Norbert Müller, a representative of Die Linke (Left Party) in the Bundestag, calls Joachim Gauck a "repulsive warmonger" on his Facebook page ("widerlichen Kriegshetzer"). Müller's colleague in the Left Party, Inge Höger, repeats the charge on her Web Site. What was it that the President could have said to provoke such a reaction?
In an interview on German radio Gauck made the following statement:
"Es gab früher eine gut begründete Zurückhaltung der Deutschen, international sich entsprechend der Größe oder der wirtschaftlichen Bedeutung Deutschlands einzulassen. Das kann ich verstehen! Aber heute ist Deutschland eine solide und verlässliche Demokratie und ein Rechtsstaat. Es steht an der Seite der Unterdrückten. Es kämpft für Menschenrechte. Und in diesem Kampf für Menschenrechte oder für das Überleben unschuldiger Menschen ist es manchmal erforderlich, auch zu den Waffen zu greifen."
(In the past it was understandable that despite Germany's size and economic power it would react with restraint on the international stage. I understand that. But Germany today is a solid and reliable democracy. It stands on the side of the oppressed. It fights for human rights. And in this struggle for human rights or the survival of innocents it is sometimes necessary to take up arms.)
Germany, as a member of NATO, is bound by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on the entire alliance. So, in a sense, Gauck was simply pointing out Germany's obligation as a member of NATO.
It is true that the Left Party is virulently pro-Putin and anti-NATO. Members of Die LINKE cheered as Putin annexed Crimea, and protested when Ukraine defended itself against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of the country. Never in a million years would members of the Left Party defend NATO members Estonia or Lithuania- much less Poland - if Putin decided to "come to the assistance" of the ethnic Russians in those countries. Obediance to Moscow is in the party's DNA, going back to its roots in the former East Germany (back then, however, it was not so reflexively pacifist: it had no problem in using military force against its own citizens).
Gauck grew up in Soviet-occupied East Germany (DDR) and his father survived Stalin's GULAG. So he might have a different perpective on Russia.
In the end, if push came to shove and Germany was under threat from Russian troops or ISIS bombs, Gauck's pacifist critics know (but never openly admit) that the "Great Imperialist Satan" - the United States- would defend it.