This is no time for Germany to indulge in self-interested gutlessness
SIMON HEFFER 22 January 2023 •
One could make off-colour remarks about the Germans and tanks – they never used to hesitate about sending them to other countries, such as to Ukraine in 1941 – and indeed about Teutonic regard for the sensibilities of the Russians, which used to seem not to exist at all. Now the regime of Olaf Scholz seems petrified to send tanks to Kyiv, to help drive back the monstrous and cruel invaders, in case the Russians become upset. Germany’s main fear appears to be its lights going out and its factories closing down if the Russians switch off their energy supplies.
However, this is no time for Germany to indulge in self-interested gutlessness, especially given the real nature of the present conflict: Russia is not just fighting Ukraine, it is fighting the whole civilised western world. Germany positions itself as a key part of that civilisation, the linchpin and paymaster of the European Union and since 1955 (initially as West Germany) a member of Nato.
The initial invitation to join the alliance marked the rehabilitation of the Germans after their delinquency and wickedness during the Third Reich. Their membership was, like that of all other Nato powers, conditional on participation in collective support of common ideals. The reluctance to send tanks to Ukraine suggests moral and perhaps physical cowardice. It diminishes Germany as a power in the world: having spent 78 years since the Second World War trying to prove it is capable of decency, it now suggests to the world that it will be decent only when decency suits its economic and security interests.
One can imagine the morale boost this cravenness (the Germans have a word for it – Feigheit) will be providing for an otherwise beleaguered Kremlin, and how Putin must be chortling at the spectacle of the leading European power being afraid of him and his bedraggled army.
One trusts that, in the end, the Germans, fearing also international humiliation and vilification, will send their tanks. But the fact that they will have taken so long to do so casts a stain on them that even an eventual victory over Putin will not entirely expunge.
Interesting comment from Telegraph reader Simon Brady:
“Since the end of the Cold War the secret agenda of france and Germany has been to bring Russia into some form of special relationship with the eu and Europe. For both energy security and military muscle.
Many politicians talked of the rehabilitation of the former Soviet Union into the family of European nations.
Using the same guidelines as the old coal and steel pact that heralded the formation of today’s EU. Instead of coal and steel read oil and gas.
The former Soviet Union could not only be rehabilitated with Western Europe (the eu) it could be integrated.
To do this and make it acceptable to the Russians they have to untangle from the USA and nato, hence the Germans never paying their way and the french referring to nato as brain dead. Hence the desire for an eu defence force minus the USA, UK and Canada.
This would then be something that Russia possibly could/ would accept.
France and Germany have tried to show good intention to Russia by becoming reliant on Russia for energy linking in pipe networks to Europe in the hope that Russia will also see its economic reliance upon the eu. Building infrastructure physically and creating a situation of mutual benefit that leads to seeking other closer ties.
This would then give this greater europe energy security and military might. Without it the eu in its current format is irrelevant.
Unfortunately Russia is not playing ball.
Now the eastern eu member states are waking up to this realisation that the EU’s big long term game plan involves Russia. The plan has fallen flat on its face but there is a reluctance within Germany and France to accept this, hence their hesitation in overtly or meaningfully helping Ukraine.
The eu, Germany and France have no where to go.”