by Ralph Schoellhammer
Thursday, 9
June 2022
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11:20

Why didn’t Angela Merkel listen to Donald Trump?

He warned the former Chancellor about the dangers of Russian oil dependence
by Ralph Schoellhammer
Let the wise man listen and gain instruction. Credit: Getty

In her first public appearance since leaving office, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Berlin’s Russia policy during her 16-year tenure and expressed confidence in her successor, Olaf Scholz.

Judging by the newspaper headlines following her statements, there apparently was an expectation that she would apologise and take some responsibility for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, due to her policy of close economic and political cooperation with Moscow.

While in hindsight it is easy to condemn Ms. Merkel’s policy as a failure now, it is important to remember that just a few years ago she was hailed as both the leader of the West and the free world. This is in spite of the fact that her Russia policies were well-known, including opposition to a Ukrainian NATO membership, insistence on North Stream 2, and continuing to be an unreliable partner in matters of international security or financial commitments to NATO.

In fact, representatives of her government mocked then-President Donald Trump’s remarks at the 2018 UN General Assembly that “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.”

In many ways, Ms. Merkel’s refusal to condemn her own Ostpolitik is understandable if we recognise that she was following the same playbook the US has been using in their own East-Policy with regards to China. Using economic integration as a means to open up and liberalise autocratic systems has been a popular concept in Berlin and Washington, until the more confrontative style of the Trump administration.

The idea of stability through economic cooperation was a clear continuation of Willy Brandt’s “change through rapprochement” that began in the 1960s. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was, according to Ms. Merkel, “an objective breach of all international laws and of everything that allows us in Europe to live in peace”, but insisted that diplomacy isn’t wrong just because it hasn’t worked.” She also claimed, however, that “military deterrence is the only language he understands”, leaving open the question why Germany did not do more to establish precisely such a deterrence, including being a more reliable NATO member in terms of defence spending and keeping her armed forces at a high level of readiness.

Ultimately Angela Merkel is not that different from her contemporary critics, who were happy to use Russia as a geopolitical boogeyman for domestic purposes (like the Trump collusion allegations) or a reliable supplier of energy, without believing that Moscow could have an independent agenda of its own.

It should have been clear that Russia’s cultivation of ties with former European politicians was part of a more ambitious strategy that openly unfolded with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. One is left wondering if it might have been a lack of imagination and knee-jerk opposition to everything coming from Donald Trump that caused such blindness on part of the political class and the media in the West. But to this day, none of them — Merkel included — have even apologised.

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Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
19 days ago

“Knee-jerk opposition to everything that came from Donald Trump” is precisely what all the bien-pensant world leaders lined up behind Merkel, “leader of the free world,” were engaging in.

After all, who can resist an open goal when the audience, so well trained by MSM, is guaranteed to applaud? Ridiculing and despising Trump was and still is the surest route to populist support, especially when the political elite in his own country mounted a 4 year coup attempt with the false and paid for Russiagate allegations.

Be it admonishing NATO members for failing to fulfill their spending commitments, or warning of dangerous Russian energy dependence, he was of course always wrong (and so rude!)

And now the most you will hear from his critics or most of MSM is that even a broken clock is right twice a day. But unless they are willing to recognise their own errors, they are likely to repeat them. Sadly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago

I agree that the election of Trump was greeted as a disaster by the liberal-Left and much of the elite, and they used every opportunity to delegitimise him and even throw him our of office. But it would be much better if we could make points without dragging in the very US-centred and quasi-conspiratorial notion of the ‘MSM’. Does this include Fox News, the New Your Post, the Washington Times, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Express for example?
‘the surest route to populist support’ – a very idiosyncratic use ff the term ‘populist’ – the usual argument is that ‘populism’ is more democratic and therefore good, except of course up to the point when most of the ‘people’ do not agree with the ‘anti-woke’ culture warriors, when they then transmogrify into ‘sheeple’!
The MSM concept has the (rather ridiculous) implication that, say, the New York Times, is somehow running things, rather than, much more credibly, responding to all sorts of political and market signals, and not least the Identitarian Left views of its younger staff. It has already significantly shifted its position since Trump left office.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
19 days ago

The conformity of the German elite is usually unappreciated in the UK. There are three nations or organisations in particular that cannot be criticised in polite German society: Russia, Israel and the EU. Due obviously to guilt over Germany’s actions in WWII. Had Merkel questioned her own policy with which almost every member of the German elite agreed, she would have been shunned.
Of course there is also the possibility that, like Gerhard Schroder, she is on Moscow’s payroll and perhaps even has been since 1989.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
19 days ago

And of course she cut her teeth as a junior apparatchik in the German Communist party, which always looked to the Soviet Union for policy direction.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
19 days ago

Let’s not forget where she was born and raised.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
19 days ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

Come on! Not the first time this type if insinuation has appeared here. The people who lived under dictatorship have a good handle on what it is.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
18 days ago

Merkel’s family moved to East Germany from the West.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
18 days ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

West Germany and East Germany respectively- what’s your point?

Matt M
Matt M
18 days ago

The strategic insanity of allowing China to flood the US with artificially cheap imports while restricting US imports, stealing IP and manipulating exchange rates.

The danger of allowing Chinese companies (ie CCP fronts) to supply components for critical and military infrastructure.

The danger of Europe becoming dependent on Russian energy.

The cruelty and idiocy of offshoring so much production that you hollow out working class communities and are unable to maintain critical supply chains.

The self-satisfied refusal of European countries to share the burden of NATO spending.

The stupidity of not taking advantage of North American resources to become energy independent.

The dereliction of duty in not controlling illegal immigration and the need for physical barriers.

And most importantly, the debilitating effect of political correctness on US society and patriotism.

Seems like Trump knew what he was talking about after all!

Last edited 18 days ago by Matt M
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
14 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

good summary !!!

Jim Haggerty
Jim Haggerty
19 days ago

Hard to believe the Germans needed convincing as Trump wasn’t the only one pointing out their growing dependence on Russia and also on China. Their export model and energy policy has tied them very closely to two very undemocratic Nations. Going to be a long road sorting that out

Garrett R
Garrett R
19 days ago
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
18 days ago

The answer obviously was that it was Donald Trump making the point! of course it hardly took a genius to make it, and I am not a fan boy, but Trump was right on a number of (rather large) calls, including, more and more likely, the Wuhan lab leak.
Merkel’s reputation on the other hand is going in the opposite direction (or ought to be – wishful thinking being one of the major attributes of those on the Left). She made a number of disastrous short term decisions, not least closing the nuclear plants and the chaotic opening of the borders to the ‘Syrian’ refugees.

Last edited 18 days ago by Andrew Fisher
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
19 days ago

Not a bad article. But the question in the headline is easy to answer: No one outside the Republican electorate listened to Donald Trump because Donald Trump went out of his way to sound provocative and irresponsible – quite apart from showing open admiration for dictators like Putin. Trump may well have been right about a number of things (not including the crowds at his inauguration or his losing the election), but you do not convince people unless you make some minimal effort at being convincing.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
19 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

When Trump criticised German energy policy, there was an embarrassed silence amongst the German delegation. They knew that what he said was true. It was just that none of the Germans was prepared to step out of line and be shunned professionally and personally.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
19 days ago

Sounds reasonable

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
19 days ago

As we say stateside, “ain’t that the truth!”.

Last edited 19 days ago by Cathy Carron
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
19 days ago

It was ever thus.

T Maz
T Maz
19 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I have been a Trump supporter, but I agree that his rude, combative style was his undoing, both at home and abroad. There were simply too few of us who could see the value of his policies through the fog of his mean tweets.
Of course, if he had been simply another milquetoast moderate he would never have been elected and would have gotten very little accomplished.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
19 days ago
Reply to  T Maz

I’m not sure there was any way to be nice about the character assassination and impeachment mounted by the D.C. political elite and their propaganda arm in MSM around the “Russia collusion” hoax.

Trump knew too much about their influence peddling and enrichment schemes to allow him to remain in office, and exposing them during the 2016 election campaign threatened their job and reputational security. He had to be silenced whatever the cost to the integrity of the FBI and Justice Deptartment, who conspired to protect their party comrades. And it continues…

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
19 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Having worked in an international corporation with Europeans in the past, I admired their seemingly smooth continental sophistication, sometimes a too-cool-for-school demeanor. That said, I never once met what I would consider an ‘independent thinker’. Sheep breed well in Europe.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
19 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Baaaaahhh! to you ! 😉

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
19 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

You might like to read:
John Lewis-Stempel’s “The Sheep’s Tale.”

rue boileau
rue boileau
19 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

There are independent thinkers in Europe, but you wouldn’t meet them in the corporate world, that’s for sure.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
19 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Could agree more, what is needed is an honest charlatan like George Bush Jnr, who when he says “Saddam did 9/11”, you’ve got to believe him.

M. M.
M. M.
19 days ago

Angele Merkel’s worst act as Chancellor is failing to protect the borders of Germany.

Merkel allowed roughly one million Middle-Eastern refugees to enter Germany.

According to a report by the BBC, “in 8.5% of all crimes [in Germany in 2017], German police suspected a [Middle-Eastern] migrant of involvement. But for violent crime that figure was even higher, at 15%, according to a report in Die Zeit.” (See the reference.)

Middle Easterners in Germany are almost as violent as Hispanics in the United States. Hispanics commit murder at 3 times and 6 times the rate at which European-Americans and Asian-Americans, respectively, commit murder.

Get more info about this issue.

Last edited 19 days ago by Matthew M.
Garrett R
Garrett R
19 days ago
William Adams
William Adams
18 days ago

Politicians are congenitally incapable of admitting their mistakes.

Henry Cunha
Henry Cunha
19 days ago

Listen to Trump? Hardly possible.
A German leader might have paid more attention to Trump’s ideas about Germany, NATO, or Russia, if there had been any clarity about Trump’s own agenda re any of the three — particularly Russia. And when taking into account Trump’s obvious self-serving behavior re Ukraine, there was even less reason to take Trump’s behavior as anything other than serving himself.
There never was any defined, clear US policy on anything under Trump. You followed him at your own peril.

0 0
0 0
19 days ago

Sorry, but this is (yet) more cart-before-horse reasoning. There was nothing wrong with the EU running with Russian gas. worked for decades. What changed? The US orchestrated Maidan 2014 event and what followed after. All well recorded.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
19 days ago
Reply to  0 0

Popular propaganda that the all powerful US caused the revolt. They exploited a popular movement to US advantage.