Merkel is known for not reacting spontaneously. Never resentful, always diplomatic and careful with her choice of words. This is the chancellor's strength, even if the lack of any impulsivity can sometimes be boring.
This is why only a few of her quotes are ever repeated. Such as her description of the security of Israel being "part of Germany's raison d'Etat", or her description of the Internet as "virgin territory".
Likewise her comment on whether she had read the highly controversial book by Thilo Sarrazin ("No, the pre-publication material was completely sufficient to understand the thesis, core and intention of his arguments," she said), and her rejection of adoption rights for homosexuals ("I will tell you quite honestly, I have difficulties with complete equality,") or her abrupt about-turn on nuclear power after Fukushima ("I had not expected that what I had seen as only a theoretical and thus reasonable, small risk, would become reality").
Merkel had to justify herself in all these five cases. Her mouth ran away with her, as one says. She might well now earn much applause for her description of US diplomat Victoria Nuland's comments as "absolutely unacceptable". Nuland, who is head of the US State Department's Europe section, said "Fuck the EU" during a phone call with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
"Fuck the EU" is not on, but also not simple
Of course this is simply not on. It is the kind of thing that a passionate European has to oppose in the strongest possible terms – regardless of the question whose Ukraine policy is more consistent, that of the US or the Europeans.
But the matter is not quite so simple. The telephone conversation between Nuland and Pyatt was obviously tapped and the clip published on Youtube. Initially the Youtube link was spread via Twitter by a member of the Russian government. Not only the White House but also the Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitchko seem to smell a rat here – Russia trying to create a problem between the US and Europe. An argument should be provoked from which above all the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovich should profit.
"All sides must react with composure and not fall into this trap," suggested Klitschko. Nothing is proven. But the simple cui-bono (who benefits) question should make a chancellor mistrustful – and not only due to the KGB background of Vladimir Putin.
Merkel seems to be uninterested in all of this – in whose business she is doing in this case. Rather, she believes she must accommodate all those who find themselves on a collision course with Washington because of the NSA spying affair and the free trade agreement.
Has the chancellor lost her compass? Does the probable illegality of the tapped phone call not matter in this case because Americans were spied upon and other secret services than the NSA were obviously involved? She should shatter this impression as fast as possible. Impulsivity can be forgiven. A lack of orientation in foreign policy would, in contrast, be fatal.