02/26/2015 08:29 am ET Updated Apr 28, 2015

'Germany Is Out of the Danger Business'

These words were spoken to me by the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum, in an interview I had with him in his office in Pariser Platz in Berlin which he had set up following his ambassadorship.

Ambassador Kornblum went on to say that Germany was in a state of "spiritual paralysis." But this interview was some years back, and it is now almost 70 years since the trauma of Germany's crushing defeat in World War II in 1945 and its collective shame over the Holocaust.

In recent years, Germany has developed a modest military capability, but this is far from what it could be. The fact is that Germany is the only European country that has the potential to stand up to Vladimir Putin's Russia. Together with France, which thanks to Charles de Gaulle, did not have hang-ups about maintaining a strong military capability and equipped itself with an independent nuclear force, this could be a formidable check on a resurgent and hostile Russia.

The reason Putin has been able to consistently wrong-foot the European allies in the negotiations over Ukraine is that he holds all the major cards. This would not necessarily be the case if a military parity between Russia and Western Europe were to come about.

Whether German public opinion -- shocked by Putin's callousness over the Malaysian Airlines shootdown and the plundering of dead pasengers's bodies, and the persistent double-dealing in his negotiations with Angela Merkel and François Hollande -- can develop an aspiration to become a major military power again, remains an open question. But it is the question of the hour.