Goodbye, Mutti

Angela Merkel
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Goodbye, Mutti

What Angela Merkel’s departure means for Germany, Europe and the world

On September 23, Germans voted to select a replacement for longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel. The “queen” of German politics for over 16 years, Merkel is Germany’s second-longest-serving chancellor since World War ii (beaten only by her mentor, Helmut Kohl). Her replacement, Olaf Scholz, took office today.

She’s been called the most powerful woman in the world, the de facto leader of the European Union, and even the leader of the free world. Her biographer, Matthew Qvortrup, called her “the uncrowned queen of Europe.” She was the most senior leader of the G-7 and ruled the EU’s largest economy. Many in Germany know her as mutti, German for “mother.” She is also the first chancellor of reunited Germany from the former East Germany. Her chancellorship was historic in many ways.

Now that she’s left office, it’s worth looking at her legacy to see where she brought Germany and Europe. After all, the Germany the new chancellor will inherit is largely a product of the Merkel era.

Tear Down This Wall

Angela Dorothea Kasner was born on July 17, 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany. Her father, Horst Kasner, was a Protestant minister who accepted a pastorate in Brandenburg, East Germany. When she grew up, she moved to the eastern city of Leipzig to go to university. It was there where she married her first husband, Ulrich Merkel, in 1977. They divorced in 1982, but she kept his last name.

Merkel never joined the Socialist Unity Party (East Germany’s Communist Party), but she did participate in the Free German Youth. Although not compulsory, it would have been “strongly encouraged” by the regime, especially for the daughter of a pastor. Merkel has been accused of being an “agitation and propaganda functionary” in the organization. She denies this, claiming that her job was to promote cultural activities. She did refuse an offer by the Stasi (East Germany’s secret police) to become an informant for the government.

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, allowing East Germans to travel freely to the west. It wouldn’t be long before the Communist regime fell.

Merkel was at the forefront of East Germany’s transition to democracy. As the Communists were losing power, she joined the Democratic Awakening party. While that party only won 0.9 percent of the votes in the 1990 parliamentary election (East Germany’s only free election as an independent country), it still became a coalition member of the government. East Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu), sister party to the West German cdu, led the coalition under Lothar de Maizière. Merkel became his deputy spokesperson. She joined the cdu later that year. A few months later, the eastern and western cdu parties merged. On Oct. 2, 1990, Germany reunified.

Merkel won a seat in the German Bundestag (parliament) in the December 1990 elections. Helmut Kohl, first chancellor of a reunified Germany, gave her a cabinet position. Kohl became Merkel’s mentor; the bond between them was so close Kohl referred to Merkel as “my girl.”

Kohl lost reelection in 1998 to Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party (spd). This meant Merkel was out of government, but it came with opportunity. In November of that year, she was elected cdu secretary general, a senior party position. In 2000, she would become party leader.

Germany’s Iron Lady

The cdu won the 2005 federal election one percentage point over the Social Democrats. Upon Schröder’s resignation as chancellor, Merkel was able to put together a grand coalition between the cdu and the Social Democrats. Angela Merkel made history and became Germany’s first female chancellor.

In some ways, her first project as chancellor was started by her predecessor. After he lost the 2005 election—but before he had formally left office—Schröder signed the Nord Stream agreement with the Russian government. This paved the way for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to be constructed. Nord Stream 1 is a natural gas pipeline that runs from Russia’s Baltic coastline under the ocean before surfacing at Germany.

The pipeline was (and is) controversial because of its implications for European security. Most of Russia’s fossil fuel pipelines travel through countries like Ukraine and Poland—countries terrified of a Russian invasion. Fossil fuels are such a major export for Russia that Moscow couldn’t meddle in those countries too much without ruining its economy. Nord Stream 1 was a step in allowing Russia to export natural gas to energy-hungry Western Europe while bypassing Eastern Europe.

Nord Stream 1 was completed in 2012. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Merkel’s government would support Nord Stream 2 when you consider that her coalition partner was Schröder’s party. Her foreign minister and vice chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was Schröder’s chief of chancellery (somewhat equivalent to America’s chief of staff). Some cabinet ministers, like Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (minister of economic cooperation and development) and Ulla Schmidt (minister of health), were holdovers from Schröder’s administration. Three of Merkel’s four government coalitions have been with the Social Democrats. The German daily Die Welt even called her “the most successful Social Democratic chancellor of all time” in 2013.

Cooperation with the spd was a hallmark of the Merkel era.

In 2016, construction began on Nord Stream 2. This pipeline runs parallel to Nord Stream 1, and could double Russia’s gas exports. At the time of this writing, Nord Stream 2 has been completed and is awaiting regulatory approval to begin pumping gas. It will be interesting to see what happens in Eastern Europe after this.

Flexing Berlin’s Muscles

Germany had another federal election in 2009. The cdu increased its share of the votes and made a coalition with Free Democratic Party (fdp), a classically liberal, business-friendly party.

An accomplishment of Merkel’s second term in office was phasing out conscription of the German military. The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955 as the West German military. For almost all of its history, it has been conscription-based. This changed in 2011. Merkel’s defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, scrapped conscription and brought in a professional army.

This may seem rather innocuous. Previous polling suggested that about two thirds of Germans wanted to end conscription. The number of German soldiers took a slight dip in the aftermath.

One of the main reasons West Germany had a conscription-based military was the threat of Soviet tanks steamrolling in from their eastern border. The threat from Moscow was less serious in 2011 than it was in 1962 (the year the Berlin Wall went up).

But becoming a professional military meant more than changing how the Bundeswehr gets its soldiers. When rebuilding Germany, the Allies made the military conscription-based to make it a “citizen military.” A group of German citizens with different political views and party allegiances forced together wouldn’t be as coherent a fighting force; the military’s composition would be constantly in flux. This would theoretically stop the military from becoming its own “state within a state,” like it was for most of German history.

The post-2011 Bundeswehr is no longer a citizen army propped up to face a Russian invasion. It’s now a force made up of men and women who joined the armed forces because they wanted to. It’s a professionally funded, professionally trained group in it for the long haul. And it’s a more effective fighting force because of it. Berlin has used its new professional military in wars in Iraq and West Africa.

One of the longest-lasting issues Merkel had to deal with as chancellor was the European debt crisis. Being the EU’s largest economy put Germany at loggerheads with many cash-strapped countries.

Germany wasn’t hit too hard by the 2008 Great Recession. But certain Mediterranean countries’ economies were close to collapsing in the years following.

At the end of Merkel’s second term, one of those countries was Cyprus.

Cyprus’s reputation as a tax haven caused many foreigners with shady business dealings (like Russian mobsters) to invest in Cypriot banks. This led to the banks having way more money than the tiny island economy could bail out. The banks invested heavily in their neighbor Greece. Greece was also in financial meltdown at the time. The banks lost their money and the government couldn’t prop them up. Cyprus had to look for someone with a lot of cash to stop their economy from following Greece’s lead.

Merkel’s Germany stepped in. She offered $13 billion; in exchange, Germany would help itself to the savings of Cypriots.

On March 15, 2013, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades the terms of the deal. Anastasiades would have to confiscate $9.3 billion from his own citizens’ bank accounts. The Cypriot president resisted. He told Schäuble, according to an associate, “I can’t do that …. You’re trying to destroy us. Even if I agree to it, I can’t pass it [through parliament].”

European Central Bank President Jörg Asmussen (who happens to be German) threatened to cut the island off from the ecb—the only thing keeping its economy afloat at the time—if Cyprus didn’t give in to Berlin’s demands.

As assistant managing editor Richard Palmer wrote at the time: “President Anastasiades had to make a humiliating retreat. He gave in, and Germany got its way: Cypriot savers would help fund the bailout. … Germany won. It reportedly had support from Finland, Slovakia and partial support from the Netherlands. But at the end of the day, it was a German operation.”

But the economic ultimatums didn’t end with Cyprus. Merkel’s Germany also had an integral role in “fixing” the Greek crisis.

Greece, a small EU member state with a small economy, joined the eurozone in 2001. Sharing a currency with powerhouses like Germany, France and Italy, its economy grew artificially. This bubble burst in 2008, and Greece descended into financial meltdown. With the Greek economy attached to the rest of Europe’s, Athens threatened to drag Brussels down with it.

In 2015, Syriza, an outsider, radical-leftist party, won Greece’s parliamentary elections. Tired of the overbearing regulations the EU put on Greece (and the previous Greek government’s compliance with it), new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras picked a fight with Brussels.

“Europe in its infinite wisdom decided to deal with [Greece’s] bankruptcy by loading the largest loan in human history on the weakest of shoulders,” said Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. “What we’ve been having ever since is a kind of fiscal waterboarding that has turned this nation into a ‘debt colony.’” Merkel’s Germany was the main target of Syriza’s wrath. The German chancellor, however, was the wrong person to pick a fight with. Merkel ended up being one of the main negotiators between Athens and Brussels.

The EU demanded that Greece take on massive austerity reforms in exchange for a new bailout package. These included slashing pensions and drastic tax increases. The Greek government felt the free-falling economy couldn’t handle that. So they held a referendum, and the Greek people voted overwhelmingly against it.

Yet Berlin and Brussels threatened to let Greece free-fall out of the eurozone. The terms Greece was eventually forced to accept ended up being even harsher than the original bailout terms. Under the adopted deal—as negotiated by Angela Merkel—the EU had veto power over new Greek laws and could force Greece to repeal existing laws. The EU overrode a democratic referendum to put itself over Greek sovereignty.

Germany used the EU to diminish the sovereignty of a fellow member state. This shows who the real power is behind Brussels’s throne.

Wir Schaffen Das

Greece and Cyprus weren’t the only Mediterranean countries to catch Merkel’s attention. Syria has been stuck in a civil war since 2011. The chaos forced multitudes of Syrians to flee north in search of a better life.

As the years went on, more and more Syrians fled their war-torn homeland. In 2012, the number of people fleeing Syria as refugees was 142,000. In 2014, that number was 2.3 million. In 2015, that number was 4 million. Once many of these refugees entered the EU through places like Greece, they would have free movement throughout the whole bloc. For many of them, their final intended destination was the EU’s most prosperous state: Germany.

Having hundreds of thousands of impoverished Middle Eastern migrants arriving into one’s country—migrants who can’t speak German and haven’t been vetted for terrorism links—would obviously put many Germans on edge. How to integrate these people in German society was a mystery. Whether to close the border to new refugees was an unanswered question. Far-right activists were becoming agitated.

What was Merkel’s response?

Wir schaffen das.” (“We can do this.”)

But six years on, has Germany been able to “do this”?

Since 2015, Germany has accepted roughly a million refugees and migrants. About half of those are refugees from Syria. Many have integrated into German society, but many haven’t. A July 2021 report from InfoMigrants suggests that 65 percent of Syrians who are able to work rely fully or partially on welfare. This contrasts with 37 percent of Somali migrants and 44 percent of Afghan migrants who are dependent on welfare. Only about 27 percent of Syrians in Germany are of working age.

“[cdu spokesperson Mathias] Middelberg pointed out that the proportion of Syrians receiving state benefits remained high in spite of their relatively good chances of being granted protection in Germany,” the InfoMigrants report read. “In other words, he suggested, having secure status does not lead to better integration into the labor market.”

The influx of migrants brought an increase in Islamist terrorist attacks. The first asylum seeker to launch a terrorist attack in Germany, a 17-year-old Afghan, attacked Chinese tourists with an ax and a knife in northern Bavaria in July 2016. Later that month, an 18-year-old Iranian-German shot nine people in Munich. On July 24, a Syrian suicide bomber injured 15 people at a music festival in Ansbach. In December of that year, Anis Amri, a Tunisian, crashed a truck into a Berlin market and mowed down six Germans and two foreigners. In 2017, knife-wielding Palestinian terrorist Ahmad Alhaw killed one and injured several others in Hamburg. Last June, a Somali terrorist stabbed three women in Würzburg.

This has predictably caused a far-right surge in Germany. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party was founded in 2013. It originally was organized as a euroskeptic, anti-immigrant party. But it has since become an anti-Semitic party that supports rehabilitating Germany’s Nazi legacy. In the 2017 parliamentary elections, it became the third largest-party in the Bundestag. The cdu and spd formed another grand coalition, leaving the AfD as the largest opposition party.

The level of angst among the far right was realized with the murder of Walter Lübcke. Lübcke, a cdu state legislator from the state of Hesse, was a vocal supporter of Merkel’s refugee policy. On June 2, 2019, while Lübcke was at his house, Stephan Ernst, a right-wing extremist, shot and killed him. This was the first far-right-associated murder of a German politician since 1945.

The far left has also thrived during the Merkel era. Die Linke, the successor to East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party, receiving 9.2 percent of the vote in 2017. The party is most popular in former East Germany; it currently leads the government in the eastern state of Thuringia.

Under Merkel, Germany has experienced political polarization and extremism that it hasn’t seen since the fall of the Weimar Republic in the 1930s.

Yet even as crises rocked Germany domestically, Merkel was building an empire.

Marching to Berlin’s Beat

Axing conscription wasn’t the only reform Merkel gave to the Bundeswehr. Under Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the Bundeswehr systematically swallowed the armies of its neighbors. In World War ii, this was done through panzer tanks and blitzkrieg. Von der Leyen accomplished the same through negotiations and mutual agreements.

In March 2016, the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade joined the Bundeswehr. This put two thirds of the Dutch Army’s command structure under Berlin. In February 2017, the Czech Republic and Romania agreed to integrate some of their brigades into the Bundeswehr. The same month, von der Leyen signed a declaration with the Belgian and Norwegian defense ministers showing their intent to join a Dutch-Luxembourg fleet of refueling aircraft. In April 2017, France and Germany agreed to jointly operate a transport aircraft fleet.

In 2018, under von der Leyen, North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers approved two new nato command centers. Germany received one of them. The command center focuses on rapid-troop movement, especially to Eastern Europe. But the command center, according to Deutsche Welle, was not “integrated into the current nato command structure” but is controlled more directly by Germany.

Von der Leyen also established military training facilities in Germany open to soldiers of other European countries.

As Paul Lever, former British ambassador to Germany, writes in his book Berlin Rules: “Germany [participates] in a more extensive network of collaborative military relationships than any other European country.”

Von der Leyen became president of the European Commission (the EU’s executive head) in 2019. She’s now using her experience of synchronizing militaries on the European level. In her state of the union address in Strasbourg, France, this year, von der Leyen called for the construction of an EU military. Such rhetoric from eurocrats is not new. But the timing—after the botched American exit from Afghanistan (and Washington’s snub of Europe’s concerns)—makes her speech noteworthy.

“There will be missions where nato or the United Nations will not be present but where Europe should be,” she said. “You can have the most advanced forces in the world, but if you’re never prepared to use them, what are they? That is what has held us back until now. It’s not just a shortfall of capacity; it’s the lack of political will.”

Next year, France will hold the EU Council presidency. French President Emmanuel Macron has been a vocal supporter of a European army. He could be a natural partner for von der Leyen in this regard.

Germany sending soldiers to EU battalions may seem like a giant leap for a country traditionally cautious in showing off its military. But, as Lever writes, “For Germany, a joint military unit wearing an EU badge would not be that different from the plethora of multinational formations in which the Bundeswehr already participates. It would also, as with nato or the UN, offer a legal framework which would make it easier for the Bundestag to approve a prospective operation.”

And even if the creation of an EU army is spearheaded by France, it doesn’t mean Paris would be the power behind the army. Germany has Europe’s most powerful economy; the European Commission president is German.

Even with Merkel out of office, her former defense minister is continuing her legacy. From Brussels rather than Berlin.

Angela Merkel in Prophecy

One of the most important trends the Trumpet has watched for over the years is the emergence of a strong German leader to take control of Europe. We base our analysis on several biblical prophecies. Revelation 17 prophesies of seven empires rising in Europe to resurrect the conquests of the old Roman Empire. The last of these culminated in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, the sixth resurrection. That means one more is due to come from Europe. (Please request a free copy of The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy for more information.)

Isaiah 10 prophesies of the Assyrians—Germany’s ancient ancestors—being the main people to resurrect this empire in an attack against America and Britain (please request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy for more information).

The book of Daniel prophesies of the leader of a German-dominated Europe, one who is extremely intelligent, “one who understands riddles” (Daniel 8:23; Revised Standard Version). He will have a lot of power (verse 24) and appear as a man of peace (Daniel 11:24) but will command a formidable war machine (verse 31). His military will destroy rival powers almost effortlessly (verses 40-43).

We expect that man to come on the scene soon.

How does Angela Merkel fit into this?

Nobody is accusing Merkel of being the mastermind behind turning the EU into a totalitarian, globe-encompassing superpower. She is not the figure mentioned in Daniel 8 and 11. But she prepared Germany—and Europe—for him.

Before Merkel became chancellor, Germany was a powerful country, but you couldn’t really call it the “uncrowned king of Europe.” The German chancellor wasn’t considered “the leader of the free world.” But Merkel has done all she could to turn Germany into Europe’s most powerful nation. Her treatment of Cyprus and Greece showed Europe Germany isn’t afraid to force smaller countries to its will. The military agreements she signed with other European states are making Germany the nucleus of an EU military. And her former defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is continuing from Brussels what she started in Berlin. Von der Leyen’s Defense Ministry predecessor, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, led the way for Germany to become a world-class military by making it professional. And Merkel’s approval of Schröder’s Nord Stream project showed she wasn’t afraid to do a deal with Russia that put Eastern Europe at a security risk, a security risk that makes Europe more energy-dependent on Germany.

Yet Merkel’s chancellorship has also been marked by increasing instability domestically. Her botched handling of the Syrian refugee crisis—and the spate of Islamic terror attacks that followed—caused many to be disillusioned with the government. Many began looking to extremist parties, like the AfD and Die Linke. This culminated in the 2017 election, when, for the first time since World War ii, a far-right party became the largest group in opposition. Germany is now more politically unstable than it’s been since 1945. Germans are looking for somebody to pull them out of the problems that have accumulated in the Merkel era—problems like the debt crisis, the refugee crisis, the increase in Islamic terrorism, and political polarization.

When Germans find their man, he’s going to inherit a Germany that’s stronger than it was in 2005. It’s a Germany that’s ready to take the world by storm. And under this man, Germany will do just that.

Thanks to Merkel’s 16 years in office, Germany—and Europe—is ready for him.

“Strong leaders are rising on the world scene today in several nations, including Russia, China and Iran,” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet A Strong German Leader Is Imminent. “But what about Europe? What about Germany? Germany is one of the top exporters of military armaments in the world, and the third-largest exporter of goods. Its economy dominates the European Union. But Germany does not have a strong leader.”

Germany has a lot of potential to be a force to be reckoned with, the dynamo to turn Europe into a superpower. People like Merkel and von der Leyen have used that power to a degree. But there is a lot more power in Berlin and Brussels that haven’t been used. What happens when that power is used?

“A strong German leader is imminent! When he comes to power, this world will be shocked as it has never been shocked before,” Mr. Flurry warns.

Find out how and why by requesting a free copy of A Strong German Leader Is Imminent.