Olaf Scholz wants to be as clear as possible. The Chancellor says there are four principles for German policy in the Ukrainian war. First: No German solo effort. Second, Germany must always be careful to maintain its own ability to defend itself. Third: “We don’t do anything that harms us and our partners more than Russia.” And fourth: Don’t do anything that would allow NATO to become a party to the war. “It stays that way,” Scholz says. There is an exclamation mark in the manuscript.
These four points are at the heart of Scholz’s televised address on Sunday evening. The Chancellor looks seriously at the camera, with the Bundestag behind him. This is the first time since February 24, the first day of the Russian attack on Ukraine, that Scholz has addressed citizens in this way.
Now the occasion is the anniversary of the end of the war on May 8, 1945. It is painful “to see how today, 77 years after the end of the Second World War, brute force is once again breaking the law in the middle of Europe”. “, explains Scholz. This May 8th is unlike any other. “That’s why I turn to you today.”
But in addition to this occasion, there is also a reason for this speech, which offers little novelty in terms of content. Scholz wants to eliminate a deficit. He finally wants to better explain himself and his career. Because even those close to the Chancellor know that her miscommunication is becoming more and more of a problem for the federal government.
One of the most striking examples of this is its short-term press release in mid-April. After the previous dispute over the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, expectations were high. Will the Chancellor announce a reversal of course? But Scholz’s statement remains so unclear that even local reporters initially don’t know what the message really was. It was only shortly after that it became known that the Federal Republic was already planning an exchange of rings, in which Slovenia was supposed to supply Ukraine with Soviet-made tanks and receive replacements from Germany .
Even after that, Scholz’s communication seemed contradictory. In a “Spiegel” interview, the Chancellor defended his reluctance and warned against nuclear war. “I am doing everything to prevent an escalation leading to a Third World War,” he said. A few days later, the turning point: we learn that Germany is now supplying heavy weapons itself: for example, Cheetah anti-aircraft tanks from the remaining stocks of industry.
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Scholz is considered someone who likes to weigh his decisions. But unlike his cabinet colleague Robert Habeck, he does not make this deliberative process visible. Scholz’s actions then appear incoherent to the outside world.
It is therefore clear to the Chancellery: Olaf Scholz must better explain his decisions. There have already been attempts in recent days. So last week he was on “Now What?” on ZDF. “My course is that we act with caution and with a clear mind,” he said. The government does not make decisions like a public relations department – “something more or nothing”.
At the SPD, they are also proud of Scholz’s performance on May 1 in Düsseldorf. There were “warmongering” calls against Scholz. The counter-demonstrators demanded: “Make peace without arms”. Scholz yelled at them, “It must seem cynical for a Ukrainian citizen to be told to defend himself against Putin’s unarmed aggression.”
The televised speech should basically explain his actions
But the televised speech should be more, he should now again explain his actions in principle. “We have learned an essential lesson from the catastrophic history of our country between 1933 and 1945. It is: ‘Never again!'”, declares Scholz. “Never again war. Never again genocide. No more tyranny. In the current situation, this can only mean: “We stand for justice and freedom – alongside those who are attacked. We support Ukraine in the fight against the aggressor.” it means capitulating to “pure violence.”
Germany, says Scholz, has taken “far-reaching and difficult decisions” in recent weeks. Scholz lists the sanctions against the Russian economy and the admission of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. “And – for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, we have sent weapons into such a war zone, on a large scale – and always weighing heavy equipment carefully. We will continue this.
In his speech, however, the Chancellor is also keen to bring those who fear an escalation of war with him. Last week there was an outcry over the open letter from feminist Alice Schwarzer and other intellectuals warning of the supply of heavy weapons and a Third World War. In addition to criticism of the content of the letter, the initiators were also exposed to a wave of hatred. Experts have warned against a polarization of the debate.
It remains to be seen whether the speech is adapted to the liberation
“Many of the statements I’ve heard these days show grave concern,” Scholz says now. “Also fear that war will spread, that peace may also be endangered here. Such concerns should not simply be dismissed. They should be allowed to be spoken. “At the same time, fear must not paralyze us,” said the Chancellor. Much is being done to help Ukraine. But you don’t just do everything that is necessary. “I have sworn in my oath of office to prevent harm to the German people.”
It is a speech with clear and simple sentences delivered by the Chancellor in a calm, almost monotonous voice. The next few weeks will show if she is fit to release Scholz’s communication.