How to become chancellor

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Bundnis 90/Die Grunen) walks past Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) after her speech during the plenary session in the German Bundestag on Jan. 27

Copyright: picture alliance/dpa

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Bundnis 90/Die Grunen) is leaving the country on 27 February. January after her speech at the plenary session in the German Bundestag past Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

In the Ukraine conflict, Olaf Scholz acts clumsily and unclearly. This is causing anger and uncertainty not only in Germany. The German chancellor’s silence may ruin a lot of things.

  • Politics and economics
  • Ukraine
  • Russia
  • Olaf Scholz

The international press is appalled at the silence from Berlin and above all the USA is looking increasingly worried at a German chancellor who is staying out of the Ukraine conflict. It’s time for Scholz to move on the issue. For already now his silence has possibly ruined a lot, our author finds.

For months, the West has been looking nervously to the East, where Putin – once again – is causing a tricky guessing game: Will he invade? Will he start a war? And if not: What does he actually want then??

It seems that one of the strategies of Russia’s president is to create a crisis first. To then force the NATO states to make concessions. NATO will certainly not give in to his demand to end the eastward expansion. But some compromise that accommodates Putin’s grand goal will be found, he may think.

Germany has a problem Chancellor Scholz’s behavior causes international outrage

At any rate, there is one person he need not fear in his calculations: Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

He is doing best what he was already good at during the election campaign. What he has perhaps already perfected throughout his political career: Standing inconspicuously on the sidelines. Not stepping on anyone’s toes. He is again the chameleon where it is difficult to assess where he actually stands at the moment.

Ukraine: ‘Scholz hesitates at a time when action is needed’

Whereas it was advantageous to be as quiet and inconspicuous as possible during the hot election campaign between candidates for chancellor who were gradually killing themselves, this approach is now causing a great deal of anger and uncertainty – not only in Germany.

Scholz hesitates at a time when it needs readiness to act. He is silent, although clear and unambiguous words are needed – and this in a delicate situation that is causing a great deal of anxiety in Eastern Europe. The chancellor of Europe’s largest and richest democracy, which has always been an important hinge between East and West, cannot afford to do that.

Ukraine conflict: Olaf Scholz acts clumsily and unclearly

So far, it is primarily Olaf Scholz’s chief diplomat Annalena Baerbock (Greens) who has spoken out about tougher action against Russia. It drives a policy of diplomacy and toughness: it mediates between the conflict parties, leads them all to the table. And at the same time tells Putin where the borders are.

From Scholz? Nothing came for a long time. On the contrary, he wanted to make foreign policy a "top priority," spoke out against tying developments on the border with Ukraine to Nord Stream 2. And said that this was a purely "private-sector endeavor".

Ukraine Security expert with worrying words: He is getting "scared and anxious"

To say something like that during such a crisis either shows naivety. Or shows how divided his SPD is on the issue, which Scholz probably wants to take into consideration. In any case, it is clumsy. Because, of course, with Nord Stream 2, Russia completely eliminates Ukraine from gas transit. Trade with Europe, without Ukraine – that can’t be just a "private sector project". In any case, the country’s fears that Nord Stream 2 could prepare a Russian invasion or at least aggression should be taken seriously.

Can Olaf Scholz lead?

Only late Scholz changed his mind here. He slightly corrected his course, saying that all options were on the table. But continues to be very quiet and vague – again raising doubts about a really clear position by Germany. All of Brussels, also reported the European political portal "Politico", is currently discussing the question of the leadership of the new German head of government: "Can Scholz lead?" Can Scholz lead?

Even when former German Chancellor and gas lobbyist Gerhard Schroder, a close friend of Putin, caused a stir with his unacceptable statements on the Ukraine conflict and led to fierce opposition within the SPD, Scholz said nothing.

Olaf Scholz: His silence may ruin many things

The chancellor’s silence, his invisibility, is possibly ruining a lot of things in German foreign policy. The international press, too, is reacting with much malice and sharp criticism to the inaction. No European country is more important for European unity and the Western alliance. Therefore, Germany should continue to take a leadership role in security issues and position itself clearly and, above all, unitedly.

But the hesitation and dithering is currently causing the opposite among allies: Germany’s reliability is suffering. To this day, partners must ask themselves what costs the country is actually willing to bear to counter possible Russian aggression.

Putin’s goal is also to divide the Europeans. He must not succeed. On Monday, the SPD will meet to find a clear line in the Ukraine crisis. And this is more urgent than ever. Germany’s reputation in the world has already suffered. Any amount will have to happen to repair this damage.

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