Controversy over an analogy between Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Nazi Germany’s seizure of Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia distracts from efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on March 31 that an escalation of tensions in Ukraine may give Russia reason to annex more parts of the country under the pretext of protecting its citizens, adding that “Hitler took over the Sudetenland with such methods.” Schaeuble said late yesterday his comment wasn’t meant as a comparison.
“In the context of the crisis around Ukraine we have completely different worries, are making very different political efforts to come to a de-escalation and also have very different expectations regarding Russia’s behavior,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin today.
Seibert’s comments suggest Merkel wants to control damage done by her 71 year-old minister, a member of the lower house of parliament for 41 years. Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the comments, which were also the subject of talks with the new German ambassador on his first visit to the ministry in Moscow yesterday.
“Of course it goes without saying that the federal government and indeed all members of the federal government are fully aware of the great suffering of the Russian peoples in World War II, the enormous damage and the enormous atrocities that have been committed there in the name of Germany,” Seibert said.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said at today’s government press conference the tone of the conversation attended by Ambassador Ruediger Freiherr von Fritsch didn’t reflect the tone of the statement published by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Schaeuble, in the interview with ARD television late yesterday, said media had failed to report his comment that he’s not comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions today and Hitler’s in 1938.
“I’m not so stupid that I would compare Hitler with anyone,” Schaeuble said. “Others can do that, perhaps, and that’s also wrong, but German politicians can’t do that. We don’t compare.”