US President Lincoln did not heed the warnings, went to the theater and became the victim of an assassination attempt. US President Kennedy also did not heed persistent warnings, went to Dallas and was shot dead. German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not heed her instincts, did not decisively intervene in the conflict between Russia and the West approaching a dangerous line, and as a result, she is now witnessing the collapse of a significant part of her political legacy.
This logical chain built by me, of course, is lame on both legs and even on both hands. But “lameness” does not deprive her of the right to exist. In all three cases, we are talking about political disasters that could have been avoided – especially in a situation in which Angela Merkel played (or rather could have played) a key role.
Do you miss Frau Angela for an hour? To be honest, I miss. Of course, unlike her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who has now become a pariah in the world of German politics because of her particularly close relationship with Moscow, Merkel has never been friendly to Russia.
But after sitting on the throne of Berlin for 16 years, Frau Chancellor has become a world-class political heavyweight, a stabilizing force and a familiar feature of the landscape of international relations. Against the backdrop of such a retired political giant, her successor Olaf Scholz was at a loss and seemed (and when viewed from Moscow, still seems) a fairly lightweight figure.
And if so, then the question is logical: would the current political configuration in Europe somehow change if Angela Merkel had not resigned at the beginning of December 2021, but would still lead one of the most powerful powers in our country (or already not quite ours?) continent?
And then the Sphinx spoke. For the most part silent since her departure from the top officials, Angela Merkel finally spoke out. Thank her very much for this! Now our sketchy and fragmentary understanding of what happened last year in the international political backstage in terms of the gradual collapse of relations between Russia and the West has become a little more complete.
Two key statements by the former federal chancellor in an interview with Phoenix TV. The first is about the reasons for Merkel’s passive behavior in the last months of her tenure.
“One thing still causes me difficulty… In June 2021, President Biden met with Putin, and then I thought with Emmanuel Macron that it was necessary from the European side to try to involve him in a dialogue. Because I already felt a little that things were bad with Minsk. And as a result, unity was not achieved in the EU in this regard.
And I thought: well, yes, everyone knows that you will be leaving soon. A few years earlier, I would have insisted on it.”
The second is about when exactly the Western leaders learned that Russia could conduct a special military operation in Ukraine.
“I followed this while still in office. I think at the latest at the G20 summit in Rome at the end of October (2021), the US services already had knowledge of this, and since that time we have been talking about it a lot.”
Why do I consider these rather general statements of Angela Merkel to be very important? Because they allow us to build a more accurate chronology of Europe’s slide into the abyss of the current violent confrontation.
June 16, 2021. Putin and Biden meet in Geneva. According to the stories of informed Russian officials, during the behind-the-scenes part of the talks, the US president behaved very differently than in public. Biden assured the GDP that he understands how intolerable the situation in the Donbass and Ukraine as a whole is for Russia, and promised to make every effort to unblock the crisis.
July 12, 2021. Putin publishes an article “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Looking from today, the meaning of this political signal was as follows: either the collective West fulfills Biden’s Geneva promise, or the Kremlin proceeds to implement “Plan B”.
October 30–31, 2021. According to Angela Merkel’s confession cited above, by the time the leaders of the twenty most important countries of the world met in the Italian capital, she had already received detailed information from the Americans about what exactly this Kremlin “plan B” might look like. She received it, but did nothing to prevent the collapse of the usual world order in Europe, although she had the opportunity to do something in this regard (for example, to use the words of Merkel herself, “try to draw Putin into dialogue from the European side as well”).
Why has this opportunity remained unused? It is clear why.
On September 26, 2021, parliamentary elections were held in Germany. After them, formally remaining in the post of Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel turned into a “lame duck” deprived of her former political influence.
But how differently things could have turned out! After all, as Frau Angela herself admits, if the events of 2021 had taken place “a few years earlier, I would have insisted on this” – a substantive and meaningful dialogue between Europe and Moscow. And, perhaps, given the political weight of Merkel and her clear understanding of what exactly the disruption of such a dialogue is fraught with, it would have a real result.
Of course, as the former head of the German government herself has now stated, all current reflections on this matter are nothing more than “speculation.” But tormenting yourself with “what if” questions is a very important part of human nature.
If Biden would have tried to fulfill his promise. If Merkel weren’t already “one foot retired”. Add a couple more “ifs” to this list, and we could live in a completely different world. We could – but we do not live.
In short, it is a pity that Frau Angela jumped out so “early” for a well-deserved rest. I could “work as a slave in German political galleys” for a couple more years. I’m joking, of course, but with a very heavy heart.