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Germany is playing into Putin’s hands

Too close for comfort? Putin with former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Sean Gallup/Getty

Germany’s stance on Russia is a “catastrophe”, says Mathieu von Rohr in Der Spiegel. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has threatened vague “consequences” should Vladimir Putin invade Ukraine, but he hasn’t confirmed that he’d shut down the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz opposes banning Russian banks from the Swift global payments system. Ruling out these tough sanctions sends a clear message: “Russia can rely on Berlin’s inactivity.”

Scholz’s coalition partners are taking a much harder line with Putin – it’s his own party, the Social Democrats (SPD), which seems paralysed. The SPD is riddled with “apologists” for Russian aggression – one parliamentarian, Ralf Stegner, frets that the West is adopting a “Cold War tone” while completely ignoring Moscow’s own sabre rattling. Many in the party see Gerhard Schröder, their last chancellor, as a respected “elder statesman”, but in reality he’s a paid Moscow lobbyist who sits on the board of the Russian state-controlled oil company Rosneft. The SPD is “mired in nostalgia” for “ostpolitik”, Chancellor Willy Brandt’s 1970s policy of rapprochement with the Soviet Union. But that was about easing Cold War tensions between two “huge power blocs”. Today, Russia is raising “the concrete threat of war”. Scholz needs to get real and reconsider his opposition to sending weapons to Ukraine. “Europe will remain weak for as long as Germany hesitates.”

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