The Telegraph wrote:
Reckless Germany is making war in Ukraine more likely
Compromised by reliance on Russian gas, Berlin is undermining the West’s ability to deter Putin
"Since taking office, I talked more about security in Ukraine than about any other country,” German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Monday. But talk is all she offered Kiev against Russian boots and tanks at the border. Threats that Moscow would pay a “high price” for an invasion remain empty as she insists that “diplomacy is the only viable path”. Germany’s undermining of Western attempts to deter Putin make open conflict more likely, not less.
It should not have come as a surprise to Kiev that Baerbock appeared empty-handed on her visit. In the previous days and weeks, Ukraine has thrown a desperate mixture of pleas, demands and accusations at Germany, including an uncomfortable reminder of the crimes commited in Ukraine by the Nazi regime, designed to guilt-trip the country into action.
But to no avail. Germany’s dependence on Russian gas is greater than its desire to stand up to Putin’s aggression. While in the past, Baerbock stood shoulder to shoulder with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he called the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline “leverage for Europe to use against Russia”, it is unlikely that lights out in Germany will be an acceptable price to pay for the protection of Ukraine’s borders.
Baerbock has only been in office for 43 days and many had hoped that she would bring a more principled stance to German foreign policy. In July last year, she told journalists, “we don’t need this pipeline, for reasons tied to climate policy and certainly with respect to European policy”. But now it seems the realities of the situation are sinking in. If she and her colleagues are adamant that all of Germany’s nuclear reactors must be switched off this year, dependence on Russian gas is the inevitable consequence.
On her visit to Moscow yesterday, Baerbock was no doubt reminded of this uncomfortable truth by Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. Nicknamed “Minister Nyet” for his stubborn refusal to compromise in negotiations, he enjoys a fierce reputation among Western diplomats. Meanwhile, a new survey has shown that the relatively inexperienced Baerbock is seen as unfit for the office she holds by 60 per cent of the German public – the lowest score of any of the new government ministers.
Her plan has been to persuade Moscow to return to the so-called Normandy Format – talks between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. But it was always unclear how Baerbock could cajole or threaten Putin into such talks.
But it would be unfair to blame Baerbock for the situation. The dilemma she finds herself in was made by others – former chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel. The former initiated Nord Stream 2 and is still chairman of its shareholders’ committee. The latter oversaw the construction process and accelerated Germany’s nuclear exit. Now Baerbock will take the political blame for her country’s dependence on Russia.
Her co-leader of the Green Party Robert Habeck (previously a vocal supporter of arms sales to Ukraine) has kept his head down, and the new Chancellor Olaf Scholz remains evasive. He has previously called Nord Stream 2 a “private economy project” and when pressed on Ukraine during a visit to Madrid on Monday, he answered that “everything must be done to prevent a military escalation”. Without any commitment from her colleagues or indeed the chancellor, Baerbock went to Moscow with her hands tied.
Germany’s empty rhetoric about Russia “paying a high price” should it invade Ukraine is risky for itself and its allies. The tensions with the US and Britain over this are there for everyone to see. Germany narrowly avoided US economic sanctions over Nord Stream 2 and the matter is still not off the table. Meanwhile, the UK is sending light anti-tank weapons to Ukraine for its defence while avoiding German airspace as it does. It could not be more obvious to Putin that the West does not pose a united front against Russian aggression. He might well decide to call Germany’s bluff. The conflict that would follow can be avoided through deterrence. But Germany’s barking without bite is ineffectual and reckless.
Katja Hoyer is an Anglo-German historian. She is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London and the author of ‘Blood and Iron – The Rise and Fall of the German Empire 1871-1918’
It has been clear for a long time now that Germany has been tactically supporting Putin all throughout just like she has been tactically supporting Erdogan, despite her official position otherwise.
...take your common sense with you, and leave your prejudices behind...