All countries sometimes conduct policy based on stereotypes and a bit of wish-fulfillment. John Vinocur in the WSJ (paywalled, alas) discusses the role unreality plays in German attitudes towards Russia and the present-day implications thereof.
This is pretty much exactly right:
But the wider context for the German government involves postwar national guilt, and centuries of a both romantic and ruthless vision of Russia as a nearby Amazonia. It represents enormous potential German wealth, coupled with a German notion of Russia’s need for German guidance.
Hence Germany’s unreliability in the Ukrainian crisis:
All the same, it is commonplace among allies to say that Germany is an ultimately sure partner in the Ukraine crisis because of Mrs. Merkel’s known mistrust and dislike of Mr. Putin. But the notion can wear thin.
After years of Germany accommodating Russia, the problem now comes down to weak expectations for fundamental change in Germany’s approach. Since little in the realm of future cooperation can be expected of Mr. Putin, it would be reasonable for Berlin to consider that its current relations with Russia can not survive the Crimean aggression.
But Mrs. Merkel, Mr. Steinmeier and German public opinion give no sign of willingness to concede the point.
Leading to the conclusion:
If Ukraine instead winds up dismembered, neutralized and parceled into Russian quasi-protectorates through an ugly international deal, the result will be a triumph for Vladimir Putin and an undisguised defeat for Barack Obama. As for Germany, it would mean life and business continuing pretty much as usual—on Germany’s own deeply self-involved terms
Read the whole thing if you can.