Olaf Scholz is currently driving the Western Allies to despair, as well as his coalition partners from the Greens and the FDP. What rides the Chancellor?
Olaf Scholz’s communication was a “disaster”, say politicians in the traffic light coalition. But – what should the chancellor talk about? About his fear that his own party will abandon his flag? About his fear that the Russians will eventually use nuclear weapons? About his fear that the Americans would then leave the Europeans alone?
Nothing that concerns the Federal Chancellor is suitable for public discussion. Or to justify his actions. Scholz does not communicate because he would harm himself as an explainer. Scholz accepts that not talking can cause considerable harm, including to himself. Here are his three motives:
First: Scholz is considerate of the SPD, especially its left wing. The chancellor wants to avoid everything so as not to “fail, like Schmidt and Schröder, because of his own party”. That’s how political scientist Thomas Jäger, who regularly writes for FOCUS online, explains it. In fact, Scholz is coming under pressure in his government, but the SPD is not involved. As long as it stays that way, Scholz does not have to move on the tank question, at least not as the first.
Secondly: Scholz is considerate of Russia, or more precisely: the chancellor is trying to take Russian unpredictability into account in his actions. Although: are the Russians so unpredictable? Not a single weapon decision by Germany and the West has Russia used for more than threatening gestures. Russia has always “escalated” in its war – but always “only” in Ukraine, never towards the west.
Nevertheless: Each weapon delivery means a new level. First the delivery to a war zone was a “no go”, then the delivery of “heavy weapons”, then tanks, now it’s battle tanks. Scholz’ tactic is: stop and go. And not: All in. That’s why main battle tanks aren’t the last step either.
The Ukrainians are already demanding fighter jets – to the dismay of SPD MPs who, like the computer scientist Parsa Marvi, ask: What else? Although: Fighter jets have long been an issue for the Allies. With the help of American veterans, Ukrainian soldiers have been training for months about their possible deployment. The US magazine “Time” already revealed this in the summer.
Even the SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich, the most pacifist of the Social Democrats, says there are “no red lines”. He didn’t say: there’s a red line after a Leo delivery. Although it is obvious that there are: The Western Allies meticulously adhere to the war regulations in international law so as not to become a “party to the war”. Most recently, SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert emphasized this line, but lit smokescreens because:
One does not become a party to the war by supplying the Ukraine with Leopard 2 main battle tanks. International law allows an attacked person to defend himself appropriately and his helpers to help him appropriately. Even Western fighter jets would not make Germany a “war party”. It would be different if the West enforced a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Poland, for example, considered at the beginning of the war – and the USA prevented.
The West would also become a “war party” if it were to train Ukrainian soldiers on Ukrainian territory. It would certainly be so if western soldiers were to fight side by side with Ukrainian soldiers.
On the other hand, the reconquest of Crimea by Ukraine is compatible with international law, because neither this peninsula nor the Donbass are Russian territory, and the UN has not recognized it as such. The Russians can say whatever they want. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has already suggested that a decision on the peninsula should be taken in 15 years, in other words to freeze the Crimea conflict.
Third: Scholz puts pressure on the Americans – apparently successfully. Without US battle tanks, there would be no German battle tanks, Scholz spoke to Seth Moulton, a member of the House of Representatives, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He in turn spoke out in favor of delivering some Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine so that Europe could supply Ukraine with Leos on a large scale.
As the influential Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said: “Supply tanks so others will follow our lead”. “Other” means Scholz. In general, the previous logistically justified refusal by the Americans to deliver Abrams to the Ukraine is flimsy.
Finally, the Americans deliver their Abrams main battle tanks to Poland – the country has ordered 366 units, 250 new and 116 used. You have to understand why the Poles get along with the Abrams, but not Ukraine.
Want to say: Scholz hesitates. But so does Joe Biden. The third to trio “Team Caution” is France’s President Emmanuel Macron. He formulated the conditions for the delivery of French Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine over the weekend in such a way that he could justify non-delivery at any time. The Poles don’t need to hesitate, they want to get rid of their Leos anyway. Fearing Russia, they trust the US more than Germany. The shadows of the Hitler-Stalin pact are long.
For months, the Americans have been making it clear that they would have no objection if the Germans sent Leos to Ukraine. But Scholz wants the Americans on board. When this became public in the run-up to the Ramstein meeting, the Americans reacted violently. They don’t allow themselves to be put under pressure publicly, that attacks their leadership role.
Scholz took the risk of straining relations with the USA – but in the end, see the statements of congressional politicians, he could also be right. Scholz allows the Poles to form a small Leo coalition. It was not just his Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock who called for this on Sunday, Robert Habeck did it ten days ago without Scholz having corrected him.
So why is Scholz hesitating, all the time – in the end, as always, heaving to, but never being at the forefront of the movement?
So that the Russians leave Germany alone, the Americans stay on board and the SPD does not take flight from the chancellor.