Merkel leaves behind a vulnerable world

The departure of Angela Merkel has been an occasion for euro-centrists to wax lyrical about her supposedly triumphant reign as German chancellor. It is true that she remains popular in Germany. But thanks to her government’s litany of unforced errors and breathtaking complacency, not only has she turned her once dominant conservative party into a shadow of its former self, handing power to a Left-wing coalition dominated by socialists and greens, she leaves behind a country and a continent acutely vulnerable to the authoritarian regimes on its doorstep.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Nord Stream 2, the new gas pipeline between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline is currently suspended pending a regulatory review, but the fact that the idea was even entertained illustrates the lack of principle that has long defined German foreign policy under Mrs Merkel. Germany claims to be “a good European”, but it has shamefully ignored the fears of allies such as Poland that the pipeline will give Vladimir Putin greater purview to use gas exports as a weapon of intimidation.

In the case of Ukraine, it could allow him to cut off supplies altogether. Fears are mounting that Mr Putin could attempt an invasion of that country, or some other hostile act designed to bring the government in Kiev to its knees. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has been firm, warning the Kremlin about the risks of a strategic miscalculation. Joe Biden is set to talk to Mr Putin, though given the US president’s record of foreign policy blunders, his administration’s commitment to resisting aggression surely cannot be taken for granted. Which makes it all the more concerning that Germany has too often acted as Europe’s weak link, never meeting its Nato defence spending commitments under Mrs Merkel.

It is unclear whether her successor, Olaf Scholz, will be any better. At least he is unlikely to be lionised by so-called liberals to anything like the same extent. The defence of western values demands leaders who are clear-eyed about the threats we face and are prepared to act to deter our enemies. Tragically for Germany and the West, Mrs Merkel has been neither.

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