The Chancellor sees herself increasingly isolated in Germany
from Katja Hoyer
Photo credit: Getty
“We won’t do it alone” said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in defense of his refusal to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. He has drawn international criticism, but growing domestic pressure has been less reported. The public, the opposition and even their own coalition partners want Scholz to do more.
In fact, the Chancellor is going it alone. At a press conference this week, Scholz argued that he was already doing as much as “many others who are doing the same course”. But his claim that shipping heavy weapons to Ukraine would violate NATO agreements is a weak argument to rely on. The Belgians and the Dutch have already done it announced that they send more heavy weapons, and talks for Kyiv are ongoing to get MQ-9 Reaper armed drones from USA. Great Britain to deliver Stormer armored vehicles.
It’s entirely possible that the Bundeswehr was so underfunded that it simply couldn’t deliver immediately, but the truth is that sections of Scholz’s party, the Social Democrats (SPD), are simply reluctant to give up their long-standing ties to Russia.
Scholz’ party member Ralf Stegner caused outrage a TV interview on Wednesday when he argued that Ukraine would lose the war anyway. The SPD Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, has defied calls for her resignation despite alleged support for Nord Stream 2 involved dubious political relations with Russia. Former party leader Sigmar Gabriel visited the disgraced ex-chancellor Gehrard Schröder on Wednesday, without uttering a word of criticism of the latter’s personal friendship with Vladimir Putin and his dealings with Russia during his tenure. The list of pro-Russian politicians in the SPD is long and Scholz has done little to distance himself from them.
If the chancellor believes he can weather the international storm of criticism, it will be much more difficult for him to withstand the pressure from his own coalition. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the Free Liberals (FDP) again called for “leadership and clear lines”. the Chancellor yesterday on Twitter. Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock appeared to contradict Scholz directly when, during a visit to Latvia on Wednesday, she said: “Other partners are now supplying armored vehicles. I would like to make it clear that this is not taboo for us either, even if it sometimes sounds like it in the German debate.”
Open dissent could be very dangerous for Scholz. His party won just a quarter of the votes in last year’s federal elections and was forced to form an unprecedented three-party coalition with the Greens and the Liberals. The opposition, the Christian Democrats (CDU) led by ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, are trying to test how much control Scholz still has.
If opposition leader Friedrich Merz introduced a motion in parliament on whether heavy weapons should be shipped to Ukraine, there would probably be green and liberal politicians, maybe even SPD members, who would support him. If she won a majority, Scholz’s position would become untenable, in clear contradiction to the Chancellor’s course.
Thorsten Frei, who heads the parliamentary strategy of the CDU, has told Of the mirror that “such a request is one of several possibilities” since “it is imperative that Germany gives up its reluctance to supply arms”. That was the result of a recent survey that the majority of the German public agreed with him and would support the shipment of heavy weapons.
The Chancellor has maneuvered himself into a situation in which it is uncertain whether he is speaking for his coalition, let alone for the country. It raises the possibility that the new German government could fall apart while war rages in Europe.