Olaf Scholz spoke for the first time at the UN General Assembly in New York last night. First the Chancellor explained his views on the war in Ukraine, then he delivered generalities. That was not the turning point he announced months ago.

“When others get hot, I get cold. When others get cold, I get ice cold.” That’s how Chancellor Helmut Schmidt spoke and acted.

He did not allow himself to be blackmailed by the hijackers of the Lufthansa plane Landshut to Mogadishu. The machine was stormed by a special commando of GSG 9 and the hostages were freed.

He was not intimidated by the kidnappers of employer president Hanns Martin Schleyer. The terrorists’ demands for the release of convicted terrorists remained unfulfilled. The state was strong and unyielding. Schleyer paid with his death.

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Olaf Scholz doesn’t have the cold-bloodedness of Helmut Schmidt. He is personally more supple and politically more flexible than “Schmidt Schnauze”, as the then chancellor was respectfully called.

Scholz gave his business card to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last night. It was that of a moderate European who clearly has a hard time with war and warfare.

Then a man appeared who explained his position on the Ukraine war in a well-tempered voice – first in English, then in German. On the occasion of the Russian invasion, he addressed the cause of the violence and misery directly: “There is no justification for Russia’s war of conquest against the Ukraine. President Putin is leading it with a single goal: to seize Ukraine. Self-determination and political independence do not count for him. There is only one word for that. This is sheer imperialism!”

He drew a red line for himself and the traffic light coalition, which remains a red line even if it is not called that: “Therefore we will not accept a Russian dictated peace. That is why Ukraine must be able to repel Russia’s incursion. We support Ukraine with all our might: financially, economically, humanitarianly and also with weapons.”

But then they left him. This was followed by general platitudes that can only be seen as correct, but also as banal: “If we want this war to end, then we can’t be indifferent to how it ends.”


He defends the economic sanctions, knowing that they have long since been aimed at his own people: “Together with partners around the world, we have imposed tough economic sanctions on the Russian leadership and Russia’s economy.”

In terms of military aid to Ukraine, which has been demanded by many and is controversial on the home front, no commitment has been made anywhere. Scholz did not name any branches of arms or sums of money and of course he did not mention that the Federal Republic, with its aid of 1.2 billion euros, lags far behind the aid of the British of over 4 billion euros and the military aid of the Americans of 25 billion euros. The impotence of this German military aid marks everything possible, but certainly not a turning point.

In order to bridge the gap between the good intentions and the rather modest reality of German aid, Scholz built a bridge out of large verbal elements: “Our message is: We stand firmly on the side of the attacked! To protect the life and freedom of Ukrainians! And to protect our international order!”

He announced that – be careful here, the details matter – he was not prepared to arrest Putin and his government, but the Russian soldiers for their atrocities: “We will hold the murderers accountable. We do our utmost to support the International Criminal Court and the independent commission of inquiry set up by the Human Rights Council.”

Conclusion: Olaf Scholz wants to keep all options open through his low-threshold military aid, including as a mediator in peace talks. In doing so, however, he leaves the lead in the European theater of war to the Americans. Olaf Scholz postponed the turning point for a self-confident Europe tonight.

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.