Former German Chancellor (“Alt Kanzler”) Helmut Schmidt appeared on the Sandra Maischberger interview show on
Channel 1 (ARD) to express his views of the world at age 96. Schmidt served as
German chancellor from 1974 to 1982 under his social democratic (SPD)
administration. Chain-smoking Schmidt remains Germany’s most popular (living)
former chancellor and still has enormous influence over German political
The first half of the interview Maischberger devoted to Schmidt’s defense of Vladimir Putin, citing his open show of support after the Crimean annexation. Maischberger tried hard to extract criticism of Putin from Schmidt. She did not succeed. Schmidt agreed that Russia is expansionist, but so are the United States and China, all of which are “dangerous,” although the United States has become “less dangerous” under Obama. But, Schmidt warns, the
could become “dangerous” again.
According to Schmidt, Putin is not a war monger. He is just the leader of a nation “in a bad situation.” He is not troubled by the fact that Putin says one thing and does another. This, after all, is what politicians do. Schmidt does not believe that Putin “wants something bigger” (such as an expansion of hostilities beyond
Ukraine), but things can happen
that he does not want. The tension in east Ukraine, according to Schmidt, does
not depend on Putin. If Russia
had another leader, we would be confronting the same problems today.
Schmidt allowed that if he were in Putin’s shoes, he’d be inclined to act in the same way.
Putin is simply the leader of a powerful nation that is currently “not successful.” He faces the difficult task of holding the world’s largest nation, by land mass, together. For this reason, Schmidt blames the putative expansion of the European Union into Putin’s backyard (
as the root cause of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The European Union’s actions
have been “idotic…child’s play.” The “nonsense” (“Unfug”) began when Yanukovich
was overthrown for rejecting Ukraine’s
westward move. If the European Union had minded its business and not interfered
back yard, all would be OK today.
Schmidt divides the world into spheres of influence, which are not to be tampered with. Schmidt is an extreme moral relativist. All politics is based on lies and self interest. There is no real difference between Putin’s repression of political opposition and the
United States’ involvement in the Middle East. Politicians do what they must do, and they
have been doing so for centuries. Putin defends the periphery of the Russian
empire just as the Czar’s armies did two centuries earlier. Germany under Merkel (or Schmidt) must deal with
the fact that it borders on seven countries, just as Bismarck did 150 years earlier.
ultimate Putin Versteher (literally
“Understander”) illustrates the tight rope that Chancellor Angela Merkel must
navigate between her Social Democrat coalition partners and her own party’s
(CDU) business interests. She seems to be the only one standing in Putin’s way
If any Ukraine
supporter is dissatisfied with Merkel, they should imagine what it would be
like under a Schmidt.