Opinion | Germany once committed war crimes in Ukraine. Now it is subsidizing Russia.

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When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz responded by suspending the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, announcing a further investment of 100 billion euros in defense and sending weapons to Ukraine. It was all major shifts in German foreign policy that led to headlines like this one in the Atlantic: “Europe’s sleeping giant wakes up.”

More than two months later, it is more accurate to say that the sleeping giant woke up – but then pressed the snooze button and went to sleep again. While Germany was initially at the forefront of responding to the Russian attack, it has now fallen embarrassingly and unforgivably behind many of its allies when it comes to both supplying Ukraine and sanctioning Russia despite horrific revelations of Russian war crimes.

It is not as if Germany is not doing anything. It has sent a significant amount of ammunition to Ukraine, including thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. But its military aid to Ukraine lags behind not only the United States and Britain, but also little Estonia. As a percentage of gross domestic product, Germany’s contribution looks even harsher – 11 other nations do more than Europe’s largest economy.

Germany still refuses to send heavy weapons to Ukraine – that is, tanks, howitzers, drones and long-range air defenses – at a time when the country desperately needs such weapons to win the battle for the Donbas region. The Social Democratic Party, which controls Germany, has given a number of shifting and unconvincing explanations for its hesitation, including the claim that its armed forces have no armored vehicles or artillery left over, that the Ukrainians are not sophisticated enough to use German weapons. , and that it sends heavy weapons would provoke Russia. Under heavy pressure from allies, Germany finally agreed on Tuesday to supply 50 air defense tanks to Ukraine. “I am doing everything I can to prevent an escalation that would lead to a third world war,” Scholz told German news magazine Der Spiegel. “There can be no nuclear war.”

Scholz shamelessly reinforces Russian propaganda: Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to hint at his nuclear arsenal to deter the West from helping its victims. Does the Chancellor seriously suggest that Germany’s NATO allies risk nuclear war by sending heavy weapons to Ukraine? In fact, he has it backwards. The best way to avert a world war is to stop Russia in Ukraine. If Putin wins this war, he would be encouraged to further aggression against neighboring states, including members of NATO.

Even worse than Germany’s unwillingness to send more aid to Ukraine is the country’s unwillingness to stop all energy imports from Russia. Berlin plans to stop buying Russian oil and coal this year, but there are no immediate plans to close the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline. Germany has actually become more dependent on Russian gas over the past decade despite Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. In 2011, Germany accounted for Russia for 39 percent of its natural gas supplies. Today it is 55 percent. Every day, Germany pays about $ 220 million to Russia for energy. It is more than $ 80 billion a year that finances the Russian war machine.

Germany committed genocide in Ukraine during World War II and promised “Never again”. Yet it is now financing Russia’s horrific war crimes in Ukraine – which are probably equivalent to genocide.

Once upon a time, the Germans could convince themselves that trade with Russia would soften the bear. Germany’s Eastern policy, dating back to 1969, was based on “Wandel durch Handel” or “change through trade.” Beneath the surface, of course, was a sharp undercurrent of sleaze as many German elites – the most infamous former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder – became rich off the Kremlin.

Germany can no longer argue that there is anything remotely idealistic about its dealings with the butcher from Bucha. Schröder has become a pariah in his own country. But after becoming dependent on cheap Russian energy, the German government now insists it would be too financially painful to wean itself off.

In fact, Germany can end its unscrupulous dependence on Russian gas by simply reversing the worst mistake made by former Chancellor Angela Merkel: She decided, after Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima in 2011, to phase out all nuclear power, even though there is no chance that a German nuclear reactor is deactivated by a combination of an earthquake and tsunami. Germany once had 17 nuclear power plants. Now there are only three left and they should close by the end of the year.

Shutting down the nuclear power industry not only makes it harder to stop the Russian war machine, but also to slow down global warming. German CO2 emissions per per capita is almost twice as high as in France, a country that is expanding, not closing, its nuclear power industry. Germany has an urgent need to keep its three remaining nuclear power plants open and restart its closed ones. By doing so, it can radically reduce – even end – its immoral dependence on Russian gas imports.

Given that nuclear energy is both far cleaner and far safer than fossil fuels, it seems to be a no-brainer. Yet the Scholz government, which rests on a coalition that includes the Green Party, refuses to take this decisive step. It prefers instead to subsidize Russian war crimes. Germany should be ashamed.

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