German president evokes "epochal break"

In an address to the nation, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has described the 24th of February 2022 as an "epochal break". In his 45-minute address, the president also conceded that he had made personal mistakes with regard to Germany's policy towards Russia in recent years. Europe's commentators take different views of how effective the speech was.

Open/close all quotes
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Rare self-criticism

Corriere della Sera praises Steinmeier's courage in admitting his own mistakes:

“Above all, he admitted that with regard to today's Russia 'there is no more room for old dreams', as Putin's war in Ukraine signifies 'the definitive and bitter failure of years of political efforts, also by me personally'. It is rare for a statesman to find the strength to express self-criticism with such clarity. Steinmeier deserves credit for this, with admiration, looking beyond the mistakes made in recent years by a Germany that always - in this case without ever harbouring any doubts - moved closer to a Russia whose regression was plain for all to see.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

A cowardly rallying speech

Der Tagesspiegel finds it problematic to describe the 24 February 2022 as an "epochal break":

“This interpretation ignores the prehistory, his own mistakes and entanglements, illusions and misjudgements. ... In a speech about sacrifices and the difficult years ahead, there was room for an apology to all those affected by the consequences of Germany's misguided Russia policy: the Ukrainians, the Eastern Europeans, the Germans who can't pay their electricity bills. A rallying speech that fails to take stock of the past testifies to a lack of courage.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Relations in tatters

German-Russian relations have been disrupted for a long time to come, notes Radio Kommersant FM:

“The epochal rupture between Russia and Germany is painful, to say the least. ... These contacts were established in Soviet times - and built up over more than 50 years. ... Now Olaf Scholz is no longer even a partner but an adversary. Vladimir Putin also recently said about Germany: You're wrong, but maybe you'll come to your senses and everything will be fine. To be frank, that is rather doubtful, because as we all know it's much easier to destroy something than to put it back together again, even if it brings direct benefits. That can take years - or even decades.”