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Max Hastings

Ukraine Failures Show Germany Is Europe's Weak Link

It’s a paradox that a traditionally martial people now stand in the way of every attempt to bolster the continent's defense and security.

So far yet so near.

So far yet so near.

Photographer: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

A potential invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin has prompted the U.S. and Britain to make gestures of military deterrence. It has generated a parallel crisis, however, for Europe’s dominant state. On Tuesday, Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, flew to Moscow to try and stem the emergency. But other than a call to return to the moribund Minsk peace talks and a lame joke about Putin’s expected tenure, little was achieved.

Last week, Scholz made belated noises to suggest that an invasion of Ukraine would place in jeopardy the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would carry Russian gas directly to Germany and avoid Ukrainian territory, something of high economic importance to Moscow. Yet it is doubtful that anybody, least of all Putin, believes that Scholz was serious. Such is Germany’s dependence on Russian energy that, whatever short-term measures Berlin might apply to punish Moscow, the German government would almost certainly seek a swift rapprochement.