Merkel’s legacy being rapidly re-appraised
Nothing directly to do with Madeira, but couldn’t resist covering a feature in The Times recently reporting how Angela Merkel’s previously perfect public rating in Germany was rapidly being re-assessed and downgraded.
The newspaper reports that was not quite four months ago that Angela Merkel packed up the giant wooden chess queen that stood in a corner of her office and removed the silver-framed portrait of the Russian empress Catherine the Great from her desk as she left the German chancellery for the last time.
Her reputation seemed guaranteed – with over 16 years of almost relentless crisis-fighting, she had more or less kept the European show on the road single-handedly and preserved her own country’s prosperity and stability. Asked to assess her time in office as a whole, 80% of Germans at the time said it had been good.
Merkel’s “grave miscalculations”
Just weeks later, President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the cost of that prosperity and the hollowness of that stability. The German press now runs daily articles dissecting what one prominent commentator has called “Merkel’s toxic legacy”. She now stands accused of leaving Ukraine, Europe and Germany itself at the mercy of the Kremlin through a series of grave miscalculations, from diplomatic indulgence towards Moscow and chronic underspending on the military to an energy strategy built on cheap Russian hydrocarbons.
“Mrs Chancellor,” as Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, said on Monday, “it was precisely Germany’s policies over the past ten, 15 years that meant Russia today has a strength founded on its monopoly over raw materials.”
A day earlier President Zelensky of Ukraine had invited Merkel to visit the scenes of Russian atrocities in Bucha and witness for herself what “the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in the past 14 years”.
Merkel, 67, who is now working on her memoirs, has largely kept to herself since the start of the war, surfacing only with two terse written statements in which she condemned the onslaught on Ukraine but said she stood by her decision to obstruct the country’s path to Nato membership in 2008.
The Times observes that the fixation on her individual decisions often seems like a form of displacement activity that distracts from the central point: the mess in which her country finds itself today is down to three decades of collective mistakes on the part of virtually the entire German establishment.
As Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel’s long-serving finance minister recently put it: “I too thought we had to co-operate with Russia. Today I know — I was wrong. We were all wrong.” The Guadian notes that since then, all eyes have been on Gerhard Schröder, the unrepentant ex-chancellor who in his final weeks in power shook hands with Vladimir Putin to ratify the Nord Stream pipeline underneath the Baltic Sea. Just weeks later, Schröder slipped effortlessly through the revolving door to become chairman of Nord Stream.
COVID-19 in Madeira: updates can be found in an earlier post