Much is being made of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reaction to a phone call with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin that Putin was “out of touch with reality”:
US reports said Merkel phoned Barack Obama on Sunday evening after speaking to the Russian president to press him to back down from his invasion of Ukraine and occupation of the Crimean peninsula.
“She was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. ‘In another world,’ she said,” the New York Times reported.
Perhaps a better, more diplomatic, less German way of putting it is that there wasn’t a meeting of minds.
In my view the ideas that President Putin has articulated lately are just the latest expression of ideas that go back well over two hundred years in Russia and, indeed, the entire Slavic world. I might characterize them by saying that national and ethnic identities are alive and well (if that’s the right word for it given European history) in today’s Europe.
Other than the very smallest European countries there are frictions between and among ethnic groups in every one of them. In Spain I’m aware of the Catalans and the Basques but I’m sure there are others. In the United Kingdom there are at least four. In France there are at least six. Even in tiny relatively homogeneous Denmark there are three and in Finland two.
IMO Chancellor Merkel’s version of the European project is one in which national and ethnic identities are subordinated to a common European (read: German) identity.