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Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent

Germany's love-hate relationship with Russia

Europe's future security map depends not on what happens in Ukraine but, rather, on how Germany reacts to such events

Published on Apr 14, 2014 11:30 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin is clearly not interested in cosying up to Western leaders; he believes that it's better for Russia to be feared rather than loved.

Still, Mr Putin is keen to remain on good terms with one European nation: Germany. In his recent speech to the Russian Parliament when he announced the annexation of Crimea, Mr Putin specifically cited the reunification of East and West Germany as his inspiration, adding pointedly: "I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspirations of the Russians, or historic Russia, to restore unity."

The German government pretended not to notice this appeal, although everyone in Europe instantly grasped the true significance of Mr Putin's manoeuvre. For the future security map of the European continent does not actually depend on what happens in Ukraine but, rather, on how Germany reacts to such events.

It is up to Germany's leaders to decide whether the current crisis turns into a broader East-West confrontation which lasts years, or whether Ukraine is ultimately sacrificed on the altar of keeping good relations with Russia. That's not a decision any German leader ever wanted to make, but it's one which Chancellor Angela Merkel can no longer avoid.

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