Russia considers bizarre proposal to condemn West Germany’s 1989 'annexation' of East Germany

Russia and Germany have an important, if complicated, relationship

Adam Taylor
Friday 30 January 2015 17:17
Comments
Sergey Naryshkin has asked the Duma's Committee on Foreign Affairs to look into condemning the 'annexation' of East Germany by West Germany in 1989
Sergey Naryshkin has asked the Duma's Committee on Foreign Affairs to look into condemning the 'annexation' of East Germany by West Germany in 1989

Russian politicians will consider a new statement that would condemn an event that happened 25 years ago – the reunification of Germany.

According to Russian news agency Tass, State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin has asked the Duma's Committee on Foreign Affairs to look into condemning the "annexation" of East Germany by West Germany in 1989.

Given the time that's passed and the relative success of German reunification, the idea has struck many as absurd: Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union in 1989, called it "nonsense" on Wednesday. Similar outlandish statements have been made by Russian politicians recently – last year, one proposed a ban on high heels, for example.

However, this proposal can't be as easily dismissed: Naryshkin is an ally of President Vladimir Putin, and it seems unlikely he would have made such a bold statement without the Russian leader's approval.

And while the events it concerns may be long in the past, the motivation is likely the present. The plan was originally put forward by Nikolay Ivanov, a Communist Party politician, who has argued that the reunification of Germany was insufficiently democratic. "Unlike Crimea, a referendum was not conducted in the German Democratic Republic," Ivanov was quoted as saying, referring to the region of Ukraine that broke away to join Russia last year after a disputed referendum.

Russia and Germany have an important, if complicated, relationship. Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps the closest Western leader to Putin – she grew up in East Germany, and – like Putin, who served with the KGB in Dresden – can speak both German and Russian. However, Merkel has been a prominent voice supporting sanctions on Russia after actions in Ukraine, and the relationship has been strained. Merkel famously told President Obama that the Russian leader was living "in another world."

Ivanov pointed to comments made by the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Anne Brasseur of Luxembourg, who had accused Russia of annexing Crimea, and said his proposal was a "form of a retaliatory step." Merkel herself had also recently condemned Russia for its actions in Crimea. “The annexation of Crimea is a violation of something that has made up our peaceful coexistence, namely the protection of borders and territorial integrity,” Merkel said last week in Davos, Switzerland.

Even if the proposal is just bluster, a direct comparison between the two events does seem a little hard to make. The reunification of Germany occurred after Hungary removed its border fence, allowing thousands of East Germans to escape to the West, and eventually helped to topple the Berlin Wall. After large protests, the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) later held free and fair elections in 1990, which led to the formation of a pro-reunification government that signed an agreement to dissolve East Germany and join the West.

Meanwhile, the annexation of Crimea followed violence in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and the mysterious arrival of the "little green men" widely assumed to be Russian troops. A rushed referendum was held with these troops in Crimea, which produced overwhelmingly pro-Russian results.

As Gorbachev put it, the times are different. "You can't make judgments about what happened in another era, 25 years ago, from current-day conditions," the former general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union told Interfax. "What referendum could have been held while hundreds of thousands of people rallied both in the GDR and the FRG [the Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany], the only motto being 'We are one nation?' "

© The Washington Post

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in