The nuclear war is canceled. It is probably the West’s greatest diplomatic success in the Ukraine war to date. Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz has his part in it. But what follows from this now?
The psychological warfare with nuclear fears has so far been Vladimir Putin’s heaviest weapon against the West. Now she’s gone. Just go away. Or in the words of the German Federal Chancellor: “A path that is now blocked.”
To those who repeatedly denounce the dominance of weapons in debates and call for “negotiations”: The assertion that war is only waged with military means has always been an outright false assertion. There was always negotiation.
And in the meantime there have been two major successes, with Russia taking part: the renunciation of nuclear power and the wheat deal. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just announced that the grain deal will be extended. It should expire at the end of the week. Turkey mediated, Vladimir Putin agreed, four parties sat around the table: United Nations, Russians, Ukrainians, Turks. The Russians are now allowing Ukrainian wheat ships to pass for another 120 days. A consensus among enemies, a deal against world hunger.
Now for nuclear abandonment. From the very first day of the war, the Eastern Europeans, especially Poland and the three Baltic states, did not care about the nuclear threat. They never took her seriously. And if they took Putin’s constant threat of nuclear weapons seriously, they didn’t let it bother them. They were the ones who put pressure from the start to supply the Ukrainians with weapons, including heavy ones. Very different Germany (and France and Italy).
Two months after the war began, Olaf Scholz blatantly justified his refusal to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons by citing Putin’s nuclear threat. “I will do everything to prevent a nuclear war,” Scholz told Der Spiegel. That was in April. Well, in November, after the G-20 summit, you might even be able to say that the chancellor kept his word. He can thank the Chinese.
This is the central sentence in the summit communiqué: “The use or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.” The Russians signed this sentence. And the Chinese made sure of that. The Chinese President showed the Russian President the yellow card – and drew a red line. And Putin caved in.
Ensuring that this happened publicly, US President Joe Biden, French President Emanuel Macron – and Germany’s Prime Minister Olaf Scholz – each held separate talks with Xi. And then China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. And afterwards said:
China has “taken note” that the Russians have declared the use of nuclear weapons “impossible and inadmissible”.
Russia is now rid of its most powerful weapon – a drastic defeat for Putin. The ruler loses his most important tool in the psychological warfare. What is Scholz’s part in this success? The honest answer is: we don’t know. Journalists are not present when top politicians discuss questions of war and peace.
But: Scholz held the presidency of the most important western industrialized countries for Germany, the G 7. In this capacity, he invited – a novelty – large and influential countries to Elmau in June: India, South Africa, Argentina, Senegal, Indonesia. Countries that previously refused to condemn Russia’s war of aggression in the United Nations.
Now, in Bali, the formerly neutral countries contributed to the success of the summit, the clear condemnation of Russia (…”in the strongest possible terms”) for renouncing nuclear power and – just as important – for renouncing the nuclear threat. At least that’s what Scholz said immediately before departure from Bali.
“Putin’s Net – How the KGB Retook Russia and Then Set their Eyes on the West” by Catherine Belton.
And that’s not all: Two weeks ago, Scholz was the first Western head of government to meet President Xi, who had just been elected dictator by his Communist Party for life. That earned him a lot of criticism, also because he didn’t take Macron with him. It doesn’t matter: at the end of the meeting, Xi and Scholz issued a statement warning Russia against the use of nuclear weapons. This has now been officially adopted at the G-20 summit in Bali.
Even if you don’t know how big his part in it is: It is a negotiation success of Scholz, which so far has been the only opposition politician CDU man Norbert Röttgen to recognize. Scholz will have little time to rest on his laurels – it is not without its own irony.
You can wrap this up in one question: If Scholz justified the waiver of the delivery of heavy weapons with Putin’s nuclear threat in early summer and managed to knock the nuclear club out of Putin’s hand in the fall: What does that mean for German arms deliveries in winter? Is the Chancellor catching up with his own success?
In any case, Scholz is under pressure. For the time being only from the Union and the FDP, with the FDP being a traffic light partner. CDU chief foreign politician Roderich Kiesewetter: “If the path to the use of nuclear weapons is blocked (as Scholz put it), then the Chancellor will finally give the green light to Marder and Leo.” Because this is the path to Ukraine in to bring a favorable negotiating position with the Russians. Motto: Make peace in Ukraine with German weapons.
The Union is also building up moral pressure before the next week of sessions in the Bundestag, even if it overdoes it. “You have to say it so clearly: The traffic light costs countless lives in Ukraine.” So the CDU member of the Bundestag Matthias Hauer from Essen – under the impression of the Russian rocket attacks on the Ukrainian power supply – a war crime.
Marie-Anges Strack-Zimmermann, the FDP’s toughest Scholz critic, has just called Putin a “murderer” on television. At the same time, pro-Russian military bloggers boasted about kidnapping 150,000 Ukrainian children. Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s Chechen “bloodhound,” rejoiced with the Russians. Another case calling for “values-based” foreign policy.