"We Germans fear God, nothing else in the world" – this sentence, which used to be read on monuments, postcards and wall plates, has not been seen or heard for a long time. Only a few German politicians want to come out as connoisseurs of Bismarck, let alone as his admirers. In addition, the statement would have long since passed far from reality.
It would be truer that we Germans no longer fear God, but almost everything else in the world: climate change, nuclear power, nuclear war, cultural appropriation. When foreign countries think of Germany at night, they no longer think of Bismarck or Prussian militarism, but "le Waldsterben" and, in English, the "German Angst".
Putin certainly relied on them when he gave the order to invade Ukraine. Even in his imperialist delusion, it must have been clear to him that the reaction of the West would no longer be as – fatally – moderate as after the annexation of Crimea. Even then, Putin reminded us to secure his booty that he not only had "little green men", but also nuclear weapons. From his point of view, this worked so well that when he reached for the whole of Ukraine, he again set up a nuclear threat backdrop to prevent the West from coming to the aid of the invaders, perhaps even with its own troops.
The threat of an escalation of the war did not fail to have an effect, not even with the superpower USA, which wants to become as little a party to the war as its European allies. Nowhere has the fear of being drawn into the war been declared so loud and clear as a guideline for one's own policy as in Berlin. At the center of the reluctance to deliver weapons was the concern that the Ukrainians could use German weapons to inflict such humiliating defeats on the Russian invaders that Putin, who is now also fighting for the survival of his regime in Ukraine, could use weapons of mass destruction or even attack NATO territory.
Minsk has been as unstoppable to Putin as Munich has been to stop Hitler
Putin has been a KGB agent in Dresden long enough to know that the Germans fear nothing more than war and want nothing more than peace and the best possible relationship with Russia. This should come as no surprise to anyone in view of Germany's history.
Putin, however, did not interpret the broad understanding of Russia's positions since Willy Brandt's time and the willingness to come to an understanding to the point of self-deception as a strength, but as a sign of weakness. The fact that Germany became increasingly dependent on Russian energy supplies, even after the annexation of Crimea, can only have strengthened his belief that little resistance can be expected from Berlin if he also smashed the rest of Ukraine.
The Minsk process, in which Merkel had high hopes, has been as unstoppable for Putin as the Munich Agreement was for Hitler. Allegedly, Merkel wanted to buy time for Ukraine with Minsk in order to massively rearm. Then it is even harder to understand why Berlin did not use the years to turn the emaciated Bundeswehr back into a powerful army. That would have been something that would have impressed Putin.
But while he was probably already beginning to build up ammunition and currency reserves for his next war, a German defense minister opened kindergartens – not without first thoroughly cleansing the barracks of any memory of the Wehrmacht. Judging by the effort and noise with which this happened, Wehrmacht submachine guns painted on the wall posed a greater danger than the Russian armament with hypersonic missiles. From Putin's point of view, Germany must have looked like a lap dog offering a wolf belly and throat in the hope of being spared.