Understanding Olaf Scholz is a science in itself. The chancellor runs the risk of unjustified negative judgments being made about him, which will also eat into his coalition. Every word is weighed in gold, the communication between the chancellor and his team is and remains unfortunate at times, too unclear. Now Scholz has a great opportunity to refute the critics.
And to surprise, like in the days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If you like, a circle closes in the Bundestag in this first week of June. On February 27, he gave his now historic turning point speech in the German Bundestag, but after that he wasn’t able to deliver it convincingly.
On April 28, the Bundestag, with the votes of the traffic light coalition and the Union, decided that Ukraine could also be supplied with heavy weapons. But not much happened after that and Scholz got more and more on the defensive.
Scholz now has the great opportunity to refute his critics this Wednesday in the general debate in the Bundestag. And to surprise how he managed to do that in the days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is now a first success that an agreement has been reached with the Union on the 100 billion special fund for the Bundeswehr to be anchored in the Basic Law and on further defense financing.
Because Scholz needs a two-thirds majority to change the Basic Law. This will give the Bundeswehr the urgently needed upgrade and better equipment. But the procurement system must also be reformed – Scholz and his coalition will be measured by what can now be purchased and how quickly. So far he has maintained that Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who seems overwhelmed, is the right person for this.
If he were then to give a chancellor’s speech during the general debate that went into detail about what he wants in terms of heavy arms deliveries and what he can promise, and thus spells out solidarity with Ukraine with deeds, people could look at him differently. Also abroad.
And he could show Vladimir Putin that he is not impressed by the latter’s recent warnings in a joint telephone call not to supply Kyiv with any more weapons, and is thus showing leadership.
Part of Scholz’s method is that he doesn’t let himself be driven, that he can be stubborn – it’s worth remembering how weeks before the war he didn’t even want to say the word Nord Stream 2 because he believed it would get Putin off Prevent war if deliberately left in the dark about the extent of the sanctions.
However, the Scholz method also means that he only provides information when results have been firmly agreed, not about intentions and intermediate statuses. In the case of arms deliveries, that would mean only when contracts are fixed. Following the method, in the shadow of the difficult Scholz weeks, intensive negotiations should have taken place away from the public and more should have been achieved and agreed upon than is previously known.
So far, however, many questions remain unanswered: Is he willing to also supply Marder armored personnel carriers? Or do alleged informal NATO agreements stand in the way of this? What else is possible on the subject of artillery and anti-aircraft defense? Was it possible to find more ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft tank, the transfer of which to the Ukraine has so far been blocked by neutral Switzerland, where it was manufactured centrally?
On the battlefield, the balance is clearly shifting to the disadvantage of Ukraine, with the Russian army gradually gaining ground in Donbass. But if Scholz again only gives a speech with known positions, and no agreement is reached with the special fund, he will face very complicated weeks.
Certainly, the debate has taken on strange traits, as if the war could be won by German arms deliveries to Ukraine alone. No, the deliveries from all NATO countries together are decisive. And narrowing the debate down to 100 Marder infantry fighting vehicles is a mistake.
It is now becoming apparent that the Russian army is relying primarily on massive artillery fire and rocket attacks in the Donbass to minimize its own casualties. Therefore, the anti-aircraft defense of the Ukrainian army urgently needs to be strengthened. The approximately 30 cheetah tanks can make a good contribution to this. There has also been speculation for weeks as to whether Germany could also supply modern air defense systems that could better protect threatened cities and intercept Russian attacks.
Air defense systems in particular could reduce the casualties on the Ukrainian side and counteract the Russian destructive offensive in the long term.
A majority of citizens are behind Scholz’s deliberative policy. At the same time, one must not forget that inflation and war-related price increases are the greatest concern of many people. The relief packages from the nine-euro ticket to the tank discount will not be enough. Of course, the state cannot absorb everything, but in these times the citizens need a chancellor who can point out additional solutions. This week Scholz offers a good opportunity to get back on the offensive a little more with his chancellorship.