The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz was the first top German politician to try to dampen displeasure with the allegedly hesitant arms aid in the Ukraine war in Poland. The parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag spoke on Thursday with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Donald Tusk from the opposition PO citizens’ platform.
The day before, the strong man of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, also received the German politician at short notice. The chairman of the national conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) wants to build a new relationship with the neighboring country via Merz, wrote the Wiadomosci portal.
That may fit Merz into the calculation. However, he said in Warsaw that he did not see himself as a mediator. His trip had also been planned for weeks – long before dissatisfaction with the sluggish ring exchange of tanks for Ukraine boiled up in Warsaw.
Nevertheless, apart from the non-partisan Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Merz was the first high-ranking visit from Berlin to Warsaw since the beginning of the war. The opposition leader had also traveled to the attacked Ukrainian capital of Kyiv long before Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).
Merz remained true to his role in Warsaw, which he has been playing in Berlin for months: he sees himself as the driver of the traffic light coalition. He takes credit for the fact that at the end of April the Bundestag, with a large majority, passed a resolution to support Ukraine, which expressly also provides for the delivery of heavy weapons. After much back and forth, the SPD, Greens, FDP and CDU/CSU finally submitted a joint motion.
But Merz has been complaining for weeks that the announcement is not followed by action. Even if that’s not true, as the delivery of ten 2000 self-propelled howitzers, Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and Mars II multiple rocket launchers shows.
Merz argues in exactly the same way as the eastern partners, who accuse Germany of being “too little, too late” with regard to arms aid: too little and too late. The fact that the news broke during his trip to Poland that the armaments group Krauss-Maffei Wegmann had received approval to sell 100 new howitzers to the Ukraine at least invalidates the “too little”.
The visit of the CDU leader fell in a difficult phase of bilateral relations. This is simmering on the back burner – gone are the days when Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the then Prime Minister Tusk maintained close contacts. The PiS has been in power since 2015, and their propaganda smells German conspiracies everywhere to control Poland.
Kaczynski also told Merz how much Germany still owed Poland for the damage it suffered in World War II. Berlin considers the issue of reparations settled since reunification in 1990. Merz tried to draw attention to joint projects.
The Russian war against Ukraine has shifted the balance. Poland is NATO’s most important frontline country. International military aid runs through him. The country itself surrendered more than 200 tanks and other weapon systems. The Balts are just as actively helping their neighbor Ukraine.
Strengthened by this self-confidence, the Middle East Europeans are spokesmen in reproaching Germany for its previous policy on Russia and its energy dependency. “German policy was selfish and we are all paying a price today for the fact that Germany de facto encouraged Russia to do this,” PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk said on television.
So now the controversy over the ring exchange, in which Germany is supposed to give battle tanks to Poland as a replacement for its arms aid to Ukraine. From the Polish point of view, the offer of 20 Leopard 2 from 2023 also falls into the “too little and too late” category.
Merz sided with the hosts in Warsaw and demanded that the exchange be made as agreed so as not to disappoint Poland. On this issue, too, the opposition leader wants to drive the chancellor along.