Was Annalena Baerbock’s controversial Russia statement just thoughtless – or did she make it on purpose? Russia expert Gerhard Mangott has a clear opinion on this – and says whether Germany can now draw a red line after the Leo yes in fighter jets.

This Russia statement had it all: On Tuesday, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for the cohesion of the western allies with the following words: “We are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other”. A sentence that caused such a stir that a Scholz spokeswoman finally had to intervene.

“NATO and Germany are not at war with Russia in this war of aggression against Ukraine. We support Ukraine, but we are not a party to the war,” said Deputy Government Spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann on Friday in Berlin. According to Baerbock’s controversial statement, Scholz is distancing himself from his foreign minister.

But that’s no reason for Russian propaganda to stop mercilessly exploiting Baerbock’s testimony. Above all, for the notorious propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, the sentence is a godsend. “They are fighting a war against Russia,” Solovyov yelled into the cameras of his talk show, which is watched by around five million Russians every day. In his opinion, “the foreign minister of the Fourth Reich” declared war on Russia. More tirades of vile abuse below the belt followed. Among other things, Baerbock is dubbed “Miss Ribbentrop”.

For the Russia expert Gerhard Mangott, Professor of International Relations at the University of Innsbruck, the abuse of Baerbock in the Russian media is not surprising. “For the Russian leadership, such a statement by the German Foreign Minister to her own population is completely fruitful and marketable for propaganda purposes,” Mangott told FOCUS online. It fits perfectly into the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative. “He’s been arguing for months that Russia has to fight the entire West in Ukraine,” Mangott said.

With her war statement, Baerbock fueled the Russian propaganda machine. But did she deliberately say the controversial sentence that way – or was it just a thoughtless statement?

Russia expert Mangott believes in the former scenario. “Ms. Baerbock thinks Germany is at war with Russia. And she has not distanced herself from this statement so far. Had it been a slip of the tongue, she would have done just that. She must really think so.”

In principle, Mangott believes, that is also an honest attitude. Because the West is actually in a war-like state – “definitely not in terms of international law, but politically very much so,” says Mangott.

Ever since Chancellor Scholz announced his decision to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, German-Russian relations have hit a new low. According to a survey by the opinion research institute Forsa for the RTL/ntv “Trendbarometer”, 53 percent of Germans think that the tank deliveries are the right thing to do. However, only 41 percent believe that Ukraine can win the war with them and push Russia out of the occupied territories.

Ukraine, too, asks for more than just Leos; and promptly the next debate started – about the delivery of fighter jets. While countries such as France, Poland and the Netherlands have so far been open to this step, Chancellor Scholz has ruled out a jet delivery. His new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has also rejected it. “I think that’s out of the question,” said the SPD politician to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. His reasoning: “Combat aircraft are much more complex systems than main battle tanks and have a completely different range and firepower. We would venture into dimensions that I would warn against at the moment.”

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But how realistic is it that Germany can permanently draw a red line after the Leo yes with the Jets?

Russia expert Gerhard Mangott assumes that some Western countries will actually deliver combat aircraft to Ukraine. Then, Mangott continued, Scholz “would certainly not be able to move away from his red line for months without losing face and credibility”. In his opinion, fighter jets and appropriate training for Ukrainian pilots would “significantly boost Ukraine’s offensive power.”

So far, however, German deliveries of fighter jets seem a long way off, if not impossible. This step does not only seem to be a no-go for the federal government. According to the Forsa survey, the vast majority of 63 percent of Germans currently reject jet delivery.

On the other hand, what experts and the military have been prophesying for weeks seems fairly certain to happen: the dreaded spring offensive by the Russians. Gerhard Mangott has no doubts about that either. He believes that Putin will probably start in the north of the Luhansk province, where the Russians have concentrated a lot of troops in recent weeks. “But there will also be an attempt in the province of Donetsk to take over the areas that have not yet been conquered,” Mangott predicts.

With material from dpa