Olaf Scholz doesn’t want to know anything about peace with Russia, which Emmanuel Macron publicly thought about. For him, it is not Russia that deserves “security guarantees”, but Ukraine.
If you compare the world of Olaf Scholz with that of Emmanuel Macron, you have to say: the two gentlemen are in parallel worlds. Macron is thinking about a peace in the Ukraine war, which should also be possible because Russia receives “security guarantees” from the West.
In Olaf Scholz’s universe, Russia has developed into a revanchist, imperialist country whose aggression must be “deterred”. No trace of peace with Russia.
Macron’s “security guarantees” have triggered fear and terror in Germany’s foreign policy community across all parties. Representatives of the traffic light parties point out that Ukraine is entitled to “security guarantees” but hardly any to Russia. After this perpetrator-victim reversal, the Union considers Macron to be an insecure cantonist. And Scholz?
In an article that Scholz wrote for the renowned magazine “Foreign Affairs”, the Chancellor is completely uncompromising. He writes such unmistakable sentences that his predecessor Angela Merkel never phrased them that way. It is clear that Scholz wants the “turn of the era” to be understood as a break with Merkel’s politics. One of his core statements is:
“Putin must understand that not a single sanction will be ended if Russia tries to dictate the terms of a peace treaty.” This goes well beyond Scholz’s dictum that there should be no “dictated peace”. Scholz says two more crucial sentences.
One: “We will not accept the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory.” The other: “The entire G7 has recognized Selenskyj’s willingness to bring about a just peace.” All Scholz’s statements taken together mean this: Ukraine defines what peace is. So nobody else.
Ergo, Scholz is not willing to use reduced arms deliveries to Ukraine as a means of pressure to make Kyiv more willing to negotiate. You can also read that as a German clarification on the considerations that exist in the American and French administrations – and in any case among peace activists in Germany. Scholz, who keeps calling the Russian President, considers negotiations with Putin to be a lost labor of love.
Especially since Vladimir Putin has not abandoned one of his original war aims and is committing one horrific war crime after another in Ukraine. That, and not just their awareness of an independent nation, explains the Ukrainians’ will to persevere. They would rather be dead than red, to modify a German spontaneous slogan.
Another clarification is the Chancellor’s commitment to buying F-35 bombers to replace the old “Tornadoes”. Scholz is obviously not impressed by relatively petty concerns from the Federal Ministry of Defense. Nuclear participation, i.e. the willingness to use nuclear weapons against Russia from German soil, should this be required by a Russian nuclear attack, is a given for Scholz.
Which means: This is not compatible with the question of whether it will be possible to re-tar the runway at the Eifel airport in Büchel. It can also be read as an announcement to Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who is already under increasing “friendly fire” from the traffic light coalition, to kindly do her homework. For example, to provide ammunition.
Scholz’s essay is remarkable – the chancellor tries to explain his view of the world, which he succeeds in writing far better than he has done verbally in the past, for example in the Bundestag or in interviews. There he often comes across as arrogant, lecturing, possessing all wisdom. Most recently, he had given the Bundestag the impression that he had virtually single-handedly eliminated the threat of nuclear war posed by Russia. There’s some truth to that, but it’s not the truth.
The truth is probably that the Chinese are more interested in their own prosperity through world trade than in enabling Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
In any case, the “turning point” proclaimed by the Chancellor is no longer just one that affects the Bundeswehr. A turning point means: the end of the block systems, the end of the division of the world into west and east. The reason for this is by no means only the emergence of a third major power after the USA and Russia, namely China. But: The increasing prosperity and the growing self-confidence of large and populous countries, especially in Asia, but also in Africa.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is currently in India, where she is campaigning for the country with the world’s second largest population to be swept away from Russia to the side of the West. Baerbock’s visit acts like an exclamation point under the Chancellor’s statement that the “new world” will no longer be made up of blocs, but of different power centers, the technical term for which is “multipolar”. Which has consequences, also for Germany.
Germany should not stumble from one dependency to the next – what happened to Germany with Russia should not be repeated with China. “Multipolar” does not mean cutting economic ties with China (called “decoupling”), but diversification – less China, more India and Vietnam, for example. True to the stock market wisdom not to put all your eggs in one basket.
Angela Merkel didn’t think much of explaining her policies to a broader public. At times she even considered it harmful, since it would have made conflicting lines clear. But Merkel wanted to level conflicts in her favor and not single them out. Scholz does it differently – and it is always more transparent. But it has its price:
To scurry through hyper-pragmatically, unnoticed by the public, enables safer governance. Such a style, in which one then also wrests the best ideas from one’s opponent, enables a long period of government – in the case of Merkel it was 16 years.
Scholz acts more risky, for two reasons: Anyone who makes their principles public practically forces themselves to disclose them in day-to-day business if it doesn’t work that way with loyalty to principles – Example Qatar: If you commit to a value-based foreign policy, you can you don’t beg sheikhs for gas. If you do it anyway, there will be nothing left of a value-based foreign policy. You either act double-morally or opportunistically. Neither is beautiful.
And: Those who come forward with the lofty claim of more transparency and therefore more democracy must also be able to explain. However, Scholz is anything but a convincing speaker and he has this tendency towards self-righteousness, which either comes across as excessively fake or embarrassing.
“Self-praise stinks,” says the vernacular – and turns away with horror.
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