Reckless Germany is making war in Ukraine more likely

Since taking office, I talked more about security in Ukraine than about any other country,” German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Monday. But talk is all she offered Kiev against Russian boots and tanks at the border. Threats that Moscow would pay a “high price” for an invasion remain empty as she insists that “diplomacy is the only viable path”. Germany’s undermining of Western attempts to deter Putin make open conflict more likely, not less.

It should not have come as a surprise to Kiev that Baerbock appeared empty-handed on her visit. In the previous days and weeks, Ukraine has thrown a desperate mixture of pleas, demands and accusations at Germany, including an uncomfortable reminder of the crimes commited in Ukraine by the Nazi regime, designed to guilt-trip the country into action.

 But to no avail. Germany’s dependence on Russian gas is greater than its desire to stand up to Putin’s aggression. While in the past, Baerbock stood shoulder to shoulder with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he called the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline “leverage for Europe to use against Russia”, it is unlikely that lights out in Germany will be an acceptable price to pay for the protection of Ukraine’s borders. …

Germany’s empty rhetoric about Russia “paying a high price” should it invade Ukraine is risky for itself and its allies. The tensions with the US and Britain over this are there for everyone to see. Germany narrowly avoided US economic sanctions over Nord Stream 2 and the matter is still not off the table. Meanwhile, the UK is sending light anti-tank weapons to Ukraine for its defence while avoiding German airspace as it does. It could not be more obvious to Putin that the West does not pose a united front against Russian aggression. He might well decide to call Germany’s bluff. The conflict that would follow can be avoided through deterrence. But Germany’s barking without bite is ineffectual and reckless.