The topic for this year's Pleisweiler Gespräch was Russia. Specifically, what should Germany's foreign policy be towards Russia with a view towards stopping any military conflict: „Nie wieder Krieg – Wie sähe eine vernünftige Strategie im Umgang mit Russland aus?“ The speaker was Dr. Johannes Posth, who has lived for over 20 years in Russia and knows the country well. The basic thrust of his presentation and the ensuing discussion was that Putin and Lavrov are great statesmen who only want peace and a fruitful relationship with Germany, but are thwarted by a war-mongering United States through its influence on NATO and control of its vassal state The Federal Republic of Germany. You can access videos of Posth's speech and the discussion with the audience here.
Actually Posth strikes me as a thoughtful person - far more intelligent and knowledgeable than Albrecht Müller. But Posth is living in the past. In his speech he keeps bringing up the glory days of the SPD and Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. Germany must offer Vladimir Putin and olive branch; only through rapprochement ("Wandel durch Annäherung") can Russia be induced to change its behavior. Posth longs for the old days when the Ukraine and the Baltic States were still in Russia's "sphere of influence" and the SPD could send "peace delegations" to kneel at shrines to fallen Russian soldiers. The great tragedy was that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the US and the EU extended it boundaries - along with NATO - to the east, provoking Russia. It is therefore completely understandable that Putin would annex Crimea. Posth keeps insisting that Russia and the Ukraine are "ein Volk" - one people. And it is a terrible thing that the United States would tear them apart by indoctrinating the Ukraine people with alien concepts like "free press" and "open society". Still, Posth finds some reason for optimism in German foreign minister Steinmeiers recent appeasement tones towards the Kremlin. This is in stark contrast to the views of Albrecht Müller and many in the audience, who accuse Steinmeier of being nothing more than a puppet of Washington.'
The Q&A session is quite revealing. Early on a gentleman stands up and states that Russia's actions in Syria are deplorable, and that maybe Putin after all isn't a paragon of virtue. The poor man is jeered and nearly run out of the room for defending western values. Maybe a CIA operative? Then (at minute 40) an organizer of the "peace movement" ("Friedens-Mahnwache") stands up and condemns the German media for portraying Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as a bad person. After all, Assad is murdering hundreds of thousands of his citizens because - like Vladmir Putin - he is a man of peace. Finally, Albrecht Müller reveals to the the audience that he has discovered yet another United States conspiracy: not only does Washington control the German Foreign Office and the chancellor, but US business interests ("Blackstone and Blackrock") control German industry. This is why German corporations went along with the economic sanctions against Russia following the annexation of Crimea. All in the all, the audience at this Pleisweiler Gespräch was saddened that Germany had lost its "sovereignty" ; people are resigned that for the time being nothing much could be done to counteract American treachery and allow Germany to take its rightful place beside Russia.
What is remarkable is that this event took place just a couple of days after an international report provided irrefutable evidence that Russia was complicit in the shooting down of a civilian airliner in July of 2014, killing all 298 passengers. There was no mention of this, nor of Russia's relentless bombing of civilians in Aleppo - which was happening at the same time the event in Pleisweiler was taking place.