A group of professors from the University of California-Berkeley addressed Germans in the newspaper Die Welt with a warning about the presence of “Putin’s fifth column” in Europe. They are sounding the alarm over the influence of Russian propaganda on perceptions in EU countries of Moscow’s policies and actions. At the same time, the article suggests that the German government, as the most important government in the EU, explain to the public “what is at stake — and why continuing on the current path could end up delivering the EU into Putin’s hands.”
The demarche from Berkeley undoubtedly reflects the cautious attitudes toward Europeans found in Washington’s political echelons. American supporters of escalation of the Ukrainian crisis are obviously not satisfied with Minsk-2 and the operational contact it established among leaders of the “Normandy Four” on issues related to the implementation of the agreements. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham once again demanded immediate arms deliveries to Kiev, just as they did during the course of the recent Munich Security Conference. Simultaneously, according to German media, the senators accused German Chancellor Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who helped broker the agreement in Minsk regarding the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, of acquiescing to Putin.
The publication in Die Welt seems as though it was timed to coincide with the response to the latest European settling of the conflict. The letter is signed by three professors of economics and political science: Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Gerard Roland and Edward W. Walker. The latter is the executive director of the Berkeley Program in Eurasian and East European Studies. Warning Europeans, the authors draw a terrifying picture of active Russian propaganda, the politically motivated bribery of politicians, the takeover of newspapers by Russian oligarchs, and collaboration with Euroskeptic governments and parties throughout Europe. And they are turning to Germans, because only Germany can set back this force.
Russian oligarchs, the California political scientists write, are buying up European newspapers, including The Independent, Evening Standard and France Soir. There is reference to “pro-Putin connections” in French universities, the mass media, the business community, etc. And “Gazprom” allegedly financed opponents of shale gas production in Latvia and Romania. The political scientists assert that the Kremlin’s policy toward Ukraine is being supported by “a dense network of Putin supporters — including the Princeton University Professor Stephen F. Cohen, Czech President Miloš Zeman, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the German leftist Matthias Platzeck and the Dutch rightist Geert Wilders.” In sum, a list of the “untrustworthy.”
This list is much longer in the German media, particularly in outlets owned by the Axel Springer SE concern. Even former chancellors are included on the list. But the authors of the letter, and those who stand behind them, evidently consider it a timely moment to urge German sympathizers toward more diligent efforts. In their view, it is most unfitting that, “Despite the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West — or perhaps because of them — Putin enjoys remarkable support among some European intellectuals and politicians.” And the European establishment is insufficiently countering Moscow’s offensive, the authors reproachfully argue.
Meanwhile, there are reports that far from all Americans support the Ukraine policies of President Barack Obama, and even more so those of the Republican hawks. The Ukraine crisis is perceived by the U.S. population as something far away. According to a Gallup poll, only 44 percent of survey respondents view the Ukraine conflict as a threat to America’s vital interests. The terrorist organization the Islamic State is another matter; 84 percent of Americans are concerned about it.
Der Spiegel reports from Washington that the Brookings Institution wrote that, “[Ukraine] is culturally and geographically supremely important to the Russians and yet for the United States it has no intrinsic geopolitical importance and is not a treaty ally.” In this sense, Jeremy Shapiro, an expert at this think tank, sees no sense in escalating the situation through arms deliveries, which could in any case be nullified by Russian countermeasures. Instead, Shapiro and other experts propose beginning negotiations with Vladimir Putin about a new system of European security. This would be a realistic political strategy, the magazine concludes.