Photo of the bloody massacre of civilians in Bucza, on the outskirts of Kiev. Ukrainian authorities blamed the Russian army for this. But Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has also made serious accusations against former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He invited him to Bucza to see “what the concession policy to Russia has made over the last 14 years,” Zelenskiy said.
14 years ago, during the NATO summit in Bucharest, especially Merkel and the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made sure that Ukraine did not accept the invitation to NATO, so as not to provoke Russia. Today Zelenski called it a “miscalculation” with Ukraine now experiencing “the worst war in Europe since World War II.”
Credit to the Kremlin
Merkel’s government also ruled out arms shipments to Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. In addition, shortly thereafter, she approved the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic gas pipeline, passing through Ukraine as a transit country. “How else could Moscow understand this if not as a tacit agreement to an armed border transfer?” Henning Hoff of the German Council on Foreign Relations asked.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke directly to Merkel: – Chancellor, you have been silent since the beginning of the war. However, it was Germany’s policies over the past ten to fifteen years that led to the power of Russia today, based on a monopoly on the sale of raw materials, he said recently at a press conference. And under Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government, Germany blocked tougher EU sanctions – added Morawiecki.
Merkel and Scholz are not the only people under fire at this point. Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, accused German President and former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday in “Tagesspiegel” that for him “relationships with Russia are something basic, even sacred, no matter what, even even aggressive warfare doesn’t play a major role.” Perhaps never in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany has a foreign ambassador been so harsh on a German head of state.
“The Great Self-Deception”
The criticism applies not only to individuals, but to all of Germany’s foreign, security and trade policies over the past 30 or so years. – Too much dialogue and too little harshness towards the Kremlin – Melnyk concluded recently.
Political scientist Stephan Bierling of the University of Regensburg confirmed in an interview with DW this assessment: – Since Putin took office, all federal governments have signaled that trouble-free relations with Moscow are more important to them than the fate of Ukraine. This prompted the Kremlin to launch an attack.
On March 24, Bierling condemned Germany’s entire foreign policy of recent years as a “huge self-deception” in the magazine “Cicero”. Under the umbrella of the US military, Germany “gives in to pacifist illusions” and concentrates on its interests.
Naivety towards Beijing
Bierling also sees this pattern in his policies towards China. And he lists: “seeking economic gains, naive belief in the possibility of liberalizing the empire from without, sacrificing treatment of democratic ideals, such as human rights and free speech, so as not to anger the rulers.”
It is true that many European governments, including Washington, have criticized Germany’s policies towards Russia and China over the years. But that didn’t help – until February 24, Russian troops entered Ukraine.
Loss of credibility
When war broke out, Chancellor Scholz spoke of a “historic turning point”. Did he also mean a fundamental change in German foreign policy?
This week, President Steinmeier has – once again – publicly acknowledged the “wrong decisions” on Melnyk’s allegations, for example on the issue of Nord Stream 2, which hurt Germany’s credibility. However, when Putin takes office, it is not known which direction he will go. Henning Hoff disagrees with this statement: Since the Chechen war in 1999 at the latest, it is possible to recognize the “criminal, hyper-nationalist” nature of the Putin regime.
Alexander Dobrindt, head of the parliamentary group CSU, is one of the few German politicians to continue to defend the traditional policy known as “Wandel durch Handel”. It was supposed to ensure peace and create shared prosperity, but Putin ruined it all. “But at the time, this decision was not fundamentally wrong because of this,” Dobrindt said.
Merkel stays to the point
The only thing known about Angela Merkel, who – apart from statements issued immediately after the invasion of Russia – has said nothing other than that she does not regret her decision in 2008 to block Ukraine’s accession to NATO. Merkel “reaffirms her decision taken in connection with the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest,” Merkel’s spokeswoman said.
His position, however, is still in line with the consensus within NATO itself: Most Allies are secretly happy that they are not obligated to provide Ukraine with military assistance because they do not want to be drawn into war with Russia.
Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz, sees it that way too. However, a few weeks ago it was unthinkable: Today, the government with the chancellor of the SPD and vice-chancellor of the Green Party wants to rearm the Bundeswehr on a large scale and supply weapons to war-torn Ukraine. “This is a break with an old tradition,” admitted Scholz on Wednesday.
The Bundeswehr is a laughing stock
What do these two foreign policy experts suggest to the German government? To modernize the Bundeswehr, which was “viewed as a laughing stock” by both friends and foes, suggested Stephan Bierling.
According to him, the German government should develop a European and then global security strategy. He also lacks “politicians in Germany knowledgeable about security issues; apart from a few exceptions, neither side has much to offer here.”
According to Henning Hoff, the goal should be for Germany to become a military “player” that can play a role in NATO and the EU commensurate with its economic interests.
German mediation still needed
Despite the harsh criticism of the previous course, that does not mean that German diplomacy and mediation are no longer necessary. The Ukrainian ambassador, Melnyk, demanded German arms, but he also called on the chancellor to be more active in mediating in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. “We need Olaf Scholz’s personal leadership, especially today,” Melynk said in an interview with Reuters news agency. “This will be the litmus test of the new German foreign policy.”
In this context, Melnyk also supports the Normandy format, namely a meeting between representatives of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, which was largely initiated by Merkel. A sign that this format is not out of date: “We ask Chancellor Scholz to convene the Normandy Summit in Berlin as soon as possible.” For Melnyk, however, the current squad is insufficient, which may reflect a certain distrust from Berlin: “It is also clear that we need Americans to negotiate with Putin with one voice and in a strong position.”
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