Plea for a fresh start of the relations: We are losing Russia.

Martin Hoffmann - English translation: Christel Hahn - 03/02/2015

By Martin Hoffmann in Der Tagesspiegel, 18/11/2014. He is Executive Director in the German-Russian Forum eV.

Plea for a fresh start of the relations: We are losing Russia.
End  the sanctions! Russia needs to be again respected and accepted as a partner of the West. Russian citizens need to feel that they are welcome in Europe.
A guest post.

This is a wake up call. A wake-up call to all those in politics who as sleepwalkers trust in the superiority of the West. To those who are convinced that the West must finally show strength and boost its sanctions. Also to those “eastern policy experts with sound judgment” who rely on  dialogue, but are convinced that war will not happen and in the end reason will prevail.

The call comes from someone who is neither "left" nor "right" and who does not claim to be able to understand and explain Russia or even Putin. I studied as someone from West Germany in the Cold War Slavistics and have been working for almost 25 years for and with the Russian civil society.

Means with people who are engaged in  society for common interests in culture, environment, science, politics and business.

The wake-up call is: we are losing Russia! Not only the elite around president Putin, no, a whole people, a great people, which is thinking European. A people that appreciates Europe as a whole and Germany in particular, even sometimes pays tribute of admiration to it - despite the experience of two world wars and a cold war. A people that as a liberator of Germany from fascism has contributed decisively to the fact, that we Germans can today again live in unity and freedom. A nation turns aside, which had always hoped to once arrive in the West, to be respected and accepted as a partner.

Nobody should say later, he did not know or he did not notice anything: The situation today is different, but not better than during the Cold War. I, at least, have never experienced in the eighties such emotional hurt and disillusionment. The great majority of the Russian population does not feel heard and understood. The people are disappointed by the West, and they no longer want to be the eternal loser.

Especially the liberal elites are disappointed and taken by the European media and public opinion

Of course one will reply, Putin is not the people. That Russia has started the conflict. That the people in Russia are victims of an unprecedented propaganda. Without doubt, the emotional, patriotically overloaded coverage is for us deeply odd and disturbing. But let us not deceive ourselves: We are just losing those who have always turned their eyes towards the west. Especially the mostly liberal elites are disappointed and taken by the European media and public opinion. Because we don't want to see, that the strategy of the West (is there any!?) gives every possible assistance to Russian propaganda. By sanctions that are perceived by the Russian people as a punishment and threat, by refusing to engage in dialogue on an equal footing, by the arrogance with which one thinks to be in possession of the better values and by double standards. This policy brings the Russian nation in an unprecedented alliance with the power and prepares the field for agitators of all stripes.

It seems paradoxical, if not fatal, that we expect it for granted that those will calm the situation, which we on a daily basis identify as the main culprits of the crisis. Sure, no one wants war, neither in Russia nor in the west. But did we not have this already 100 years ago? And someone, who works on site, knows and experiences every day: For the people of Russia far more is at stake than prosperity, geopolitics, gas and oil. Almost everyone in Russia has relatives or friends in Ukraine, who after the end of the Soviet Union have moved further away into the distance and now risk to be lost entirely. Almost everyone in Russia has lost someone from his family in the fight against Nazi Germany. These traumas are deep, they touch emotions and stir up fears that no one the west thinks to be of this force. And suddenly Germans turn into Nazis again and friends into strangers.

Were it not for us Germans, who many times have been bestowed by history and by Russia, to now fight for taking the courage to dare the first step? We have to stop fulfilling our own predictions by allegations, accusations and ever new "red lines"! We must act and act quickly.

I appeal to all players in the West to now intervene paradoxically! Russia's perception reacts more than the West thinks to symbols, gestures of appreciation and conciliatory signs. Lets start here with a policy of enhanced dialogue at all levels - in politics, in business and especially in society. A Petersburg Dialogue is now more important than ever. The economic sanctions must fall. Russian citizens need to feel that they are welcome in Europe. Lets not squander this capital for peace and justice in the 21st century.

German article here

English translation: Christel Hahn, Newropeans Club.