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Criticized At Home And Abroad, Chancellor Scholz Jeopardizes Germany's Leadership In Europe

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s speech shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine was hailed as a “turning point”. But two months on, for some international commentators, the bubble has burst. Some believe this spells the end for Germany’s leadership role in Europe, while others are calling Scholz the country’s worst chancellor since 1949.

Photo of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks at a press conference

Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference

Cornelia Karin Hendrich

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German government has come in for criticism from international commentators for its half-hearted support of Ukraine.

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Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a speech that was widely seen as a turning point, and both the German public and the international community believed it marked a new direction for German foreign policy — more money for the army and security, and taking more responsibility for areas of the world in crisis.


But, two months on, it seems that for some international commentators, this hope has soured.

"Worst German chancellor"

Raphaël Glucksmann, a journalist and politician from the left-leaning, environmentally focused French party Place Publique, has said that the war in Ukraine marks the end of Germany’s leadership role in Europe. And he claims that is down to Scholz’s leadership.

Glucksmann, who is the son of the late philosopher André Glucksmann, tweeted: “Chancellor Scholz just confirmed it: We cannot count on Berlin to defend European principles and strategic interests. His position on energy embargo and on weapons delivery shows that the change we all hoped for did not happen. This war puts an end to German leadership in Europe.”

When fascism actually arrived, Germans funded it, and Ukrainians died fighting it.

Glucksmann is not Scholz’s only critic. Donald Tusk, the former President of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister, tweeted: “The Germans must firmly support Ukraine today if we are to believe that they have drawn conclusions from their own history.”

Last week, Ukraine expert Sergej Sumlenny, former director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kyiv, which is affiliated with the German Green Party, called Scholz the “worst German chancellor” since the Second World War. He said the Greens and the FDP were also responsible for the “disaster chancellor”, as he referred to Scholz. “The blood of our European neighbors is on your hands!”

Photo of \u200bPrime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden , Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at NATO headquarters in Belgium

Japan's Fumio Kishida, Canada's Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chancellor Scholz at the G7 summit in Belgium

The Canadian Press/ZUMA

Scholz criticized at home and abroad

U.S. historian Timothy Snyder accused Germany of hypocrisy. “For 30 years, Germans lectured Ukrainians about fascism,” he wrote. “When fascism actually arrived, Germans funded it, and Ukrainians died fighting it.” Snyder was presumably referring to the payments Germany is making to Russia for gas, coal and other energy sources. In 2022, Germany has already paid Russia several billion euros in exchange for energy.

The problem is the chancellor.

Scholz had already come in for criticism from both Ukraine and the country’s eastern European allies over his reluctance to supply heavy weaponry. He supports NATO sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, but does not want them to come directly from Germany. Last week, Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk said that the government in Kyiv had received the news “with great disappointment and bitterness”.

Scholz has also been criticised by his coalition partners. Green politician Anton Hofreiter and Free Democratic Party (FDP) politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann have both said that the military aid offered to Ukraine is not enough. Hofreiter called the chancellor a “ditherer and procrastinator”, whose vacillation could allow the situation to escalate and develop into a third World War.

“The problem is the Chancellor," he said, warning that every day brings more damage to Germany’s position in Europe and further afield.

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