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How Putin Turned the Tables on German Magazine 'Bild'

Putin reached millions of Germans and showed that Russia supports open-minded dialogue

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Originally Appeared at Sputnik Deutschland. Translated from the German by Werner Schrimpf

(Translator’s note: the article tries to answer the question as to why Putin decided to grant an interview to the most ruthless, most warmongering and most “anti-Russia / anti-Putin” newspaper to be found in Germany.  One reason might be the fact that, despite steadily declining readership in Germany, this newspaper still reaches millions of readers and has quite an influence. Most of Bild’s readers are comprised of either older-aged persons and/or low to medium-educated people with a limited access to the internet and other news sources. Putin was able to reach this mass audience via Bild –  quite a smart move. There is a famous quotation from former German chancellor Gerard Schroeder that vividly describes the relevance of this newspaper: “To rule Germany, I just need the TV stations and BILD.” According to the rumors, former German chancellor Schroeder may have had a hand in establishing this interview.)

Russia expert Alexander Rahr comments on Putin’s recent interview by Germany’s flagship yellow press media „BILD“. This interview with BILD addressed an audience of millions. As an option, Putin could have used the next Munich Security Conference as a forum. But he explained that he would not travel to Munich at this time.

At first glance it seems strange that Putin gave an interview just to this media source, which is the forerunner in talking down Russia and especially Vladimir Putin. Expert for Russian affairs Mr. Alexander Rahr, author of the book “The German in Kremlin,” says this interview was made for the purpose of addressing a broad public in Germany with the following message: “We are struggling on certain political issues. But 25 years after fall of the Berlin Wall, the Russian and the German people have reached a state of reconciliation and this status shall last!”

Alexander Rahr told Sputniknews journalist Nikolai Jolkin that Putin is arguing for an open-minded dialogue which would be in the interest of Germany as well as Russia. „The intention of this interview with BILD was to address the portion of German public that is not very familiar with global policies, i.e. the crisis in the Ukraine or the agreement of Minsk,“ the expert explained. “If one is listening to German mainstream media one would get the impression that Ukraine is a poor victim of Russia’s aggressions and that the West made Russia stand in the corner via the Minsk procedures, and if Russia wants to get rid of the sanctions it must now deliver and do its homework.”

But Putin turned the tables in the course of this interview when he said, “We are all responsible for peace and understanding. But first of all, the Ukraine government has to fulfill its obligations defined in the Minsk agreement. And the Minsk agreement can only go into effect under the condition that the two independent and up to this point unrecognized republics in Eastern Ukraine reach the promised status of autonomy.

Alexander Rahr is sure that the message to the German public is as follows: „Look, it is necessary that all parties fulfill their obligations if a Minsk compromise is to be reached. And therefore the Ukraine should be put under pressure to facilitate the solution of autonomy for those regions. From that point we can push forward with the Minsk process”.

Putin‘s appreciatory remarks concerning German chancellor Merkel would be an indication that Merkel still maintains a constructive relationship with Vladimir Putin, despite the current crisis in Ukraine, according to Rahn.  One has to bear in mind that Merkel represents a European country that is a key player for Russia. “Germany has taken on a leading role during the last two decades and Putin knows that is essential to reassuring stable relations with respect to economic and political security issues. Whether one likes it or not, one has to keep an open line of communication with Merkel. This is important because Germany is, to some extent, a liaison for talks with the West” concludes Alexander Rahr.

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