• Germany's news in English

World welcomes Merkel's face-off with Putin

The Local · 27 Nov 2014, 11:48

Published: 27 Nov 2014 11:48 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Farewell to Ostpolitik” was how The Guardian described Angela Merkel's new-found hard language on the Ukraine crisis in her speech at the Bundestag debate on the government budget.

The British paper was referencing the policy begun under Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1969 of dialogue with the Soviet Union and the former East German Democratic Republic (GDR) as a means of changing the Eastern Bloc.

“Russia Understanders” like former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder – who has called Putin a “flawless democrat” and this year invited him to his 70th birthday party – and close business links with Russia have inhibited Germany standing up for its democratic values in the face of Vladimir Putin.

But Merkel's speech on Wednesday, coming hard on the heels of a tough address to the G20, is seen by many as marking a turning point.

Tough words for Russia

“There must be no 'either-or' between Eastern Partnership countries with the European Union and Russian efforts for a closer partnership with those countries,” she told MPs.

“Nothing justifies the annexation of the Crimea by Russia.

“Nothing justifies or excuses the direct or indirect involvement of Russia in fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Russia is disdaining the territorial integrity of Ukraine... Russia's behaviour is calling peaceful order in Europe into question and breaking international law.”

But Merkel's promises of political and economic support for Ukraine and tough diplomatic talks with Russia in a strategy requiring “patience and staying power” weren't uniformly supported by lawmakers.

She was driving Germany into a “new edition of the Cold War,” Left Party (Linke) leader Sahra Wagenknecht said, accusing the Chancellor of ignoring Russia's legitimate interests.

For the far-left party, it was Merkel “poisoning the political climate and endangering freedom in Europe” with a “senseless economic war” using sanctions against Russia.

Broad-based support

It appears, though, that Left politicians are fighting a losing battle to soften German policy towards Putin.

Even fellow opposition party the Greens support the sanctions against Russia, with leader Anton Hofreiter saying that “in this situation Europe can only act decisively”.

And a public poll in August showed that 80 percent of Germans thought Russia “had a large part of the responsibility for the escalation of the situation in the Ukraine.”

A large majority – 70 percent – thought that the EU's imposition of sanctions was the right thing to do, while 62 percent thought “more decisive” action was necessary to contain Putin.

Merkel was profiled by two major US magazines this week – Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.

While they have mixed conclusions about Merkel's style and impact at home, both agree that she has brought a unique and often successful approach to her country's foreign policy.

The New Yorker describes how Merkel's strategy against Russia can be interpreted as “waiting for her adversary to self-destruct”.

Story continues below…

“He's afraid of his own weakness,” she once said of a typical Putin power play after he tried to frighten her with his dog at a conference.

“Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

The wait-and-see strategy might well pay off if The Economist's latest forecast of the crises threatening the Russian economy .

For Vanity Fair, things are even simpler.

Merkel, “who wants nothing to do with being seen as a 'female' leader, has become The Man striding across the global stage”, they write, noting that she has “acquired more power” than any of her storied male predecessors in the Chancellery.

This moment of confrontation with Russia and shouldering of responsibility for other international crises may be the moment Germany gets “the go-ahead to wake up – slowly, cautiously, meticulously – after seven decades of slumber.”

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd