Guest Column
As a German diplomat, I see the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an intolerable aggression | Column
Russia has catapulted the world back a hundred years, back to the era of imperialism and violent territorial revisionism, writes the German consul general in Miami.
This essay was written by an author who will participate in the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, which runs from Feb. 21-24, 2023.
This essay was written by an author who will participate in the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, which runs from Feb. 21-24, 2023. [ Provided ]
Published Feb. 17

Editor’s note: For years, the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs has brought together diplomats, journalists and academic experts to discuss key international issues. This year’s edition — Power and Empowerment — is planned as an in-person and livestream “hybrid” event. It will be held from Tuesday through Friday. It is free, but space is limited, and sign-up is required at This column was written by a conference participant.

I was in Pasco County, scheduled to speak to the Economic Development Council about trans-Atlantic economic relations, when I heard the devastating news about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year. I decided to change the subject and to talk about its potential consequences. Like the audience, I felt that this is of concern to all of us. It will have a much bigger impact than any other regional conflict elsewhere.

Andreas Siegel
Andreas Siegel [ Provided ]

A year into this unprovoked and unjustifiable war, my analysis of this irrational aggression remains the same: Russia has catapulted the world back a hundred years, back to the era of imperialism and violent territorial revisionism.

Russia has not only attacked Ukraine but also the rule of law, the global order and, most importantly, international trust. It has shattered the confidence in productive international cooperation and agreements. It has aggravated, in a totally irresponsible way, many other international crises we had been grappling with: the pandemic, supply chain problems, the consequences of climate change and worldwide humanitarian crises like migration and famine.

Repeated Russian attempts to justify this “special military operation” (which has already caused more than 200,000 casualties and immense human suffering) are macabre and absurd.

Russia claims to be combating a “fascist and antisemitic” regime (with a Jewish leader!) and to be protecting the russophone population (by first bombarding the largely russophone Kharkiv area).

Russia is warning against “escalation,” even while it has clearly started the aggression, and is pointing to Russian nuclear capabilities to further intimidate the Ukrainian population, and is destroying critical infrastructure and specifically aiming at civilian targets. It is even tolerating, if not encouraging, war crimes against the Ukrainian population (the towns of Bucha and Irpin have become synonyms of these inhuman atrocities).

Russia’s disinformation and propaganda war is meant to sow discord and distrust among NATO and EU members. But what a miscalculation. The invasion has since created an unprecedented unity among EU and NATO members:

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* The EU is preparing its 10th sanctions package.

* Finland and Sweden are about to join NATO.

* Ukraine and Moldova have become EU accession candidates.

* The western Balkans are eager to speed up their accession process.

* Russia’s reputation and credibility have been ruined for a generation: Last October, 143 U.N. member states voted to strongly condemn the invasion and the illegal annexation of three Ukrainian provinces (Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson).

European countries, and particularly Germany, feel the impact of the war even more than here in the United States: Berlin is just a 10-hour drive away from Lviv, in Western Ukraine (like Miami to Pensacola). Actually, this has led to three fundamental paradigm shifts in Germany since February 2022:

* Germany completely stopped its gas imports from Russia (representing about 10% of its overall energy needs), replacing it, among others, with liquid gas from the United States.

* It pledged to meet the goal of an annual military expenditure equal to 2% of GDP and created a special fund of 100 billion euros to strengthen German and NATO military capabilities.

* And it waived the restrictive, decadelong principle of not exporting arms to areas of conflict.

Germany has quickly become the biggest military supporter of Ukraine in the EU (third-largest worldwide), including with a sophisticated air defense system and — more recently — the best available battle tanks.

This breach of previous political taboos is remarkable, after decades of protected peace in Europe under the umbrella of NATO and the United States: Recent polls show that 70% of Germans support military and economic aid to Ukraine, in spite of harsh day-to-day consequences, notably high energy prices (a gallon of gas costing more than $7).

An end to the devastating Russian invasion is not in sight. A Russian retreat from Ukrainian territory has been repeatedly rejected by the Putin regime. NATO and the European Union must therefore continue to stand together with Ukraine — politically, economically and militarily — as long as it takes.

We need to preserve the international rules-based order and the credibility of the U.N. Charter and reestablish confidence that international cooperation can be a win-win situation for everyone.

Andreas Siegel is a German diplomat and has been serving as consul general in Miami since 2019. The views expressed in this article are his own.