Putin, Putin, Putin: Although Angela Merkel only wanted to go to “feel good appointments” in her political retirement, the former chancellor never misses an opportunity to talk about Russia and the Kremlin tsar. There are good reasons for that.
At the beginning of June, six months after leaving the chancellor’s office, Angela Merkel made her first public appearance as former chancellor at the presentation of a small anthology of her speeches. So she cautiously approached her new role. She is “not a normal citizen” and must therefore continue to be careful about expressing herself. “It’s not my job either to make comments from the sidelines,” she emphasized: “I’m still looking for my way.”
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Well, as is well known, good intentions are such a thing; they usually don’t last long. Merkel does make comments on current politics, especially on Putin and Russia. After all, she will undoubtedly not like the fact that Germany’s extreme dependence on Russian gas – with all the unforeseeable consequences for the population and the economy – is ultimately attributed to her politics.
In any case, it was not to be expected that Merkel would be completely abstinent politically. Like all former heads of government, she is probably concerned with her own image in the history books. The CDU politician, who is emphatically unpretentious, would never say that. But her announcement that she would write a book about her life in the GDR and her chancellorship together with Beate Baumann, her long-time office manager, speaks for itself.
It is also noticeable that Merkel, who once described the Internet as new territory, apparently feels at home on the Internet. In any case, it has had its own website since the beginning of July: www.buero-bundeskanzlerin-ad.de. If you want to know what interviews the former chancellor gave, what speeches she gave, what statements she made, you will find it here. It is a digital chronicle of the ex-Chancellor’s activities.
One thing is clear from Merkel’s public statements to date: The main focus here at the moment is to present her policy towards Vladimir Putin and Russia as if – to use her favorite vocabulary – there was no alternative. She will “not apologize” for this policy, she had already declared in her first public appearance. She also never believed “that Putin would be changed through trade”. She knew how he thought and always tried to prevent an escalation.
Angela Merkel: The Chancellor and her time
Putin, Putin, Putin: The former chancellor never misses an opportunity to talk about Russia and the Kremlin tsar, avoiding any verbal sharpness. This could be observed twice in the past week, when Merkel spoke at the first event of the newly founded “Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Kohl-Stiftung” in Berlin and at the “1,100th anniversary of the city” in Goslar.
In Berlin she could have left it at that, honoring Kohl’s services to unity. In Goslar, on the other hand, Goslar’s eventful history, the founding of the CDU in 1950 in this former mining town and her relationship with her former Vice Chancellor, Goslar’s honorary citizen Sigmar Gabriel, provided sufficient material. But the Ukraine war and its consequences played a major role in both speeches.
In Berlin, Merkel tried to defend her Russia policy, citing Kohl. Her thesis: in all measures against the aggressor Putin, Kohl would always make sure to return to “business as usual” after the end of the war with Russia.
In Goslar, she called for “working on a pan-European security architecture that includes Russia within the framework of the principles of international law”, even if this would require “very staying power”. Merkel’s “bitter realization of February 24th”: “As long as we haven’t achieved this (…) the Cold War isn’t really over; even worse, it has become a real war for the people of Ukraine.”
Angela Merkel has achieved what no other chancellor has done before her: she was neither pressured to resign by her own party nor voted out by the people. She ended her political career of her own free will, recognized by politicians from all over the world and praised by the population in polls with top marks.
But after the attack on Ukraine, their Russia policy – also with regard to natural gas supplies – appears in a different light. Although the Chancellor a. D. had announced that she only wanted to attend “feel good appointments” during her political retirement: She also takes on the unwieldy topic of Putin and works hard to ensure that her politics are interpreted positively afterwards.
The conclusion: the former chancellor is no longer in office – but she is far from gone.
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