Meeting of the conservative think tank R21: There used to be more nuclear power
The conservative think tank R21 asks about the legacy of Angela Merkel. The balance is rather bleak. One mourns the end of German nuclear power plants.
BERLIN taz | The conservatives in the Union have always had an ambivalent relationship with Angela Merkel. The reservations were too liberal, too contemporary, too agile. The conservative think tank R21, whose spiritus rector is the Mainz politics professor Andreas Rödder, dealt with “Germany after the Merkel era” in Berlin on Tuesday.
The think tank, founded in 2022 and already receiving plenty of donations, wants to be loud Self-description “founding a new bourgeois politics in Germany and Europe”. In addition to Rödder, the former CDU family minister Kristina Schröder is also on the board. At the end of last year they were already loading to the anti-weekeness congress. So now it’s about the conservative legacy.
According to journalist Robin Alexander, one result of the Merkel era was the AfD, which found useful humus in the non-oppositional silence on Merkel’s refugee policy and Merkel’s fixation on being able to connect with the center left. According to Alexander, the Union would do well to debate this.
But R21 only wants that in part. According to the announcement, they do not want to “bash Merkel” under any circumstances, but rather look to the future in a three-step process of balance sheet, knowledge and prospects. Perhaps the fixation on tomorrow is also a gesture of distance towards strictly right-wing conservatives, who often idealize a glorified past.
Nevertheless, the wording of R21 sometimes resembles right-wing discourses. Board member Harald Mosler sees himself surrounded by “an armada of opponents”. The purpose of R21 is to “recapture the discourse sovereignty from the left-green milieu”, which wants to dictate to everyone what can be said. That doesn’t sound much different with the AfD either.
Merkel perfected Schröder
The historian Dominik Geppert sketches a pleasingly multifaceted picture of the Merkel era, far from the emotions that Merkel mobilized for a long time among conservatives. During her term of office, Germany came through the financial crisis in good shape economically. However, as a crisis winner. The export economy was booming – because the USA and China fought the crisis after 2008 with financial bazookas.
The fact that the German export world championship was due to debts elsewhere is a remarkable realization for a liberal-conservative like Geppert. Merkel has also perfected what Gerhard Schröder did. Schröder implemented conservative projects with the Kosovo war and Agenda 2010, Merkel implemented mirror-symmetrical red-green projects with the nuclear phase-out and management of the refugee crisis.
Both are a result of the attempt to overcome the internal blockade of the federal German system. However, according to Geppert, the abrupt fall from the popular chancellor to the rather unpopular former chancellor is no coincidence. Merkel’s deficits caught the eye of many after February 24, 2022: only pragmatism, no planning for emergencies.
Germany should “think big”
Rödder formulates the new post-Merkel foreign policy more jaggedly. The German dream of being able to be a civilian power was shattered with the attack on Kiev. According to Rödder, we are in a situation “like in 1938”. Merkel would have been good at preventing disasters like the outbreak of World War I in 1914, but unable to stop Putin, whom we are supposed to think of as Hitler’s revenant.
When fighting Hitler, no measure is big enough. Thus Rödder demands a self-confident, normal Germany, which with the USA “think big must learn”. The global fight against China and Russia is about “the self-assertion of the West”. According to George Bush’s formula of “partnership in leadership”, Germany is to act alongside the USA and is generally “the decisive player in Europe”. That sounds pretty broad.
On the podium, however, everyone agrees. No quarrel anywhere. Rolf Nikel, former ambassador in Warsaw, also agrees. The political scientist Gerlinde Groitl pleads for a “new containment policy” against the threat from the East – a term that ties in with the US strategy against the USSR.
Transatlantic plus German strength – that is the complete opposite of the pro-Russian AfD discourse. The word leadership comes up every two minutes. And although it is sometimes noted that this is not a new Cold War, the debate sounds exactly like this: containment and rearmament. Sounds like 80s.
Where have all the nuclear power plants gone?
The closeness of the conservatives to enthusiastically spread doomsday scenarios is astonishing. The economist Daniel Stelter paints a pitch-black picture. Germany is a broken one failed state, bankrupt and aging, in which the money is spent on superfluous things like the energy transition. Germany is also not rich, but a country of impoverished tenants and with unaffordable pensions. De-industrialization is also unstoppable. “We’re dragging Europe into the abyss,” said Stelter. And, particularly scandalous, the chancellor refuses to take any notice of it. The audience applauds. The propensity for apocalyptic scenes was once a hallmark of the left – it seems to have switched sides.
And the climate? If you follow Anna Veronika Wendland, many things would be better if only the nuclear power plants could keep running. The German nuclear technology, unanimously praised on the podium as “the best in the world”, was finished off for ideological reasons. According to Wendland, it was characterized as “authoritarian, male and dangerous”, although it is a great form of energy, much more climate-friendly than photovoltaics. Joachim Weimann believes that the 400 billion for renewables would have been better invested in new generations of nuclear power plants.
Somehow that smells strongly of retro and the 80s, when convinced Union supporters declared the idea of replacing nuclear power with sun and wind to be ridiculous green nonsense.
R21 doesn’t seem to be too serious about the future. It is better to settle very, very old scores.