photo: The Guardian

This is a commentary to the article:How Very Understanding by the Economist 

As ridiculous as Mr.Putin’s pseudo-imperialistic vision of Greater Russia sounds, which has broken all hell loose upon Ukraine, so is the renowned British magazine’s rather imprudent assessment of Germany’s supposed identity crisis, as if the world’s fourth largest economy, as well as Europe’s de facto only fiscally-sound powerhouse, is a conflicted teenager.

In its May 10th publication, in a larger context of criticizing a few worrisome Russophile inside the German domestic politicsㅡwhich, by this point, was perfectly insightful given the ongoing Ukrainian crisisㅡthe weekly magazine committed a fateful mistake of putting itself to the place of too much judgingㅡa mistake way too common among the lofty American, British, and some Japanese media.

Quoting John Kornblum, a Berlin-based American lawyer, the Economist argues that Germany “has never figured out whether it wants to be part of the West.” Well, why does it ever have to “figure out” where it “wants to be part of”? Were not the central tenets of European international relations, the very invention of “the West,” sovereignty of states and the Westphalian system? In a very troubled tone, the magazine informs its readers that the majority of Germans oppose sanctions on Russia, and also that people want a “middle way between Russia and the West.” What exactly is wrong with that? It simply speaks for the public sentiment of a well-functioning democratic country.

By hustling Germany into a typical unimpressive narrative of East-West division, the magazine attempts to wrongfully judge the Germans for playing difficult and wavering when, in fact, western Europe and the Atlantic alliance also fail to realize an united front against the Russian threats, or provide energy-dependent Germany with substantially better alternatives. What can “the West,” if it ever was a single entity anyway, exactly offer Germany in order to secure the German allegiance against Russia? No, wait a minute, why does this magazine get to place a country to a position where it has to pick a side in the first place? America do not get to judge the “German ambivalence” when NSC and CIA have been spying Merkel for years; nor do France and Britain when they practically turn over the burden of sustaining the crumbling Eurozone to German productivity. Then what gives you, the Economist, such an entitlement to judge?

The so-called Russlandverstehers who contend that Putin’s annexation of Crimea was “understandable” surely have a questionable political viewpoint when the world condemns Russian aggression. However, this disappointingly judgemental column is no less unappealing. The sonderweg(“special path”)is something the continental country has always had to bear with. Obviously the British and Americans miles away beyond the sea do not understand its significance quite as much.


This whole discourse strangely echoes the hysteria of a Japanese press so concerned of South Korea seemingly turning pro-China, when Japan is in no way trying to alleviate its bottom-hit relations with both Korea and China. The chronic perception gap plays here in a similar degree: China in Mr. Abe’s eyes, as Russia is to probably Britain and others, may as well be evil Mordor lurking beyond the channel; but to Park and many Koreans, China has always been a real life neighbor with whom you have no choice but to live alongㅡonly with more wealth, investment opportunities, and charm offensive than Russia could ever possibly provide.

As much as South Korea strives to
balance the power conflict in Far East,
so does Germany, who is not so independent
of growing Russian presence.

By the similar token, the “German ambivalence” is not a disastrous state of being “totally without a strategic sense.” It is rather the opposite. As much as South Korea strives to balance the subtle power conflict in the Far East, so does Germany, who is not so independent of growing Russian presence. After all, the German identity has been formed out of this historical predicament, where it can not simply afford to ‘choose’ as if it is at Baskin-Robbins.

In conclusion, the Economist seems to fail at being a true Deutschlandversteher. How very understanding of you.



Founder, editor-in-chief