Even now, the country’s political elite is attempting to justify its scandalous approach to the Kremlin
IAIN DALE 28 November 2022 •
Boris Johnson must have known exactly what he was doing when he made his incendiary remarks last week, accusing Germany of thinking it would have been preferable for Ukraine to fold as soon as possible after the Russian invasion started on February 24. He might as well have thrown a hand grenade into the Bundestag.
Despite Johnson’s often loose association with the truth, this time he was surely speaking it. Germany should never be allowed to escape the shame it ought to feel over both its reaction to the Ukraine crisis and its policy in the previous decade of cosying up to Vladimir Putin in order to suck on the teat of cheap Russian energy supplies. I say this as a fluent German speaker, and someone who considers himself to be a friend of the country.
Since the end of February, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has walked a tightrope of indecision and appeasement. Occasionally, he will talk tough and pledge change. He appeared to overthrow decades of German defence and foreign policy, just after the invasion began, by promising to increase defence spending by 100 billion euros. On that, as on so much else, however, he has failed to deliver.
Even now the German political elite seems ignorant of the scandalous errors it has made. Angela Merkel’s recent attempt at a mea culpa – she gave an interview in which she said she felt powerless to influence Putin once he knew she was standing down – was laughable. She even appeared to compare herself with Neville Chamberlain, who, she implied, used appeasement to buy time for Britain to rearm. Was she buying time when she decided to switch off Germany’s nuclear power plants, increasing the country’s dependence on Russian gas? What about her 2008 decision to block Ukraine from joining Nato?
It’s hardly as if Berlin wasn’t warned, either. Over the years, Western leaders from Blair to Trump told Germany that it was pursuing a dangerous policy towards Russia, particularly with regard to projects such as Nord Stream 2. Incredibly, Scholz only suspended that pipeline on the eve of the Russian invasion. But why did we expect anything different from a man who previously served as Merkel’s coalition deputy?
I suspect Germany reacted so badly to Boris Johnson’s allegation because German politicians and the German media knew it was an uncomfortable truth that they still are not prepared to learn from. They may have toughened up their rhetoric, but does anyone really believe they have changed?
Iain Dale presents the Evening Show on LBC Radio