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tv   To the Point - International Debate from Berlin  LINKTV  January 31, 2022 4:30am-5:01am PST

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dire warnings mount as russian forces dig in on ukraine's border and diplomatic talks stall is europe facing its biggest military confrontation since the second world war. that remains unclear even as military muscle flexing sends a signal of overwhelming streth. someato member couries seek alter the ialance by supplying ukraine with weapons and threatening russia with sanctions yet a key european player equivocates today. we ask ussia ukraine conflicts germy letting its allies down. mm hmm
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mm hmm. hello and welcome to. to the point, it's a pleasure to greet our guests. michelle tuman is diplomatic correspondent of the hamburg based weekly d site and his point of view for vladimir putin, ukraine is merely one aspect in the global showdown with the u. s. alexander rahr heads the russian industry association in germany and publishes frequently on russian issues. his opinion, this conflict is much harder to resolve than the cuban missile crisis. face saving compromises are not in sight today and it's great to have with us, jessica berlin, she is an expert on security policy and geopolitics and she says germany can no longer prioritize its economic interests over its international obligations, jessica germany's negovernment is getting some of the worst international
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press this country has seen in quite a long time deservedly. absolutely. this is precisely a moment when germany needs to lead. we are the largest country and economic power in europe were the fourth largest economy in the world and yet from the counselor and from the chancellory we hear silence mostly on ukraine. this is truly a destabilizing factor right now for nato's position with russia. now, your opening statement implies that the new german government is prioritizing its economic interests in the sense of commercial relations with russia. but former chancellor merkel was similarly inclined. and yet after the the ukraine annexation of crimea in 2014, she played a very strong role in rallying eu member states around sanctions and also in initiating the so called minsk process of talks between ukraine and russia. so wh's changed
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the government right now, we have an spd led government and the s. p. d. let's remember is traditionally very russia friendly. the former s spd chancellor sits in the board of directors of gazprom and one of the leading proponents of north stream two and this project. um should it be canceled should the german government openly declare that it will be void if russia invades ukraine. this will have a real domestic political fallout for the spd for chancellor schulz party. and these are the issues right now. unfortunately in the internal debates in germany that are being placed over our international obligations to lead on security and peace in europe. michel, you say it's all about the showdown between russia and the us. so does anything germany could do actually matter, would it make a difference. oh yes
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it would make a huge difference simply because if we do actually matter, would it make a difference. oh yes talk about all the possible measures the west could take if there was any conflict between russia and ukraine or a russian invasion. in in this case it is above and formal of it is germany in the first row germany will have to put in his weight as an economic power. all the economic sanctions will be paid by germany as the economic leader in in europe. this was the case in 2014 and this is why i think chancellor shoals should now speak up and actually live up to the expectations of an international role of germany. i want to dig deeper on sanctions and uh and german attitudes a little bit later on. but alexander for a long time, there was a consensus in this country that
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germany really couldn't afford to take a diplomatic sundar vague as they say, essentially to depart from the path taken by the rest of the west by key allies. do you think that that is changing? and if so why no, it's not changing. but we have a challenge in front of us. we can solve the present crisis by military means by strength by pushing russia back. maybe even with military means with sanctions. but then we have to expect countermeasures from russia, which could lead to a third world war. the other way of trying to sve the conflict is a diplomatic way. and i think that germany firmly stands on the diplomatic path and we'll try till the end if it's possible to solve the crisis with diplomatic and not military and not other means and why is the german doing this? because i think germany understands maybe other than countries like poland or great britain or
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the united states. that russia has a point in in in in in questioning the present european security structure. because as you remember it was 1008, the west was ready already to bring countries like georgia and ukraine into nato and germany and france vetoed this step and said there will be no place right now for these two countries as long as they have difficult difficulties with russia. and i think germany stand as firmly stands on this position right now it will try to convince russia that we have to cooperate together over a new european security architecture but of course it is also willing other than others to listen. also to russia's argument that its interests in security objections are threatened by a further nato expansion. germans have their own term for those whose who sympathize with
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russia and with its president vladimir putin, they call this putin. nonetheless, few people here would have supposed that such sentiments would manifest themselves at the highest levels of the german military. mhm the german admiral and far away india fired these words like gunshots striking many ukrainians right in the heart. i think putin is probably putting pressure on it because he can do it and he knows that he split it. he split the european union, but what he really wants is respect. we need russia against china the crimea peninsula is gone and never come back. this is it. this is a fact. the ukrainian response was swift with the ukrainian ambassador firing back on twitter, german arrogance and megalomania. the german government has to change its
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course towards kiev and kiev's major vitali. klitschko even complained that germany had committed treason against ukraine is germany still a trustworthy ally to ukraine. i want to put that question in a moment to jessica, but it's just worthy of note that admiral shinbach actually went even further than what we heard there and suggested that shared christian allah values could make russia a good ally for germany vis a vis china uh jessica. let me just put that question to you about about whether germany is letting its its partners down. it has categorically ruled out sending defensive question to you about about whether germany is letting its weapons to ukraine and it's even blocking a shipment of german origin artillery from estonia to ukraine. how reliable is
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germany as a partner? look, germany's response was already disappointing these comments from former admiral just added fuel to the fire. and and now the just the other day of this announcement of germany sending 5000 helmets as military support to ukraine. um these kinds of misstatements and missteps only reinforce the very valid impression that germany is not doing enough. um quite frankly we are betraying our own responsibility as a leader in the european union. um and in europe with this kind of, we say in german and this this being completely consumed with our own issues that we are not able to pull ourselves together and say this is the role that we play in the world now. this is what the moment requires of us and what our allies need to see from us. we are actually weakening the position of ukraine and all of nato
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with our indecision. michelle critics say that germany doesn't get the concept of deterrence, that it believes that by sending soft, let's say medical supplies to ukraine, that would actually have a deterrent effect. and i'd like to ask you whether you agree and then also a question about the new coalition. but perhaps would you say germany just doesn't get it. well, i think germany of course understands what deterrents mean, but i do not, i don't think that at this point in time, chancellor schulz is able actually to display what deterrence in both military and and also in verbal ways and diplomatic ways means. and what he has missed in the very beginning of the crisis is when he was already chancellor to speak up and to
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clearly say where is the red line of germany? and he also has missed to assume leadership in europe as it was the case with chancellor merkel in 2014 when she brought europe, which was also at a critical phase that we remember the euro crisis, but he managed to couple things together and and shakira is at this point in time, he is just too silent and this is the opposite of deterrence because deterrence not is not only something about military, but it's about diplomatic means to keep europe together in this very sensitive moment. well, it's not only chancellor schulz, of course, who's making policy, the foreign minister, anna lena burbach prior to the election had actually been quite outspoken in saying germany needs to take a tougher line vis a vis both russia and china. and if we look back a bit in in german history it was a green foreign minister, joschka fischer in 1999
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who actually helped the green party breakthrough its ideological pacifism and back the nato bombing of serbia. yet we're not seeing similar action here from foreign minister burbach or could that change? well, i i think she has done quite a lot in the past few weeks to to actually make germany somehow visible invisible in in the world and especially in ukraine and in moscow with her visits there and the problem is that in fact, this, in this moment, we seem to have in the leadership of the so called traffic light coalition as the red for the social democrats, the green for the greens and the yellow for the free democrats, democrats and and the greens and the social democrats simply lack at this point in time these strategically thinking politicians like joschka fischer at the time
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who was able actually to pull around the cause of his party and even if you don't need to pull around the question is whether you are able to grasp and actually then also to send the right signals signals out at the right time. meanwhile, alexander, other nato countries with canada and britain at the forefront, but also including for example, the baltic, several baltic countries are sending defensive equipment and training missions to ukraine. um do you think that's likely to deter vladimir putin or to provoke him hmm. i think the europeans are looking for a common response. russia's military build up at the border to ukraine but if i may, i would come shortly back towards you asked about the greenes to have a war against serbia and milosevic is something else than fighting russia at
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the nuclear power. this is no alternatives. that's not possible and i think there had been a lot of quarrels in the present government between schultz and burbach. and at the end, schultz could convince mrs burbach also to follow a more rational line, return back to real politics and not only follow the line of liberal values which have to be defended all over the world. and this is the change in the german policy which we witnessed now and i think that shorts hopefully will soon meet putin the change in the german policy which we witnessed now and start a policy for europe towards russia, which will include also some kinds of arms reduction talks where he has to push russia to, because this is not going well right now. he also needs to re invest a has to push russia to, because this is not going lot of power and energy into the normandy format, into the talks between france, germany, russia and ukraine on solving the east european east ukrainian crisis. uh and i think
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it's it is still possible to do it. uh it is ukraine has no other chance as giving the donbas regions more autonomy, maybe full autonomy, then it will keep its country together as being the contested region in the east. let me come to the normandy format because in fact germany together with france has just co hosted a new round of normandy format talks. these are the talks that essentially bring together russia and ukraine under french and german oversight, so to speak. um th did talk for eight hours jessica. does that offer any reason to be optimistic that there might be a diplomatic solution? that certainly is germany's line? uh they repeat like a mantra that the only solution here is has got to be diplomatic i agree to an extent. of course it's it's always good news when the channels for dialogue are open. everyone
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is still coming to the table because all parties in this conflict know that war is in no one's interest this however begs the question then, why did vladimir putin send over 100,000 troops to the ukrainian border, what does he want here? um you mentioned earlier, uh liberal values this is not a question right now of values. this is a question of sovereignty and the rule of law ukraine is an independent sovereign nation and russia is currently threatening it. so this is the issue at stake. um it's not a question of of eastward expansion of nato it's not a question of a rehashing of the cold war right now, a sovereign independent nation is being threatened by auch larger, much more powerful neighbor and in the normandy format and beyond europe. um and our transatlantic partners are looking to calm the tensions de escalate but
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not give concessions for what is effectively geopolitical, bullying um of a free state. let's drill a little bit deeper on potential motives that might might be seen here and ask, where is this standoff heading? since russian troops troops on potential motives that might might be seen here and started mobilizing observers have been debating putin's true motives and on potential motives that might might be seen here and the likelihood of escalation. yeah. while military images of russian maneuvers on the ukrainian border with a very clear message russia is ready to fight in return. ukraine has been mobilizing volunteers for a possible war supported by an increasing number of f western allies tht are supplying the country with weapons. the us alone has now sent $200 million american
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troops from weern to stern europe is now noonger considered taboo. the arms race on both sides of the border is frightening young ukrainians in the eastern part of the country in particular. yes, i can say that kind of scared will russia actually invade ukraine? so the question of whether russia will invade ukraine certainly appears to be approaching. uh now the moment of truth, so to speak alexander because president putin has been waiting for the united states to respond to a written list of demands and
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the u. s. has now done so and apparently included confidence building offers including on restarting uh weapons talks which you have just said is necessary. so are you really so certain that there is no face saving compromise in sight. as you said in your opening statement, the face compromise can only be face saving compromise if nato will not expand into ukraine. i think that putin wants to crown his presidency, his long presidency for 20 years to achieve non membership of ukraine and georgia in his neighborhood and as long as nato will not give the guarantees of not bringing this country into nato, there will be quarrels. but i think that there will be indeed some compromises. the talks and the negotiations will be prolonged maybe endlessly. and through this phase of of of of talks confrontation may become less and this is important, michel de
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facto, everybody knows ukraine is not about to join nato anytime soon. nato cannot take on a new member state where there's a conflict. it's as simple as that joe biden has made it clear from the start that demands that nato would formally rule out ukraine ever being a member nonethelessss are off the table as are a nato pullback from eastern europe and exclusion uh and and withdrawal of u. s. nuclear weapons from europe. as you said this us russia relations is what it's all about in the end. so what objective could puttin actually still be pursuing here? and if deterrence doesn't work, what economic sanctions would convince him to stand down? well, first of all where is he up to? and i think it's not would convince him to stand down? well, first of all just ukraine but it is it is more just about the security arrangements in europe since 30 years. it is precisely about and you mentioned the question of the withdrawal
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of american nuclear weapons from europe. i mean there are not that many nuclear weapons left, there are just a few bombs in uh in germany in benelux, holland, italy turkey. so um that is very few. and in fact what putin is intending by demanding the withdrawal of these weapons is much more. he talks about control in europe it's it's about hegemony as he sees it, american hegemony which he would like to inherit. and so this is the big picture. the other big picture is we see lots of maneuvers military exercises by russia undertaken at this point in time, all over the world. and so it indicates this global challenge and i think this actually will linger on. and um the, you asked me about the
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economic and the possible sanctions against against that, it very much depends on what putin does in this struggle. i don't know whether he really wants to invade ukraine or just a small incursion, as biden just said in a slip of the tongue, i i think that he has putin has lots of options on the table and the response of the west has to be adequate and it will be economic jessica to potential economic sanctions that could be applied, but both have provoked a german equivocation. one is the so called nuclear option excluding russia from the swift payment transfer system, which essentially would make it very hard for russia to get those oil and gas revenues on which it depends. and secondly, um putting on hold putting on ice, the north stream two gas pipeline from russia to germany that essentially would allow gas shipments to go around ukraine depriving ukraine of revenues on both points german politicians have equivocated and indicated that this might not
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be the way to go. what do you say to that, that we're putting german economic interests in front of our international obligations in the case of swift, of course this nuclear option sanction um would be a huge deterrent to russia and vladimir putin at this time. but germany is considering the billions of euros in business interests that germany has in russia and that this would also make it difficult for german companies um and businesses to function um secondly, of course, on energy um europe in general about 30% of of our gas comes from russia um in germany, depending on the year, it can be upwards of 50%. we have created for ourselves over the last 20 years, a huge energy dependency on russia. on top of that, north stream two was of course a pet project of the s. p. d. the party of current chancellllor schulz and to to withdraw on nord stream two project of the s. p. d. the party of current
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would have domestic political implications for the spd. in short we have put our domestic debates um and our economic interests ahead of european united security policy. nonetheless, chancellor schulz has said, north stream two might be on the table if things go downhill alexander if it were to be has said, north stream two might be on the table halted the pipeline. do you think that would have an influence on putin? no, because we have to understand that russia is they're diverting its energy flows to asia and asia china, but not only china india iran, other big countries in asia will never support western sanctions, financial sanctions against russia. and contrary, they will helrussia to overcome these barriers or this pressure from the west. and this is the danger which i see that we will have at the end in the world politics two blocks and asia block, which will be probably radicalized together with china
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against the west and us who will do everything to to to to defend ourselves or also act with nato prolongation with with nato extension, which will only lead to a new cold war. and i dodon't want to have a cold. let me jump here with one really quick last question that goes back to our title and essentially whether germany is letting its allies down, putin is known to be a masterful tactician. apparently, he's concluded that this is a very opportune moment because of divisions in europe and in the transatlantic relationship, secretary of state blinken is saying there's no daylight between the us and its allies what do you think will poutine believin? i agree with you that putin is a master in tactics and strategy will he believe blinken? he believes biden. he wants talks with biden. he will have talks with biden with schultz mr macron and i think there will be a solution okay, that's an optimistic endpoint. thank you very much to
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hello and thank you for joining us on this edition of nhk "newsline". i'm raja pradhan in tokyo with the latest at this hour. we start with breaking news. japanese defense ministry officials say there have been reports an air self-defense force f-15 fighter jet cropped off the radar over the sea of japan. once again, breaking news. japanese defense ministry officials say there have been reports a

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