Berlin is already moving to dilute EU sanctions
There’s an excellent feature in The Times yesterday, in which Oliver Moody provides a blow-by-blow account of how the Germans surrendered Europe’s security to the Kremlin. Moody reports that ‘President Zelensky of Ukraine [has] 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’.’
I’d be surprised if she takes him up on this offer. Wisely, she’s kept a low profile since leaving office. It’s therefore fallen to other members of the German establishment to issue the mea culpas. For instance, Moody quotes Wolfgang Schäuble, who was, for many years, Merkel’s second-in-command: “I too thought we had to co-operate with Russia. Today I know — I was wrong. We were all wrong.”
Of course, no one does self-serving contrition like the Germans. Consider, for instance, the screeching U-turn on energy policy. Suddenly, Russian pipelines are out and 100% renewables are in. There’s also the EU-wide push to phase-out Russian energy imports. It sounds like a plan, but look at the fine print: though Nord Stream 2 has been suspended, Nord Stream 1 is still very much in business. The 100% renewables target is ambitious, but has been set for the middle of the next decade. As for the EU-wide phase-out of Russian fuels, that is starting with coal, which, compared to oil and gas, is the least important component.
You don’t have to be a British Eurosceptic to see that a fast one is being pulled. For instance, this is what Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian PM and arch-federalist, had to to say in the European Parliament this week:
His rousing speech ended with a call to Germany to show leadership. But instead Berlin has moved to dilute an already inadequate package of measures. For instance, the EU ban on coal has now been pushed back under German pressure.
Of course, an immediate and complete embargo would be painful for the Germans. But I seem to remember that during the Eurozone Crisis, Germany was a big fan of front-loaded austerity. Of course, back then, it was the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) who were made to squeal. The Germans escaped the worst effects, because, as they were quick to point out, they had been careful with their money while other countries had been profligate.
Now, in regard to Russian energy exports, it is Germany’s turn to pay the price of recklessness. Compared to the cost of the austerity imposed on Greece, it is a relatively small price — but nevertheless they are trying to wriggle out of it.
Some of us never had any illusions about German responsibility. But I hope the truth is now plain to all.