Moon of Alabama (MoA)
Helmholtz Smith, Andrew Korybko and Andrei Martyanov have some thoughts about a recent interview the former German chancellor Angela Merkel gave to the German weekly broadsheet Die Zeit.
Smith says it shows that the ‘West’ is not trustworthy. Korybko thinks it the interview will prolong the conflict in Ukraine. Martyanov says that Merkel is stupid. She isn’t.
In the interview Merkel seems to claim that the Minsk agreements between the Ukrainian government and the Donbas region, which she negotiated and co-signed as guarantor, was never meant to be fulfilled. It was only meant to give time to build up the Ukrainian military.
I however think that such an interpretation is wrong. Merkel is under very harsh critique not only in the U.S. but also in her own conservative party. She is now out to justify her previous decisions as well as the current bad outcome in Ukraine. My hunch is that she is making things up. Unfortunately she also creates serious damage.
The relevant passage of the interview is longer than the one paragraph Helmholtz Smith and other cite. The context is important. Here is my translation of it:
ZEIT: Do you ask yourself if the years of relative calm were also years of omissions and if you were not only a crisis manager, but also partly the cause of crises?Merkel: I would not be a political person if I did not deal with that. […some stuff about climate action …] Let us look at my policy towards Russia and Ukraine. I come to the conclusion that I made the decisions I made back then in a way that I can understand today. It was an attempt to prevent just such a war. The fact that this was not successful does not mean that the attempts were wrong.
I think the above is genuine. The Minsk agreements were a serious attempt to prevent war by reintegrating Donbas into a federalized Ukraine.
The fact that Russia used its time better than the West is a nonargument: the Western élite was (is) simply unaware of how bad it is, and this fact was very clear when things got hot. When Russia announced that she was at the end of her patience, in late 2021, the combined West acted as if they had Russia in their bag, as if they could sanction Russia into oblivion, as if they could grind down Russia’s resources in a proxy war, as if they could turn the whole world against Russia and make her a pariah state, as if they outsmarted Russia and already won. They got it all wrong.
There is one big hole with the idea that Frau Merkel sincerely backed the Minsk agreements: she continued to shamelessly support Ukraine even when it was clear that Ukraine was actively sabotaging the agreements. Frau Merkel was chancellor up to December 2021, when the agreements were already sunk. Germany had some leverage on Ukraine, but never used it. For example, the German government could have used the Nord Stream 2 to signal Ukraine that they were not happy with its actions, instead they caved in every single time the USA threatened to sanction the pipeline, every single time Poland and Ukraine whined about it. The first pipeline was completed in June 2021, the other one in September 2021: they were never activated in winter 2021-22, even though the gas price was up, even though NATO was holding military drills in Ukraine (rapid trident 2021), even though Ukraine was playing with fire and spitting in the face of the Minsk agreements. If the German government really thought that the Minsk agreements could bring peace to the region, that was just an intimate hope, a “wait-and-pray that everything ends well”. The poor vice-admiral who dared to speak out a grain of truth was forced to resign, what should the Russians think?
That said, I think that Martyanov is oftentimes over the top, but about Frau Merkel he is right. If she really thought that the Minsk agreements were a serious thing, that was her inner wish, but she never called into question the Maidan coup, the nazification of Ukraine, the natofication of Ukraine, the obstruction by the USA, the demonization of Russia and everything that actually prevented a happy ending to the Ukrainian story. Did she hope that the Minsk agreements could bring peace to Ukraine? Probably, but she actually did nothing to that end. In 2015 or 2016, she could still sincerely think that things could get along, but since 2019, at least, it was clear to everybody that the agreements met a dead end: by then she could not think anymore that she was making peace. So either she was stupid because she could not see that the Minsk agreements were moribund for years and urgently needed life saving action (which she did not attempt), or she was stupid because she thought that she was buying time for Ukraine, when the utterly pathetic status of Western élites (politicians, businessmen, scientists, experts, opinion leaders) was just playing into the hands of Russia and China.
Posted by: SG | Dec 9 2022 20:22 utc | 61