German Chancellor's Mean: We support Ukraine, but we don't need to fall out with Russia so quickly
2022-05-13: [Article Link]
Schultz is on the cover of Times Weekly.
Scholtz, who wanted to be Prime Minister when he was 12 years old, once played a oboe, liked to run, and was a newspaper maniac. Moreover, he is a silent man because the style of communication has a nickname for a “robots”, but supporters call his professional ethics, knowledge and self-control reassuring. And he's called the opposite of Zelensky: he's organized, implicit, not emotional, and he's also praised the “player” Johnson as a true leader who knows the direction of the country. However, the Russian-Ukraine conflict ushered in a dramatic “era change” (zeitenwende). Schultz rejected Putin's “greater Russia” concept in person and changed Germany's long-standing pacifist policy by increasing military spending and providing military assistance to Ukraine. But Germany’s “Oriental policy” shift over the years will cost a lot. That is one of the reasons why Schultz was criticized by the opposition as “too hesitant” and “less than enough.” Scholtz is well aware of the need to reduce dependence on Russia, but “where should it be curbed? How fast should Germany move forward with containment measures? “In Germany, there is much debate, and Scholtz’s specific policies demonstrate his middle ground: on the one hand, work to accelerate the development of fuel-related infrastructure and energy transformation. On the other hand, he also said that “sanctions should not bring us more harm than the Russians.” There is no doubt that Schultz has a long-term perspective, but in the short term his “de-extremeization principle” may be under great pressure at home, which is no doubt the concrete expression of Germany's “era entanglement” on him. Author: Simon Shuster/Berlin, Eloise Barry/London, and Leslie Dickstein/New York
Source: Times Weekly.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz Wants to Transform German's Place in the World.
Germany has been pacifist for decades in order to redeem itself from two world wars. Now, Germany is about to become a truly world power — with military power commensurate with its international status.
Three days after the fighting in Russia-Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz stood in front of the Federal Parliament in Berlin and addressed legislators at a special Sunday meeting, “On 24 February 2022, this day will be a watershed in continental history in Europe”, said Scholz. Schultz's speech was accurately summed up as the “era change” (zeitenwende)
In the face of only a few months before this historic moment, Schultz's response will reverse the military policy that Germany has been pursuing for decades, which is an important part of the post-war positioning of the German role. Scholtz announced a Euro100 billion plan aimed at strengthening Germany's military forces, known for their weakness, and promised that Germany would end its dependence on Russia's fossil fuels and provide military assistance to Ukraine, the first time that Germany had delivered weapons to war zones since the end of the Second World War. “The central question in the current situation is whether the power should be allowed to prevail over the law”, said Scholtz to the members of Parliament, “or whether we ourselves should have the capacity to contain the fanatics of war”. Where should the containment be carried out, and how fast should Germany move forward with the containment measures? In the next two months, these two issues have been the subject of intense debate. For decades, Germany has been a weak economic power with a long history of pacifism as a penance for evils such as the Holocaust it committed in the twentieth century. In this historic speech, Scholtz painted a road map for Germany to become a true world power – with an army commensurate with its status. “We must be strong enough.” Scholtz, in an interview with the Times Weekly on 22 April, said that this was the first time he had been interviewed by mainstream English media since the war, “Our goal is not strong enough to pose a threat to neighbouring countries, but it needs to be strong enough.” Germany's announcement that it will enter a new era was warmly welcomed by global allies, many of whom complained of Germany's hesitation before the war broke out. Although Schultz’s speech gave rise to a number of questions in Germany, the three political parties in his ruling coalition immediately expressed their support, as did a public opinion poll conducted on 1 March by German RTL television, which showed that 78 per cent of Germans supported Scholz’s plans to deliver weapons to Ukraine and fund the strengthening of the German army. “It was a great moment.” Mary-Egnès Strucker-Zimmerman, President of the National Defence Committee of the German Bundestag, spoke of the speech and said, “However, there was nothing left to follow”. Silence is a hallmark of Scholtz. As his biographer Lars Haider has said, Scholtz has some hold, a man who “deliberately fails to answer questions directly” and apparently does not like self-preservation, and his silence has affected his political future. In this historic crisis, not only the fate of Ukraine, but also the future order of Europe as a whole, his subsequent silence irritated domestic and foreign critics, disillusioned the landmark speech and turned widespread expectations into widespread disappointment. On 8 February 2022, President Biden of the United States met with German Chancellor Scholtz at the White House. The media commented that “the German Chancellor came to the United States empty-handed and that the German pledge to Ukraine hardly convinced his critics in Washington.”
When it comes to military and financial assistance to Ukraine, the prevailing view in the international community is that, at a time when small countries such as Poland and Estonia are making huge financial and arms donations, the largest economies in Europe are evading their responsibilities. This was followed by the import of Russian oil and gas. Even the killing of hundreds of civilians in Butcha, or the brutal siege of Mariubor — what Schultz called “immoral crimes” — failed to convince the German Chancellor to impose an immediate embargo on fossil fuels from Russia.
Now, the German panther-type anti-aircraft tanks will run across Ukraine — heavy equipment that Western countries use for their own use is not uncommon among foreign military assistance received by Ukraine — and many view the German Prime Minister's decision to take as a result of criticism and pressure from allies.
But four days ago, in an interview with Times Weekly, Scholtz was calm and seemed immune to pressure, insisting that he was committed to honouring the promises made in that famous speech and that Germany was accelerating its cooperation with its allies and trying to avoid a dangerous escalation of hostilities.
In Schultz's view, he was able to gain the trust of the German people in leading the country because they believed in his judgement — not the results of a public opinion poll. “If you are a good leader, you will listen to the voice of the people.” Scholtz sits at the top of the Prime Minister's Office and says that outside the window he can see the Tilgarten Park in Berlin, where the pale green stretches behind Scholtz's back, “but you will never think that they really want you to do exactly what they want you to do”. Data. Tiergarten Park.
On the day of the winter of 2021, the 16-year reign of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended, and Schultz took office immediately. His father told journalists that his son wanted to become Prime Minister when he was only 12 years old. That must be true, Schultz joined the center-left Social Democratic Party in high school. After years of legal work, he entered the Bundestag in 1998 and became Secretary-General in 2002. Scholz later left Parliament as mayor of Hamburg for seven years, where he spent his childhood and returned to Parliament in 2018. When Merkel announced that he would retire in 2021, he was serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in Merkel's Great Alliance Government, a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and SDP. Schultz failed in his first party campaign, but as Minister of Finance, he was able to deal with the Covid-19 epidemic with the theme of “respect” and the simple and easy resonance of the working class voters, all of which helped him regain his hopes and, subsequently, his position as Prime Minister. Merkel, who had been in power for many years, was referred to by the Germans as “mama”, and Scholtz denied when asked whether it was daunting to succeed a leader who had been in power for so long. On December 8, 2021, members of the German Parliament elected Olaf Scholtz, a social Democrat, as Prime Minister, ending 16 years of conservative rule under Angela Merkel.
Like former Prime Minister Merkel, Schultz kept his personal life shut. In an interview with Time Weekly for two hours, he revealed some details: he played a oboe when he was a kid; the war in Russia-Ukraine cost him Easter vacation this year; and, in his 40s, he started running on the advice of his wife and SNS politician Bretta Ernst. Apart from that, he used a little of his free time to read history books and newspapers. Government spokesman Stephen Herbschtlett joked that he rarely gave his boss press comments in the morning, "When he walked into the office, he had read everything." He was critical of the way the war was handled by the media, but the morning we met, Scholtz did not show how badly he was affected. This is consistent with his manhood, a man with a strong communication style, known as Robot Scholtz. The biographer Haider said that Scholtz and Merkel had another important similarity on this point: “He is not an excellent communicator, he works hard and is willing to speak only when he really has something to say”. Unlike politicians who routinely use rhetoric and personal charm to attract voters, Scholtz has never been a passionate expression or even a clear explanation of his behaviour. If Volodymyr Zelenski is the greatest European speaker, Scholtz is on his back: implicit rather than emotional, methodical rather than mind-blowing, keeping silent about his decision-making makes it hard for the outside world to understand. Proponents believe that Scholtz’s professional ethics, knowledge, and self-control are reassuring. A member of the Socialist Democratic Party, Adis Ahmetovich, compared the German prime minister to British prime minister Boris Johnson, who thinks Johnson is a performer, a entertainment star, and Olaf Scholtz is a leader. The German Chancellor cited his success in the elections as proof of the effectiveness of a low profile, “the first rule of statesmen is to be yourself”, and said, “Leadership needs to be clear, with a clear direction and an idea of where the country goes. “If you want Scholtz, you'll vote for SDP — Olaf Scholtz called himself a “continuing candidate” in the campaign.
Of course, Scholtz’s idea of where a country should go and where it should go is based on the country’s past and current state. Scholtz said, “In the first half of the twentieth century, you will not be able to escape the catastrophes of the first half of the twentieth century, which were caused by Germany. We have a historic responsibility to help ensure peace, which permeates our political cause and is rooted in my ideas.” For Germany, this means learning to go beyond itself and think about a more ambitious world, “Germany should become a country where the European programme we seek is for the well-being of all nations, not just for Germany itself. A few weeks before Russia’s departure, Schultz was criticized by outsiders for not doing enough. But he said that he had been behind the scenes to prepare for the military operations in Russia. On February 15, Scholtz flew to Moscow to make a final effort to avoid war. Scholtz called the meeting a “very bad experience.” He said that when Putin articulated his “greater Russia” concept, he rejected it, “I said to Putin at the time, “Please understand that if politicians start searching for the previous borders in their history books, we will be trapped in hundreds of years of war.” On 15 February 2022, Scholtz and Putin attended a press conference following talks on security issues in Ukraine.
Young Europeans may think that the existence of an international order for decades has been justified, but behind it is the hundreds of years of bloodshed on the continent. The 63-year-old Prime Minister grew up in a divided Germany and was deeply convinced of the EU, NATO and the principles underpinning those alliances — the importance of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nine days after Schultz’s trip to Moscow, Putin ordered the army to enter Ukraine, breaking this rule-based order. “Invasions are a serious damage to European peace,” he stressed, “We fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty. No country must be the backyard of another; this is an imperialist political view, and that is why we must respond so strongly. For Germany, pacifism has been embedded in decades of policy and a departure from that path is no less than an earthquake, but critics say that Schultz's follow-up has been too hesitant. “We Germans are still asleep”, said Thomas Ender, member of the opposition party, Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, who said, “The United States is playing a leading role, as are Eastern European countries”. By the end of March, Germany had provided only 1.2 million euros of military assistance — none of which was heavy weapons — to Ukraine, while the small State of Estonia had managed to provide 2.2 million euros of material to Ukraine. When this phenomenon was followed by public opinion, Scholtz stated that, as the largest economy in Europe, Germany had contributed a significant part to the EU €1.5 billion military assistance programme. After the Bucha tragedy came to light in early April, key members of the Scholtz ruling coalition began to work harder to promote heavy-weapons aid. On April 20, pressure surged – and could turn into a complete scandal – when the German Pictures revealed that a list of aidable weapons submitted by the German military industry at the end of February had not been transferred to Ukraine until April, when about half of the original options had been removed. Schultz insists that Germany is fully in line with other allies in arms assistance. So how will he explain the criticism directed at the German government? “This is a good question, perhaps it is up to you to answer,” he said. Berlin began to increase its support in mid-April, as the United States began delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine. On 15 April, Germany doubled the existing Euro1 billion fund for foreign military assistance, most of which will be used for Ukraine, and on 21 April, Germany issued a plan to replace old Soviet tanks and armoured vehicles for countries of Eastern Europe with its own inventory of German-style equipment and to train Ukrainian soldiers in Germany to use self-propelled artillery provided by the Netherlands. German panther self-propelled cannons (also known as panthers anti-aircraft tanks)
However, in the weeks leading up to this critical moment, the German Chancellor’s Office gave contradictory explanations as to why no more measures were taken. Schultz insisted that this was not a delaying tactic, but that he had only taken the time necessary to avoid an unnecessary escalation of the situation. He said, “The German move will not be in conflict with the actions of our allies.”
But because Germany has been watching other countries before taking action so much that Schultz’s own party members are starting to feel frustrated. “The war has been going on for 60 days.” Strack Zimmerman says, “In that terrible situation, every day is important.”
At the same time, Germany continues to make trade payments to Russia. Last February, Scholtz shut down Germany’s 10 billion-dollar North Creek 2 gas pipeline project, which aims to double the flow of gas from Russia to Germany. But he refused to ban the import of Russian fossil fuels immediately, “we are implementing sanctions that would harm Russia”, saying, “but the sanctions should not bring us more harm than the Russians”. Cutting off Russia’s fossil-fuel supply is bound to cost. According to data from the German energy think tank Agora Energyewende, Germany has very little energy resources of its own and is heavily dependent on imports. In 2021, about 50% of Germany’s coal, 34% of its oil, and 55% of its gas came from Russia. Although Germany has significantly reduced this percentage since the war in Russia-Ukraine, it remains one of the most dependent countries in Europe in the energy sector. Berlin ignored the warning of such dependence by the US and the Baltic states – a dependence that was expanded only after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The development of a closer relationship with Russia has been a priority for successive German prime ministers, rooted in Willy Brandt’s “Oriental policy” – to seek stability in the international situation through contacts with Russia and to help Germany compensate for the war crimes committed. Over time, this concept of change through engagement has evolved into a mutually beneficial trade relationship with Russia — which is seen as the best way to ensure geopolitical security. Germany obtained cheap oil to boost its booming industry, while Moscow gained political influence, the most notorious being former Prime Minister Gerhard Schröder, a board member of several Russian energy companies. Scholtz is well aware that the era of interdependency between Russia and Germany is coming to an end, but he looks at the longer term. “We are preparing to get out of this situation.” Scholtz said he stressed that he was “ready”. According to the sanctions recently imposed by the EU, Germany plans to phase out Russian coal by the end of this summer. The Foreign Ministry, Changana Lena Berbek, said that by the end of this year oil imports will also be completely removed from Russia’s dependence. However, cutting off the Russian gas supply will take longer, as there are few natural gas-producing areas in Russia that can be replaced by new infrastructure for natural gas transport and storage. Schultz points out that Germany is working to accelerate infrastructure development in this area. Once built, as part of a green energy transformation, there is no turning back, “Germany considers it necessary to move away from fossil fuel imports and is working hard and seriously to move forward, and the Russians underestimate our resolve.”
No matter how laudable these goals may sound, they will not change the current more pressing demand for Russian policy. Anton Hoffmanwright, President of the European Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag and member of the governing coalition Green, argued that alternatives to the source of Russian coal and oil could easily be found, and that the embargo on coal and oil should come into effect earlier than the government’s plan, for example in the coming weeks. “Putin's regime's oil exports make a lot of money — two to four times as much as it sells natural gas”, said Hoffreyt, “so if we really want to cut off Russia's foreign exchange sources, we must act quickly”. Chancellor Scholz of Germany. Figure/POLITICO
At present, Schultz is heavily influenced by the German industry, which warned that a sudden cut in energy supply would lead to plant closures and large-scale unemployment. On April 22, the Bundesbank released its report that the current energy embargo, compared to previous projections of the German economy in 2022, would lead to a contraction of the German economy by 5%, and trigger one of the worst recessions in decades. The German economy contracted by 4.6 per cent in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic to a close degree, so the economic impact of the energy embargo is not so severe if the German Government is willing to adopt some of the policy instruments that underpinned the economy during the epidemic, and many experts believe that the effects of the energy embargo are manageable. The economist from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Veronica Greene, said that “the energy embargo could cause a recession and could cause some shortages”, and that he was a member of the Advisory Committee of Government Economic Experts in Berlin, “but it would not create a disaster”. Schultz’s refusal to immediately impose the embargo, coupled with his particular unwillingness to defend himself, raises doubts as to whether the German political elite is still too close to Moscow, thus giving rise to disagreement on how to deal with Putin.
But, when asked whether he had envisaged reconciliation with Russia, Scholtz admitted that there was no way back. In his words, while a settlement of the current crisis would require a negotiated agreement between Russia and Russia, there would never be a special relationship between Germany and Germany that would distinguish Europe from Russia’s policy. “A few weeks ago, few could have imagined that Germany would deliver weapons to war zones, but now the question has become how to assist Ukraine as much as possible with the most efficient heavy equipment.” Heider said that he believed that the German criticism of Scholtz’s “lack of action” stemmed from the German’s own mindset – a preference for extrapolation. Information/Getty Images
Another problem with Scholtz is communication. The President of the Defence Council, Strucker-Zimmerman, said: “We have not made things clear, we must explain to the public what is happening in Ukraine and what this means for Germany and Europe. We have to explain to our allies what we think about aiding military equipment; well, he's a quiet man. But he needs something to say."
According to Claudia Mejé, the analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, the lack of communication has also hampered Schultz's efforts to bring about a truly historic transformation in Germany. “He mentioned in his speech that the country's policy course in the areas of security and defence would change for several years”, she said, in order to achieve that goal, “you need a long-term implementation plan that will constantly explain to the outside world why the world has changed, how it has changed, and how Germany needs to cope with it”. She added that if policies were not interpreted frequently and clearly, the outside world would question whether Germany had limited capacity — or whether Germany simply lacked real will. “We have made some progress in the last few days.” Congressman Hofwright said on April 25, “But when I spoke to politicians from other European countries, they were saying, “We are still waiting for Germany’s action.” Schultz may be a reluctant communicator, but not an unwilling leader. He remains at ease in the face of a hot wave of criticism around him. The government spokesman, Herbschtlett, said that this was to some extent consistent with Scholtz’s nature, following two principles: no hysteria, no anger. But it was also because Scholtz concluded that there was also disagreement within Germany about the best course of action. “As a politician, I always felt that I had two hearts”, he said. On the one hand, Schultz was urged to do everything in his power to stop Russian aggression. At the end of April, the well-known German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas, wrote in support of Prime Minister Schultz’s cautious stance. The article, “The tone of sarcasm, moral blackmail: the struggle for public opinion among former pacifists, a shocked public sphere and a carefully thought-out prime minister, provoked a huge intellectual controversy. Because the public understands that the decisions that the country needs to make are so difficult, leaders will be the focus of attention. “I trust the people”, said Scholtz, “I am sure that the people believe that we will do our job — think carefully about all the difficult situations”.