German spy chief's statement about Russia: reaction

Germany is trying to determine the severity of the 'Russian threat', as well as find out what hides behind Bruno Kahl's public statement
Germany is trying to determine the severity of the 'Russian threat', as well as find out what hides behind Bruno Kahl's public statement

Recent statements by the head of Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND Bruno Kahl about Russia continue to be in the focus of attention of the Western press. The head of BND, known for traditionally avoiding publicity, spoke very harshly about the 'Russian threat' recently. "Instead of a partner for European security we have in Russia a potential danger. The world political actor Russia is back — and it will be an uncomfortable neighbor," Bruno Kahl said, speaking at the Hanns Seidel political foundation in Munich. The head of German intelligence agency also said about the "unsettling" modernization of the Russian army. Kahl also stressed the exceptional importance for Germany of a military alliance with the United States. German spy chief's public report attracted varying reactions in Germany - from full support to bewilderment.

Deutsche Welle cites Sebastian Schulte, the Germany correspondent for military magazine Jane's Defence Weekly. Schulte said Kahl's comments were "realistic, pragmatic, and echo the analysis of other observers." "We are not talking enough about Russia's behavior towards the West, Europe and the Eastern European countries in particular, in the mainstream public sphere," Schulte believes. "There is a low-intensity shooting war going on between Russia-backed forces and Ukraine, and the lack of public analysis that goes beyond the mere reporting of events is astounding."

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher and head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague, believes that some of Kahl's observations could be true but said the overall argument was "framed in alarmist terms." "Is it clear that Russia is much more assertive and aggressive and is it trying to essentially neutralize Europe? Yes, that's accurate. But I must admit I was surprised at the emphasis on the military dimension and the implication that Russia is a direct military threat, because that's inaccurate," DW cited the expert as saying. Galeotti pointed out that although the Kremlin is boosting its armed forces, Russia still likely has a long way to go before it catches up to NATO. And, what's more, if you look at European NATO countries, without thinking of the US and Canada, they have more ground troops than Russia has. Galeotti also pointed out that Russia has reduced its defense budget by 7% in the past year.

Mark Galeotti said there was an irony to such statements by figures of authority like Kahl. "When I talk to people I know in the Russian military, there is a degree of exasperation about how the West is alarmist about Russian intent and capacity. But there is also a degree of satisfaction, because the more Russia is played up as this great power with these phenomenal capabilities, that makes Russia more powerful. This kind of talk plays into Moscow's hands," the expert summed up.

Meanwhile, an interesting version, explaining German spy chief's statements, was put forward by the German leftist newspaper Linke Zeitung. "The mere fact that Bruno Kahl delivered such a speech is an extraordinary event. As a rule, the federal intelligence service advises the government behind closed doors and does not interfere in public debate. The fact that Bruno Kahl made this report a few days before the supposed completion of coalition talks on the formation of a new government and used the CSU party's site (the Hanns Seidel foundation is the CSU party fund - VK), which was involved in the talks, could be interpreted only as a direct intervention of the security services in the process of forming the government," the author Peter Schwarz writes.

Schwarz recalls that the chairman of the Bundeswehr Association, André Wüstner, earlier requested the parties participating in the creation of the government coalition to increase military spending. "The fact that representatives of the special services and the military openly intervene in the coalition negotiations that have not yet ended is a wake-up call. Because, given the role of the Reichswehr and the special services in the end of the Weimar Republic and Hitler's rise to power, the principle of their submission to civil authorities was strictly observed in modern Germany, at least on paper. Today this tradition has been broken," the author concludes.