Russia ‘emboldened to act’ in Eastern Europe without ‘really tough German response’

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Germany’s federal election was yesterday, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel set to be replaced. After nearly 16 years leading the country, Mrs Merkel is not seeking a fifth successive term in office. Mrs Merkel’s favoured replacement is Armin Laschet from her own conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. However, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Mrs Merkel is Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The politician, who is Germany’s current Vice-Chancellor, has not ruled out a coalition with the Greens, led by Annalena Baerbock.

Mrs Baerbock has taken a tougher stance on Russia than her two main rivals for the chancellorship.

Political expert John Callahan said Mrs Baerbock’s foreign policy towards Moscow marks her out as the most interesting candidate to succeed Mrs Merkel.

Mr Callahan is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US.

Speaking to, he explained how Mrs Baerbock’s position on Russia could be a major departure from Berlin’s relations with Moscow under Mrs Merkel.

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He said: “The whole situation in eastern Europe, if you want to deter Russia in Eastern Europe, the Americans can help do that in a certain way, but Germany really has to be at the centre of that.

“Without a really tough German response, Russia is emboldened to act.”

Mr Callahan claimed he is “most fascinated” by Mrs Baerbock.

He said: “I’ve been observing Germany for 30 years and remember a time when the Greens were a complete joke, but these things happen and it’s interesting.”

The Greens candidate criticised Moscow’s build-up of troops on the Ukrainian border as she unveiled her candidacy earlier this year.

She said: “If Germany’s voice in foreign policy fails — be it with regard to the tensions in Ukraine or the attitude towards Russia, or with regard to the Nord Stream 2 project — then Europe will be destroyed.”

Mrs Baerbock has taken aim at the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, claiming it could give Moscow too much power over Europe’s energy supplies.

She has accused Mrs Merkel’s administration of not being hard enough on Russia, particularly in its backing of Nord Stream 2.

She told the Financial Times last month: “You have to seek dialogue where possible but show toughness where needed.”

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Earlier this year the US and Germany reached an agreement on Nord Stream 2 to prevent Moscow using the pipeline to undermine European energy security.

Critics have warned that Nord Stream 2, which runs through the Baltic Sea, threatens Ukraine’s energy security.

Germany promised the US, which is opposed to the project, that it would impose sanctions on Russia if it threatened Ukraine’s energy security.

Mr Callahan said Mrs Baerbock could “absolutely” provide a bulwark against potential Russian aggression towards Ukraine and in Eastern Europe.

He added: “I don’t think that any of the big three contenders would stand by and allow things to happen, but I think pragmatism could outweigh commitments in some cases.

“I think the most likely to follow Merkel’s path would be Laschet, naturally, and then followed by Scholz.

“Then that puts Baerbock as the one who might actually take a quite different path towards Russia.”

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