It’s not that Olaf Scholz communicates little. TV appearances, interviews, tweets, speeches in the Bundestag – somehow everything is there. But his problem isn’t the quantity, it’s the quality. The chancellor just doesn’t manage to explain his politics. On the other hand, he sometimes lacks intuition. The best example is the debate about his possible visit to Ukraine.
For weeks he has refused to travel to Kyiv and meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. At first the reason was the discord because of President Steinmeier’s invitation, now Scholz points out that he does not want to join “a group of people” who – simply translated – only lead there because of the photos. He only wants to drive when it comes to “very specific things”. But: Is every state visit always about “very specific things”? Aren’t most of them also symbolic in nature?
The problem isn’t that Scholz doesn’t want to drive. The chancellor can weigh politically and decide that a visit stands in the way of his goals; that other means make more sense. With his refusal, Scholz also leaves a political door open – in the direction of Russia for possible later negotiations. But also to the skeptics in their own country, who don’t just see Ukraine’s behavior positively. That’s legitimate. Maybe even smart. But the way he does it isn’t.
His own foreign ministers were there and came back with photos; the President of the Bundestag traveled to the war zone; his colleagues from other countries have done it. Are they all just PR-driven and without a political goal? The overall situation for Scholz and the traffic light is not easy. The electoral defeat of the SPD and FDP in North Rhine-Westphalia, two troubled SPD ministers in the cabinet and a population that is concerned about the future in the face of inflation and war. It’s not just about communicating a lot, it’s about convincing.