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Angela Merkel served the wishes of a comfortable, affluent society

"Through a mirror, a dark image.

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Angela Merkel served the wishes of a comfortable, affluent society

"Through a mirror, a dark image." This is how I would describe my view of the "Merkel era" with the words of the Apostle Paul, which Olaf Scholz declared to be over with his speech about the turning of the tide. The picture is dark because we (have to) associate Angela Merkel with a time of illusions and the procrastination of problems.

The illusion began when we saw the fall of the Soviet Union as a time of everlasting peace and prosperity in Europe. Even if murderous wars were raging elsewhere, we saw ourselves as unaffected. The government of Angela Merkel stood for disarmament and the decline of our military capacity. With the "peace dividend" we fed the welfare state.

The illusion continued with the fact that we firmly believed that hostile dictatorships and autocracies could be appeased with "change through trade" and "discourse ethics" according to Jürgen Habermas and integrated into our world of peace.

From Putin Russia we got the energy we used to manufacture goods that we sent to Xi China. And we clung to the illusion that there should be no alternative to the euro as the culmination of European unification, even if we assumed liability risks of around 1.7 trillion euros for the preservation of the single currency.

Hardly any politician stood more for this time than Angela Merkel. As a result of its decline, the former citizen of the Soviet empire missed her chance of a meteoric rise to the top politics of Germany and Europe. A similar career from the ruins of the former empire was only achieved by Vladimir Putin, who entered politics at the same time as Merkel and reached the top floor of politics in the same year as her.

If Merkel stood for the period of the fake European peace until the Ukraine war, Putin embodies the phantom pain of Russia after the amputation of key members of the Soviet empire.

But the dark image is also our reflection. Because Angela Merkel did not shape politics in the time of false peace, but served the desire of a comfortable, affluent society for peace and insurance of all life risks. For a long time she was Germany's most popular politician because, to everyone's relief, she swept problems that would have been difficult to solve under the carpet.

It was only after they had chosen to leave politics that it became clear what was underneath: a failed energy policy, a crumbling infrastructure, a dysfunctional state bureaucracy, the German armed forces unable to defend themselves and mountains of European debt with German liability.

Her successor had shown the rhombus during the election campaign and promised when he took office that “not much would change there”. Only three months later, this promise could no longer be kept. One has to give Olaf Scholz credit for seeing this and breaking rhetorically with the Merkel era.

But one must not overlook the fact that German society has not yet arrived in the new era after the turning point. The failure of former Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and Olaf Scholz's hesitancy in implementing his "political change of era" are only the outward signs of the mentality of the majority of Germans, who are still rooted in the Merkel era.

“Now I see piecemeal; but then I will know as I was known,” Paul continues. Now it depends on us how future historians will judge the Germany of our time.

Thomas Mayer is founding director of the Flossbach von Storch Research Institute. On February 24, his new book "Russia's work and Germany's contribution" was published.

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