One of the many things destroyed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been Angela Merkel’s reputation, says Iain Martin in The Times. The former German chancellor was feted by her fellow Western leaders when she stood down last year. Barack Obama said the “entire world” owed her a debt of gratitude; Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said EU meetings without her would be like “Paris without the Eiffel Tower”. The consensus was that she was “a geopolitical genius, the grown-up leader of a grown-up country”. Yet it was Merkel’s “epic delusion” about Russia that helped embolden Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
Year after year, Merkel insisted it was “fine to become reliant on Russian gas”. She argued that Putin would never do anything “completely crazy”, and that demands to scale up defence spending to deter him were just “excitable talk from unsophisticated Americans”. The Russian leader must hardly have been able to believe his luck as he watched Merkel’s government close nuclear power stations and phase out coal. Today, Germany gets an astonishing “55% of its gas, 45% of its coal and 40% of its oil from Russia”. This short-sighted approach not only “filled the Kremlin’s coffers”, it also helped persuade Putin that “the wider West was decadent, self-satisfied and too weak to care about responding to aggression”. It was, in short, “one of the worst geopolitical miscalculations since the Second World War”. In just one week, “16 years of Merkelism has gone up in smoke”.