Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Opposition Leader Friedrich Merz say what Chancellor Olaf Scholz absolutely refuses to say: “Ukraine must win this war.”
Scholz formulates more cautiously. “Russia must not win this war. The Ukraine must survive.” In the Chancellery, they are very proud of it.
Winning or just avoiding defeat? These are not just linguistic subtleties. The discrepancy describes different attitudes.
Is Germany accompanying the war with confidence and trust in the superiority of Western democracies in terms of values, political system, economic resources and military compared to the Russian dictatorship? Or despondent with fear of the future and aversion to risk?
At Scholz, there is a caution not to commit yourself. Who knows how the war will go. And what terrible consequences it has beyond Ukraine, from famine and energy prices to refugee flows and loss of prosperity that threaten the social stability of entire societies.
To put it bluntly, Baerbock and Merz are counting on the citizens to give their full support to Ukraine if the purpose and chances of success are explained to them. Scholz is guided by the concern that people’s patience is finite. Better an unfair outcome than endless fighting.
During the hundred days of war, people in Ukraine and abroad have experienced emotional highs and lows: initially fear of a quick defeat against the supposedly superior attackers. Then relief at the successful defense of Kiev and Kharkiv, which at times increased to feelings of triumph.
Recently, the shift in fighting to eastern Ukraine with small but steady Russian gains. And with new doubts about Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in the long term.
How can Baerbock, Merz and others declare a victory for Ukraine the goal? Might the chancellor be wiser to leave it at that Russia must not win and Ukraine must not lose? That leaves room for interpretation when he has to explain the outcome to the citizens one day.
If Kyiv has to cede territory, it can hardly be called a victory. In addition, the concern of an escalation including the danger of nuclear weapons hovers over everything. Isn’t it wiser to keep the way open to negotiated compromises than to demand victory?
Of course, Scholz obstructed this retreat with other commitments. He has declared the “Russian withdrawal from Ukraine” to be a condition of a negotiated solution. In this he agrees with President Selenskyj.
Then why not the confidence of Baerbock and Merz? They encourage citizens to endure the consequences of war in their everyday lives, because in the end there is victory over the aggressor.
There is a lot to be said for the long term. Military experts explain the current problems of the Ukrainians in the Donbass with the fact that the West hesitated too long to supply them with heavy weapons. But they are coming now and should enable the military turnaround in July and August.
The conflict has become a war of attrition and attrition. The sad side: It will take a long time and many more people will die and many cities will be destroyed.
But Ukraine is ready for this fight. And it will hold out longer than Russia – provided the West keeps its promise to support it with what is necessary.
In terms of economic power, Europe and the USA are more than 15 times larger than Russia. Russia has used up much of its supplies and weapons and cannot produce supplies fast enough. The morale of the Ukrainians defending their own country is higher than that of the Russians.
The outcome of the war depends on the West’s determination to help Ukraine win. Chancellor Scholz should declare victory the goal. Confidence helps the Ukraine, like the Germans, to persevere.