Acting together and united towards Russia – that was the Chancellor’s claim, repeated countless times. In fact, the argument isn’t the worst; because if there is a central goal for Vladimir Putin besides total victory, then it is the division of the West. However, the fact that the chances of the warlord in the Kremlin not looking too bad for achieving this goal is not least due to the chancellor.
Scholz has been irritating the EU partners in the east for a long time with his stance on the battle tank issue. But now he is increasingly snubbing the Americans as well.
Scholz claimed that he and US President Joe Biden agreed: Germany would only deliver its Leopard 2 if the US made its Abrams available to Ukraine. Not only that Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who had just been appointed by Scholz, publicly wanted nothing to do with such a connection. It is also a fact that Biden is fed up with the chancellor looking for the reason for his hesitant attitude in the White House.
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The overall picture: The chancellor, of all people, who always evoked the unity of the West, is increasingly straying lonely in the tank debate – not least because he doesn’t think it’s necessary or isn’t even able to explain his stance. And even the willing observer wonders what would actually be worse.
Leopard-Panzer: What are the reasons for Olaf Scholz’ hesitant attitude?
So what could be the reasons for the Chancellor’s hesitant attitude? Is it really the fear of a nuclear escalation of this war? Does he want at all costs to prevent Putin from classifying NATO or even Germany as a war party? Or is he primarily concerned with making the USA take responsibility?
One does not know. The Chancellor does not declare himself publicly. At least not in the way that would be necessary at a time when a Russia that is both revisionist and imperialist not only openly questions the European security architecture, but also endangers it.
Emmanuel Macron, who is pursuing a similarly cautious and balanced strategy as the chancellor, shows how it’s done: France’s President names clear criteria and requirements for the delivery of the French Leclerc main battle tank.
The chancellor is quite different: he communicates in a minimally invasive manner at best, seems aloof – and at least gives the public, but probably also one or the other interlocutor at the political level, the feeling that he, the farsighted chancellor, does not consider it necessary, all those involved to share in his ruling knowledge. The chancellor wants to appear as master of the situation – even when the situation – as is currently the case – has gotten completely out of control. And it is to be feared that his refusal to communicate openly and clearly played a part in this. The whole thing seems all the more absurd as very few – and probably not even Scholz himself – doubt that Leopards will be used in Ukraine in a few weeks.
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“History is watching us,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Ramstein. The chancellor may well feel that he is being addressed personally.
Tank debate: Olaf Scholz is hiding behind the American President
Olaf Scholz falls far short of the claim of his speech about the turn of the century, which rightly met with a very positive response internationally. The chancellor spoke of a German leadership role and of Europe’s greater responsibility for security policy, of European sovereignty. Now he’s hiding behind the American president in the Leopard debate. Out of consideration for Berlin, Biden apparently left the chancellor’s claim unchallenged for so long.
The coalition also shows how precarious the situation of the chancellor and his party has become. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, FDP federal executive and chairwoman of the defense committee, can unchallengedly describe the chancellor’s attitude in her party as “shameful”. Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announces that she will grant Poland’s request for the delivery of Leopard tanks – a promise that the chancellor himself prevented at all costs in Ramstein. In any case, Warsaw had publicly considered whether to deliver without Berlin approval if necessary – that too has a new quality.
Scholz was only now initiating a test order as to how many Leos were available and when – as if the week-long debates about the German tanks hadn’t even happened. Who wants to understand that, with a chancellor who claims to know the situation like no other and to always act with foresight?
Much of what is currently going wrong in the Chancellor’s Party is certainly also due to the social democratic legacy of a special relationship with Moscow. This has been particularly evident since the outbreak of the Ukraine war. It started with the proud and high-profile announcement to deliver 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.
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This was followed by the chancellor’s hesitation and procrastination with every delivery of new branches of arms – Scholz only acted when the pressure was so great that there was no other choice. Also, the fact that the volume of weapons supplied from Germany is now impressive – the behavior was not worthy of the largest economy in Europe.
Now the voices of the SPD are again calling for ceasefire negotiations and warning of a new cold war if Berlin delivers the Leopards. A new cold war? It has long been a hot one – committed by an aggressor who could not be identified more clearly. Rarely has the situation in international law, even moral terms, been clearer than in this war.
In essence, it is about the “question of whether power can break the law,” Scholz correctly stated in his speech about the turn of the century. It’s about setting limits to warmongers like Putin. That, in turn, required one’s own strength, according to the Chancellor.
It is precisely the strength that the chancellor and his party are currently lacking.
More: Morawiecki: Will ask Germany for permission for Leopard delivery