Former chancellor refuses to apologize for Germany’s reliance on Russian gas, arguing alternative energy was too expensive
Written on Jorg Luyken
Angela Merkel has said “the Cold War never ended” as she admitted she should have spent more money on Germany’s military while she was chancellor. In her most critical comments yet on her own legacy, Ms. Merkel conceded that “we should have ‘reacted more quickly to Russia’s aggressiveness,” saying she took personal responsibility for not “making impassioned speeches about it every day”. The recognition that she should have done more to build a compelling military deterrence “preoccupied” her, Ms. Merkel told Die Zeit newspaper. “The Cold War never really ended because Russia was basically not satisfied,” she said. After the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Germany raised its military spending but never managed to hit a NATO spending target of two per cent of GDP under her watch. In the interview, she conceded that this had weakened her ability to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, saying she “didn’t do enough” to deter Mr. Putin by modernising the German military. But the former chancellor refused to repent from the energy policies which led Germany to deepen its reliance on Russian gas, particularly through the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea. Arguing that alternative sources of energy would have been too expensive, she said that buying elsewhere would have been “a massive political decision” that “wouldn’t have been accepted”. She added that blocking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would have “dangerously damaged” relations with the Kremlin at a time when Berlin was trying to mediate a cease-fire in the east of Ukraine. Any admission of fault would be disingenuous, she insisted, claiming that it would be “pathetic” to show contrition “just to have peace of mind”.
Legacy has fallen apart
Ms. Merkel left office after 16 years in power a year ago, when she handed over the reins to Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats. After years of economic stability, her approval ratings were sky-high when she left office. But since then, much of her legacy has fallen apart in a remarkably short time. Last month, Wolfgang Schäuble, her long-time finance minister, said in an interview that he found it remarkable that “even now she cannot say that we made mistakes”. “We didn’t want to see it,” Mr. Schäuble said of Germany’s dependence on Russia, adding that “that was true for everyone”. ‘Mr. Putins invasion of Ukraine left Germany scrambling to find new supplies of gas. The higher energy prices that German industry is likely to have to pay in the future has led to anxiety that the German economy has become vulnerable.
Soft approach on China
Ms. Merkel’s soft approach on China has also come in for criticism. Mr. Scholz’ own coalition allies have pleaded with him not to do “Merkel as usual” as he visited Beijing, a reference to her policy of putting business before human rights issues. Meanwhile, Mr. Scholz has said that he plans to have a European air defence system up and running within five years. He told French newspaper Ouest-France that his government is “talking to the manufacturers of the various systems to get ready for concrete decisions”. The air defence system, the so-called European Sky Shield, has the backing of Germany and more than a dozen other NATO countries. The weapon systems under consideration include German Iris-T, Israel’s Arrow 3 system, and the US Patriot system.
Source: The Telegraph, United Kingdom.