Home » Germany still a ‘teenager’ in leading foreign security policy, says Scholz aide

Germany still a ‘teenager’ in leading foreign security policy, says Scholz aide

by Mahmmod Shar

Wolfgang Schmidt asks for patience from allies urging his country to head efforts to support Ukraine

the guardian

Germany is still a “teenager” when it comes to foreign security policy, its chancellor Olaf Scholz’s chief of staff has said, asking for patience from western allies urging Europe’s largest economy to take a more proactive leadership in its support of Ukraine.

“We are getting into a situation that Americans have known for decades: people want us to lead,” said Wolfgang Schmidt, a longstanding ally of Scholz who also serves as the political point of contact for the country’s intelligence agencies.

“We are in the teenager years in that role,” he said, responding to criticism that Berlin has been slow to live up to the Zeitenwende or “epochal turn” on military and foreign policy Scholz had declared in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are not yet an adult when it comes to foreign security policy. In teenager years you have a lot of hormones, there’s a lot of overshooting and shouting, you are not very sure of yourself and don’t know where your place is.”

Schmidt, who has rarely appeared in public since being appointed minister of special affairs last December, was speaking on a panel with the US historian Anne Applebaum that was chaired by the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, at a summit of progressive politicians and thinktanks in Berlin on Thursday.

The Social Democrat, who has been Scholz’s right-hand man through his tenure as mayor of Hamburg, German finance minister and now chancellor, denied that his government was failing to pull its weight in military terms.

“Germany is now the third largest supplier of military equipment to Ukraine, after the US and the UK,” Schmidt said at the Berlin Progressive Governance Summit. “I am not willing to accept that people are singling out and blaming Germany. That is a collective decision neither the French, the Brits, the Canadians nor the Americans are doing. No one is delivering their modern battle tanks to Ukraine.”

Schmidt said some of his government’s critics were suffering from what he called the “V2 syndrome”, after the long-range ballistic missile the Nazis employed in the final year of the second world war.

“Everybody wants to have this war end the sooner the better, so everybody is looking for the magic wand that makes that happen,” he said. “Sometimes I am tempted to call it the ‘V2 syndrome’, that we think there is this wonder weapon that will make things go away. But it won’t. There is no magic wand that will end the war.”

While Berlin understood that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was asking for any military support his country could get in its defence against Russian forces, Schmidt said there were red lines that not just Germany but the US and other Nato states would not overstep, such as a no-fly zone or supplying rocket launcher ammunition that could reach Russian territories.

“There’s a 99% alignment with what Zelenskiy wants and Nato members want,” said Schmidt. “But there’s one [per cent] difference. From Zelenskiy’s point of view, it makes perfect sense to have Nato involved directly. From our perspective, it looks a little bit different.”

In a rhetorical shift days after numerous heavy Russian missile strikes struck significant Ukrainian cities, Scholz accused Vladimir Putin of waging “a crusade against our way of life” in a speech that was aired prior to the debate.

Scholz stated in the video address that “they view their war against Ukraine as a component of a larger crusade.” A crusade against freedom and progress, a crusade against the rules-based international order, and a crusade against our way of life.

For a politician who has previously emphasized the danger of igniting the conflict to Germany’s east through careless bellicose rhetoric, Scholz’s language was uncharacteristically harsh.

The analogy Putin used in 2011 to compare the west’s decision to intervene militarily in the first Libyan civil war to “medieval calls for crusades” has been reversed by his speech. At the time, those comments drew harsh criticism, including from Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president at the time, who claimed they might “lead to a clash of civilisations.”

Scholz’s comments come two days after Germany handed over to Ukraine the first of four Iris-T air defense systems, which Ukrainian government officials hailed as ushering in “a new era of air defense.”

In his speech, Scholz urged western liberal democracies to oppose Russian aggression as a united front rather than “indulge in what Sigmund Freud once called ‘the narcissism of small differences’.”

Those remarks might irritate Germany’s neighbors, who have recently accused Berlin of undermining unity by instituting a cap on domestic gas prices while opposing an EU-wide price cap plan.

According to Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, “the richest and most powerful EU country is trying to use this crisis to gain a competitive advantage for their businesses on the single market.” This is unfair and does not reflect how the single market should operate.


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