussions on identity. As the nation state’s identity has begun to subsume the indigenous populations, new attempts to diversify and maintain their distinctiveness have been made. This was most recently the case when the Latoka tribe from the Pine Ridge reservation declared they were looking into making the ‘Mazacoin’ their national currency. In a statement of intent towards sovereignty and a form of national identity, the Mazacoin — a bitcoin variant, an alternative virtual currency — would replace the American Dollar in the area. Its use is coherent with the concept of trading and bartering that occurs across many indigenous populations, and the minds behind the concept, believe that by adopting a digital currency the Latoka tribe can shed decades of poverty. Currency in itself shapes such strong feelings of national identity and pride and the Mazacoin could be the start of a new kind of sovereignty in the 21st century.

It is no wonder then, that currency has become the new battleground in the independence debate that threatens to engulf Scotland in 2014. The concept of a shared monetary union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK has been championed by the YES Scotland campaign, while all three of the main political parties at Westminster have deemed the notion inconceivable. In questions of independence, much is made of national identity and the Sterling currency perhaps carries with it more identifiers of national pride than any other. Particularly in the run-up to the European elections, the prospect of a ‘European identity’ is continually disparaged in the UK, in favour of the British or more usually the national identity, be it Welsh, Scottish, English or Northern Irish. In Britain, this is even more of a surprise, for as history shows it is a nation formed of many different ‘identities’ — from the Anglo-Saxons, to the Vikings, to the West Indians of the ‘Windrush Generation’, Britain’s national identity, to be ‘British’, means not one single identifiable factor.

Maybe the one problem with ‘National Identity’ is, that it doesn’t really exist in the first place.

By Jamie Timson

Kiev, Syria and The Forgotten War: German Fast News

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Following a week which has been dominated by East-West tensions, Maria Wokurka provides the central European view on an increasingly divisive situation in this week’s Bottom Line from Germany.

Kyiv – voices from Germany

The world’s community has been focusing on the Ukraine and Kyiv. The protests and riots have led to the “Crimea crisis”.
Now Kyiv is in the urgent need of financial aid – and the EU is willing to help. The President of the commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced help in the form of eleven billion Euros. Russian’s president Vladimir Putin spoke of economic collaboration, in spite of the crisis.

In France, the foreign ministers of different EU states, including John Kerry and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as Sergej Lawrow, have met to diplomatically negotiate the crisis: some have claimed Moscow must eventually face international sanctions if it doesn’t end its involvement in Ukraine.

Germany’s federal government wants to abandon sanctions against Russia if today’s negotiations spawn a possible contact group. Without this contact group the sanctions will be on the agenda at the EU summit. While the German armed forces puts collaboration with the Russian armed forces on the test, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign minister have sought to find a political loophole out of the drastic situation in the Ukraine.

The East-Europe-expert Hans-Henning Schröder said in an Interview with tagesschau.de that he is convinced that the good relationship between Russia and Germany could lead to a de-escalation in terms of the Ukraine. “Indeed, there is a really good connection between Berlin and Moscow. Even though there has been lots of criticism the last years, a big chance lies in this relationship.” According to Schröder, Germany is capable of acting as a negotiator between the West and the East. The online magazine Die Welt speaks of “Merkel’s walk on a tightrope between Putin and Obama.
There will be no easy solution. The foreign minister Steinmeier calls the critical situation in the Ukraine “the most problematic crisis in Europe since the Fall of the Wall.”

Has Syria been forgotten?

Since January the death count in Syria has stopped being recorded by Uno. The situation is a war but has become less prominent in the global media. The violence in Syria is part of the every-day-life. Every second Syrian citizen was forced to leave their home. Germany’s magazine Spiegel Online fears that Syria is becoming one of the forgotten conflicts such as Somalia or Iraq.

a.anis

a.anis

The Uno commissioner Antonio Guterres says: “Five years ago Syria has been the second most important country to receive refugees.” Now there is a dramatic change. “So far Afghanistan counted as the biggest refugee population, Syria is close to displacing Afghanistan.”

What is the current situation? The peace negotiations have temporarily failed. Assad has tried to reconquer districts in Aleppo but 10,000 inhabitants of the city have fled during the last months. The German authorities have said that 300 Germans are currently in Syria. How many of them are involved in fighting however is not known.

Export vs import – does Germany export debt?

Germany is currently being described as the trade world champion. Indeed, this name is flattering for a country that bases its political self-confidence on its economic strength. Brussels is skeptical and critical towards Germany’s economic imbalance.
Germany’s government has always referred to the country as remarkably competitive and that has been the best argument so far. But during the last few years the government signed several summit declarations. According to these declarations the huge economic imbalances worldwide are a central cause for recent crises. If Chancellor Angela Merkel appeals to, for instance, Greece to improve the competitiveness in terms of export numbers, there is no other way that countries such as Germany have to reduce their exports and increase their imports instead.

More export than import or vice versa – in general that is not the biggest problem as long as the imbalances stay within the bounds of possibility. That means that higher import countries must be able to afford these higher imports. Higher export countries, however, are exporting debts together with their commodities.

Ukraine: A view from the ground

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

A view from the ground in Ukraine

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history.