What will happen to Germany after the retirement of “Mutter Angela”?
VICTOR LOUPAN, Head of the Editorial Board
So, after sixteen years of reign, Angela Merkel, the permanent Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, is retiring.
Preceding her, full 16 years from 1982 to 1998, Germany was ruled by her mentor, Helmut Kohl. It was he – that tall, overweight and uncharismatic man – who noticed a young native of the German Democratic Republic and a former Komsomol activist Angela Merkel.
Wise old Kohl, as we see, was not mistaken. Angela Merkel, who is as uncharismatic and serious as he is, became the first female chancellor in history and a person who was not only talented, but became one of the wisest leaders in the post-war history of West Germany.
Angela Merkel (née Kasner) was born in 1954 in Hamburg, which is located not in East Germany, but in West Germany! This fact surprised me a lot. Angela’s father Horst Kasner, who served as a pastor at the Lutheran Church, emigrated with his whole family to the GDR following the birth of his daughter, where he was appointed as a pastor of a Lutheran parish near Berlin-Brandenburg. This fact itself is very interesting. Because even then, although before construction of the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain was lowered, and many people in East Germany dreamed of living in the West, rushed to the FRG, developed stratagems to cross the border. And here suddenly everything is the other way around.
Horst Kasner’s act was – I am just sure of it – extremely atypical. Renouncing German citizenship was also an extremely extravagant behaviour. This can be explained quite simply: Pastor Kasner was one of those few church representatives who supported the policy of the GDR government, as well as the church policy of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) – in other words, the ruling communist party of the GDR.
Like any pupil, Angela was a member of the Pioneer and Komsomol organisations. During a student exchange trip to Moscow and Leningrad she met her first husband, also a student, Ulrich Merkel.
Having entered the Academy of Sciences where she had worked until 1989, Angela did not join the party, but actively participated in the Komsomol political life, being a member of the regional branch of the Free German Youth (FDJ) movement, similar to the Komsomol, in the position of the secretary for “Agitation and Propaganda”. According to modern standards, she was engaged in brainwashing and was nothing more than a servant to the ideology. Angela Merkel did not deny this even in an interview given to the German media, but downplayed the essence of her activities, calling it “cultural and educational”, which, and you must agree, looks much more harmless than “agitprop” or “proletkult” style propaganda.
Be that as it may, Angela Merkel’s political career began in 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And already in 1990 she was already appointed as a deputy press secretary of the first – and last – willingly elected Prime Minister of the GDR, Lothar de Maizière.
In August 1990 the small Democratic Awakening Party, of which Merkel was a member, decided to merge with the East-German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Angela was one of the three delegates to the CDU convention held on October 1 and 2 in her hometown of Hamburg.
Then Merkel met Helmut Kohl, the chairman of the CDU and German Chancellor, in person for the first time. The experienced Chancellor liked her so much, that a year later she became the federal Minister for Women and Youth. Angela Merkel held this post for three years (1991-1994). After that she had served as a federal Minister for Environment (1994-1998) until the elections to the Bundestag.
But in 1999 a scandal erupted over the illegal financing of the CDU. Following Helmut Kohl’s interview with the ZDF channel, it became obvious that the Federal Chancellor and the current honorary chairman of the CDU received millions of funds for the party evading the FRG’s law “On Political Parties”. Kohl refused to name his sponsors referring to his word of honor.
On December 22, 1999, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an article by Angela Merkel, where she severely criticised Helmut Kohl’s behaviour and called on the party to decisively break with the “old guard”, although she owed a lot to old Kohl. Here is what she wrote: “The party must take its first independent steps, must believe in itself, believe that even without the “old war horse”, as Helmut Kohl often called himself, it will be able to continue the struggle against its political opponents. As a teenager in puberty, it must break away from its parental home and go its own way”.
On January 18, 2000, the presidium and the federal board of the CDU demanded that Helmut Kohl resign as the honorary chairman of the party until the names of the sponsors are announced.
In response, Kohl resigned. At the same time, he entered into a partially public controversy with the current chairman of the party, Wolfgang Schäuble. The scandal also hit Schäuble himself: in an interview with the ARD channel, he admitted that he had accepted funding from the military-industrial lobby in the person of Karlheinz Schreiber, although a month ago he disputed this fact at a Bundestag meeting. After that and following the appearance of scandalous information about the details of the transfer of money, Wolfgang Schäuble could no longer keep the post of the party leader.
Merkel’s fierce struggle for supremacy in the party and the country lasted for the other five years, until 2005. On September 20, she was elected as a chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary fraction, receiving 219 out of 222 votes in a secret ballot. And on November 22, 2005, Angela Merkel was elected to the post of Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, having received 397 out of 611 votes of the 16th convocation Bundestag deputies and thus becoming the first woman and at the same time the youngest chancellor in the entire history of the FRG. As well as the first representative of the new federal states in the highest leadership position in the country.
Since then she has been taking this post continuously, albeit with varying degrees of success.
Unlike her direct predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, who had ambitions for independence, Angela Merkel distinguished herself by an unconditional tendency for rapprochement with the United States as a strategic partner and guarantor of peace and stability in Europe.
When Angela Merkel took over the government of the FRG, there was a hope that relations between Germany and Russia would continue to improve. The German media profoundly emphasized the fact that she was fluent in Russian and Vladimir Putin was fluent in German. Meaning that they would have a lot in common. But Putin suddenly began to present her flowers during every meeting, thereby emphasizing that she was a woman. Angela Merkel clearly did not like this. She rather perceived Putin’s gallant gesture as a manifestation of his male superiority than a sign of friendliness. It is still unclear whether Vladimir Putin intentionally got on her nerves or sincerely believed that German Chancellor should be given a bouquet of flowers, like a lady to whom a man pays a visit.
There was also an episode with Putin’s dog, which suddenly entered the hall where they were sitting with Angela Merkel, as if he did not know that she was panicky afraid of dogs, and not rationally, but at the phobic level.
At the beginning of Merkel’s rule, relations between Russia and Germany did not undergo any particularly noticeable changes. Although the closeness that was maintained between Putin and Schröder, was clearly gone. Merkel was somewhat skeptical about Russia. She restored German foreign policy orientation towards the United States and began to treat Russia more frostily.
On the one hand, Angela Merkel did not denounce the agreements reached with Russia during the Schröder era. Germany, for example, turned out to be one of the few Western countries that criticised the US plans to create an anti-missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
Relations between Russia and Germany deteriorated sharply by 2014, when Merkel personally supported an illegal and violent change of government in Ukraine. The already deteriorating relations were significantly aggravated by the annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation and the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. Instead of trying to understand the situation and understand its deep essence, the Chancellor of Germany constantly accused Russia of interfering in the affairs of sovereign Ukraine, as well as military support of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics in Donbas region.
In June 2016, the German government updated the content of the White Paper, a guide to the country’s national security policy. The new edition describes Russia as Germany’s “no longer a partner, but a competitor”, one of the main threats, since Russia is “ready to use force to advance its interests”. Based on the history of the Second World War and the terrible guilt of Germany towards Russia and other peoples of the USSR, such expression is especially shocking.
Realising its historical guilt, earlier Germany has always tried to avoid calling Russia an enemy, even during the Cold War. With Merkel, this “red line” was crossed with particular ease and irresponsibility.
On August 20, 2021, as part of her farewell visit to Russia, Angela Merkel held a meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to underline the importance of relations with Russia for her personally. At the end of the meeting she acknowledged the complete failure of the Normandy format, but refrained from reproaching the Ukrainian party, the main culprit in the failure of this multinational initiative. The Chancellor also refrained from being jubilant over Nord Stream 2, but with some insistence she advocated maintaining the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine beyond 2024.
The Russian president did not show any specific reaction regarding this. He also ignored the fact that the Chancellor described the replacement of Alexei Navalny’s suspended sentence with a real one as “unacceptable”. She even called for his release. It was evident, that before retiring she checked all the necessary boxes in all the right places, appealing to German political correctness and, of course, realising that all this is idle talk, to which Putin simply would not answer.
German media repeatedly wrote about Putin’s dismissive attitude to the Merkel’s statements. Apparently, they remembered it again when, in response, the Russian president said with a smile that Angela Merkel was a “welcome guest” and that she would always be expected in Moscow. Knowing that she was going to visit Kiev after her visit to Moscow, the Russian president asked her “to influence the Ukrainian party in terms of fulfilling the obligations assumed earlier”. There was undoubtedly a grain of irony in this. As for the transit of gas through Ukraine after 2024, he said that the Russian party is ready to continue transiting gas beyond 2024, but this is not a political, but a purely commercial problem depending on an agreement to be – or not to be – signed between Gazprom and the Ukrainian party. In the end, Putin briefly noted that Navalny was convicted “not for his political activity, but for a criminal offense”.
An important development happened since Angela Merkel’s final visit to Moscow. The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was fully and successfully completed. This is a great victory not only for Russia, but also for Angela Merkel personally. Without her perseverance, the construction would not have been completed, because both the Americans and many EU member states stubbornly opposed its completion due to purely anti-Russian motives. The Chancellor’s pragmatism and willpower have played a decisive role here.
What will happen to Germany after the retirement of “Mutter Angela”? The Germans call her “mutter”, “mom”, without irony. She is actually perceived by many as the mother of the nation, as its incarnation. What will happen next is not clear. That is, it is clear that Germany is likely to change, because German media suddenly started talking about the period of Merkel’s rule as “stagnation”. In the sense that Germany needs serious modernisation, a more modern approach to the technological equipment of the economy. They write that Germany suffers from outdated infrastructure, underdevelopment in digital equipment, insufficient investment in the public sector. In their opinion, climate change and the pandemic crisis have clearly demonstrated the staggering weaknesses of the leading economy of the EU. The budgetary “rigor” of Angela Merkel resulted in the fact that entire industries related to administration, healthcare, schooling, public transport have become obsolete due to insufficient funding.
Joe Kaiser, who ran the industrial giant Siemens until 2013, also believes that the end of Merkel’s rule is suddenly revealing unforgivable collapses. In his opinion, she did a lot for the present country, but poorly prepared it for the future which is just around the corner. He believes that the Chancellor’s archaic approach to economic realities did not allow her to take into account the fact that many traditional spheres of the German economy are condemned to decline and even extinction. And nothing has been done to prevent it or help them move forward through investment to new technology solutions.
This is roughly how public political life of German Chancellor Angela Merkel proceeded. She is leaving calmly, without drama, without defeat. The rumour has it that she is about to relocate to the United States, because her husband, a great scientist, is planning to teach at a prestigious American university and may be awarded the Nobel Prize soon. And now Merkel wants to support him in this important matter, as he had been supporting her humbly during all these years.
I do not know whether it is true or not. But sounds nice!