When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Angela Merkel Shares the Unspoken Truth About COVID-19

Angela Merkel during her speech in the German Bundestag
Angela Merkel during her speech in the German Bundestag
Carl-Johan Karlsson

It is a speech that stands out from all those we've heard from world leaders in the 10 months since the pandemic began — a far cry from the fact-defying rhetoric of Jair Bolsonaro or the cool logic of Emmanuel Macron.

As Germany reported a record 590 deaths in one day from Covid-19, Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to parliament for tougher restrictions to stem the spread. But rather than read a series of proposed new regulations or explain scientific recommendations, Merkel's plea was that of a political leader openly struggling before her citizens in the face of defeat: "If we have too many contacts before Christmas and it ends up being the last Christmas with the grandparents, then we'd really have failed. We should not do that."

And indeed, for someone whose 15-year leadership has been defined by a sober approach to the toughest of challenges, it was an unusual moment as the chancellor spoke directly to shopkeepers who would suffer from new lockdowns. "I really am sorry, from the bottom of my heart. But if the price we pay is 590 deaths a day, then this is unacceptable," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "What will we say when we look back on this once-in-a-century event — if we weren't able to find a solution?"

In my native Sweden (the champion of voluntary coronavirus measures) people's reluctance to heed government advice is partly due to weak political rhetoric. Like in the German federation, Sweden's 21 regions manage their own crisis response, which Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has conveniently used to dodge responsibility.

Merkel's speech was remarkable for the way she indeed stood up and said what she thought, but also for the inherent acknowledgment of the limits of our powers to make the right decisions. "I don't know," admitted Merkel, one of the few world leaders who is a trained scientist. "This is not my area of expertise. I don't want to interfere."

For nearly a year, politicians have tried to supply answers to a public that is increasingly losing both trust and patience. Merkel finally shared out loud a truth about the pandemic that most of us have known inside for a while: There is no good answer.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest