Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was the last German Chancellor I could witness in Germany between 1974 to 1982. He was a Social Democrat. I believe we didn't have a Chancellor of his stature ever since. He was born the same year my father was born in my "hometown" of Hamburg and is today 95 years old. He is now (a chain-smoking) publisher of the reknown weekly newspaper "Die Zeit". Before Helmut Schmidt became Chancellor he was Minister of Defense, Minister of Finance and briefly Minister of Economics as well as acting Foreign Minister. He also managed a dangerous flood during a Hurrikane that hit Hamburg in 1962 and saved a lot of Hamburg citizens, being then a local Hamburg politician. His actions during that flood helped him a lot in his later elections to become German Chancellor.
When he sits down to talk, many in Germany listen. I was waiting to hear from him about his views on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and today the German Weekly news magazine "Der Spiegel" published an article under (the roughly translated) title Former Chancellor Schmidt defends Putin's Ukraine-Course.
Helmut Schmidt said that he thinks that the Russian approach is "quite understandable". Sanctions are in his opinion "rubbish". The situation in the Ukraine may be dangerous - but he puts the blame for that on the West.
Further sanctions, he said, would miss the target, they would have only symbolic character, but could harm and hit the West as much as they would hit Russia.
Helmut Schmidt's comments now strengthen those in the German public debate, who lobby for "Understanding for Moscow". Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had argued similarly, but I would say that Helmut Schmidt's words might be taken more seriously at least among the elderly generation of Germans.
Helmut Schmidt also criticized the decision of the West to not cooperate with Russia under the G8 framework. He said it would be "ideal to sit down together". It would be more becoming to peace than the threats of sanctions would be. He added that the G8 is in fact not as important as the G20. Russia has not been (so far) shown the door out of the G20.
Helmut Schmidt said the situation in Ukraine is dangerous, because "the West is terribly exasperated with the situation". This leads, he said, obviously to the situation where the public in Russia gets also very upset and troubled. He praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel's "carefulness" and "precaution".
Questioned, if he could imagine a Russian intervention in the Eastern part of Ukraine, Helmut Schmidt responded: "I deny to engage in speculations, but I think it is conceivable. I consider it a mistake, though, if the West pretends that this intervention would be inevitably the next step of Russian actions. This would only lead to potentially wet the Russian's appetite."
Well, that's it. Just reporting some things people don't like too much in these parts of the woods, but in the German forests there might be more people leaning towards the thinking of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt than you would think.