On Thursday, lawmakers in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, passed a resolution recognizing the Ottoman Empire's crimes against the Armenians during the First World War as genocide. Opinion polling by the Infratest dimap polling company found that 74% of Germans supported the decision.
Not everyone is happy, however, particularly some German political commentators. According to Die Welt politics and society correspondent Richard Herzinger, the 'fierce criticism' of Turkey in today's Germany only "benefits Putin's Russia," with the topic of Turkey becoming so dominant in the country's political discussion that it has diverted public attention from "the machinations of Moscow."
"It appeared to him to be proof that the destruction of an entire ethnic group was feasible, without a revolt among global public opinion to any significant extent," Herzinger recalled. At the same time, he noted, the German parliament's decision was also justified from the perspective that the Imperial German government of the time was privy to the crime.
At the same time, however, Herzinger suggested that against the background of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Moscow, this initiative has a potentially dangerous and "explosive character," with the resolution which benefited Armenia also benefiting Russia, Armenia's ally.
After the Turkish military shot down the Russian Su-24 jet last November, the "autocrats Putin and Erdogan became involved in a bitter confrontation," the analyst said. At the same time, he added, both sides remember that the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire at the turn of 1915-1916 were called a 'Russian fifth column' by the Young Turks. The largest Armenian-populated territory had then been part of the Russian Empire, Herzinger pointed out.
"Today, the Republic of Armenia, now a former Soviet republic which has been independent since 1991, is closely allied with Russia, and part of Moscow's Eurasian Economic Union initiative." Moreover, Yerevan is in a state of war with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with Turkey supporting Azerbaijan in the hope that this will limit Russia's influence in the Caucasus.
In these circumstances, the analyst warned, the German parliament's decision can be mistakenly interpreted as a sign of solidarity with the Armenians and hence, with the Russians. Moreover, "the extremely critical attitude toward Turkey which prevails among the German public diminishes its attentions toward Moscow's machinations."
"And this concerns not only Russia's war in Syria on the side of the Assad regime, opposed by Turkey, which is driving more refugees toward Europe, but also Russia's continuing policy of aggression in Ukraine," Herzinger wrote.
The revelations of war crimes committed in eastern Ukraine, which the analyst attributed to Moscow and the 'Russian-occupied' regions, "no longer cause the same level of indignation among Germans as the Turks' persecution of journalists and other critics," he complained.
In other words, the analyst suggested, dissatisfaction with Erdogan's policies is profitable to those forces in Germany who are in favor of weakening anti-Russian sanctions and the normalization of relations with 'autocrat Putin'.
Commenting on the political commentator's analysis in Die Welte's comments section, German readers questioned his logic.
One user jokingly noted that "it's very interesting to see how any foreign policy topic can come back to Putin. God forbid that one of the statues on Eastern Island comes tumbling down, and Mr. Herzinger will begin to explain to us how Putin will be able to take advantage of this if we are not vigilant."
Another reader, quoting Herzinger's words that a "tough criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are beneficial to Putin's Russia," suggested that actually, "such criticism is beneficial to the whole world, Mr. Expert on Russia."
"No matter what happens, blame the Russians!" another user complained. "At least that's according to a fighter of the Cold War living in the past." Finally, another reader offered his two cents: "So in other words the parliament shouldn't recognize the genocide, because doing so might please Putin? Is everything alright upstairs?"