Scholz fears that if Russia loses too harshly this increases the likelihood of nuclear attack by Russia on Ukraine. Putin threatened to do this several months ago. At that point a lot of members of Social Democrats took him by word. They are afraid of nuclear war happening in Ukraine or Europe in general since then – says Sarah Pagung, an expert of the German Council of International Relations (DGPA) in an interview with BiznesAlert.pl.
BiznesAlert.pl: How has Berlin’s attitude towards Moscow evolved in the nearly four months since the outbreak of the war?
Sarah Pagung: The parties within the government made a huge step forward. It was not only acknowledging that Russia’s invasion is a clear war of aggression and this war is a 100 procent Putins fault but governing parties also opted for higher investments into the German armed forces as well as for military support for Ukraine. However, if we look at how this position has been implemented over the last four months we see that the German government is massively lacking behind what was promised, in particular regarding weapon deliveries.
There are diverging opinions among the parties on this matter. The Greens and the Liberals are pushing for more weapon deliveries. The Social Democrats are trying to slow things down. This development is especially interesting when it comes to the Greens. They were always very sceptical vis-a-vis general defence, military expenditures and weapon deliveries due to the fact that they grew out of the pacifist movement, so this is really fundamental change. All in all due to the SPD Germany is lacking behind what we have promised in the end of February.
How serious is the dispute in the German ruling coalition over the war?
It is serious because the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have to drag the Social Democrats to increase instruments vis a vis Ukraine-Russia. However, there is no risk that the coalition or the government will break up. The Liberal Democrats and the Social Democrats have quite low opinion poll ratings at the moment. That is why they really have to stick to te coalition.
What is the reason behind the reluctance of Chancellor Scholz and the Social Democrats to help Ukraine in a more decisive way?
There are several reasons at play. Firstly there is feeling that it’s going to be bargaining solution between Russia and Ukraine in the end. Germany can broker this or can help make this bargaining come into existence. Diplomacy is seen as the core tool. Secondly, Scholz fears that if Russia loses too harshly this increases the likelihood of nuclear attack by Russia on Ukraine. Putin threatened to do this several months ago. At that point a lot of members of Social Democrats took him by word. They are afraid of nuclear war happening in Ukraine or Europe in general since then. Unfortunately, Social Democrats are buying this threat. All in all, it is hard to assess the thinking within the federal chancellor and to assess what Scholz personal opinion looks like.
In Germany, there are two approaches to the war in Ukraine: according to the first, Ukraine “must win” the war and according to the second Kyiv „can not lose”. What’s the difference?
The most important difference is what it means for Russia. If we say that Russia „must lose” this means the defeat of Vladimir Putin – not only in terms of how much Ukrainian territory is controlled by Russia but also if Russian armed forces are completely thrown out of Ukraine. Putin „doesn’t lose” meaning that there will be some kind of bargaining solution between Russia and Ukraine that accepts some sort of Russian control over Ukrainian territory. That’s the biggest difference and that goes back to the attitude of the Social Democrats over what has to happen to Russia in the war. Therefor, a lot of German politicians, in particular Social Democrats, refuse to say that Russia has to lose.
Chancellor Scholz and French President Macron have been frequently criticized for having regular phone calls to Vladimir Putin. What is the goal of the leaders of France and Germany?
Both are going for some kind of bargaining solution between Ukrain and Russia so that Russia does not ultimately lose this war. That is what Macron means when he frequently says Putin needs a face saving way out of this war. Chancellor Scholz and president Macron try to keep on talking to Wladimir Putin to enable such kind of a deal in the future. However, the risk of this strategy is, that Russia interprets this as European weakness and te readiness to accept Russian control over Ukraine. Therefor both are sending the wrong signal.
Interview by Maria Andrzejewska