With all the huffing and puffing going on around Crimea, Ukraine, and Putin’s metamorphosis into Hitler, it’s a pleasure to read that Germany’s Merkel is trying to learn from the past:
In contrast to the posturing and empty rhetoric in London and Washington is the calm voice of Germany's Angela Merkel. We hear that she and her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have been reading Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers, an analysis of the countdown to the Great War. Steinmeier invited Clark to Berlin to debate the topic. Imagine a British politician reading such a book, let alone acting on it.
Clark traces the way highly charged relations between states trap players into losing room for manoeuvre. They caricature their foes and turn their backs on compromise. Merkel grew up in East Germany under the KGB's lash and has tried to see Putin through Russian eyes. She sees the absurdity of Barack Obama preaching international law at Russia, of punishing it over Crimea while scheming to bring Ukraine into the western camp. She sees the 1914 danger, of vague ultimatums, unenforcible red lines and ill-considered alliances.
Putin emerges from this crisis not as clever and calculating but as an emotional, scary figure, lonely and alarmingly bereft of checks or balances. His seizure of Crimea has been popular and, in the scheme of things, no big outrage against international order. But the sabre-rattling along Nato's eastern border is as provocative as were the careless antics of Nato and the EU in Kiev over recent years. Putin too needs a bridge over which to retreat.
The cold war dinosaurs who still tramp the corridors and editorial columns of London and Washington seem almost to pine for the virile certainties of 1945-89.
Time to think a bit like that old rogue, Kissinger, folks, and to brush off your Getting to Yes – read about analyzing interests of all parties and then negotiating based on meeting needs and interests rather than just positions.