In this edition of Eastern Express, the focus is on Germany and how its leniency with Russia helped it launch its invasion of Ukraine, as well as on the current stance of Berlin on the atrocious conflict.
A year ago, Angela Merkel’s term as chancellor came to an end. During the farewell ceremony, politicians spared no praise for her, calling her the most important leader in the EU and one of the most important in the West. However, it was Merkel who blocked Ukraine’s accession to NATO and pushed for approval of the construction of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine turned upside down not only the post-war order in Europe but also the assessment of Germany’s policy toward Russia. Where to look for visible changes in Ostpolitik? Learn more by clicking the video above.
The sins of Schroeder and the old German guard
On February 24, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “We woke up in a different world.” In early April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski invited Angela Merkel to the outskirts of Kyiv to see, as he put it, against the backdrop of a corpse in Bucza, “what the policy of appeasement toward Russia over 14 years has led to.”
Accusations are also coming from the governments of Poland and the Baltic states. And they are not directed solely at Merkel, but at a whole generation of German politicians who put their faith in the policy of taming Russia. The motto was: “transformation through trade.”
In particular, the role of Gerhard Schroeder – the former chancellor, who to this day refuses to distance himself from Putin, is seen as controversial, to say the least.
When the war broke out, Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a speech in the Bundestag, proclaiming a “turnaround in German policy,” stressing that the German government had learned the lessons of its past policies. On the other hand, Scholz warned of a third world war, hesitated to supply arms to Ukraine and a wide-ranging energy boycott against Russia. Therefore, not everyone bought his “historic breakthrough.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Scholz of continuing to block tougher EU sanctions.
What about the EU’s support for Kyiv? In May, the European Commission proposed exceptional macro-financial assistance of EUR 9 billion in loans to the government in Kyiv, in response to Russia’s ongoing aggression and Ukraine’s related economic problems. Of that amount, the European Commission disbursed only EUR 1 billion to Ukraine in early August, and it is unclear when Kyiv will receive the remaining EUR 8 billion.
Such a move would not strain the EU financially, as the funds do not come from the EU budget. The European Commission is supposed to borrow cash from the financial markets, based on guarantees from member states.
However, granting such guarantees requires unanimity among the 27 EU countries. Currently, the granting of such guarantees is opposed by Germany.
TVP World was joined by Gunnar Heinsohn of the NATO Defence College 2011-2022 and a former genocide researcher at the University of Bremen. Click the video above to listen to the conversation.