Dhe debate in the Bundestag lasted two hours on Thursday when CDU MP Gunther Krichbaum pointed out a special feature of the Chancellor’s government statement. At the beginning of his speech, Olaf Scholz dealt with the origin of the crisis that is currently dominating everything else: with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, with “Putin’s insane” war.
Since the political debate in Germany for months has been increasingly about the details of energy price caps, state support measures for citizens and companies or extending the operating times of three nuclear power plants by a few months, the Chancellor’s focus was actually noticeable. One had wished for that earlier, said CDU man Krichbaum.
What was striking about the Chancellor’s speech was not a fundamental realignment of his view of the war, but the clarity with which he spoke just before he flew to Brussels for the European Council, at which high energy prices will play a central role . “In the end, Russia’s bomb and rocket terror is an act of desperation – just like the mobilization of Russian men for the war,” said Scholz. Ukraine will successfully defend itself. “And we will support them for as long as it takes.”
“Putin will not achieve his war goals”
Scholz still avoided a clear formulation that Ukraine had to win and Russia had to lose. But at least this much: “Putin wants to sow fear, divide and intimidate. He speculates on our weakness. But he’s wrong. We are not weak.” Germany stand together, Europe stand together, said the Chancellor. “Our global alliances are stronger and more alive than ever. Putin will not achieve his war goals.”
Not that Krichbaum or other Union politicians were sparing in criticizing the government. But there was also restraint here and there, at least in terms of tone. If Scholz had opened the debate, the chairman of the Union faction, Friedrich Merz, answered immediately. Merz has recently been repeatedly accused of running fundamental opposition. On Thursday, too, he was accused of raising doubts about his support for Kiev with his statement on “social tourism” by Ukrainian refugees. That may be one reason why Merz, who had often sharply attacked Scholz in the past, was at least rhetorically moderate on Thursday. He wished Scholz and the other heads of state and government “every possible success” for the summit in Brussels.
Like the chancellor, the opposition leader initially focused on the confrontation with Russia. When it came to sanctions, Europe showed great unity and passed “this test”. The European Union has also largely provided the financial and humanitarian aid for Ukraine jointly. It would have been desirable, as Merz then immediately added a restriction, if military aid for Ukraine had also been coordinated at European level. Merz then repeated the Union’s demand to equip Ukraine with armored personnel carriers and battle tanks – coordinated in the EU. It is endorsed by other member states and a “large number” of Greens and FDP MPs. “This war might have ended faster then.”
The speakers from the coalition partners of the Social Democratic Chancellor did not give Merz the pleasure of repeating their demands for more weapons for Kyiv in an overly pointed manner. Britta Haßelmann, one of the two chairmen of the Green Group, said that when it comes to supporting Ukraine, including arms deliveries, you have to ask yourself every day: “Are we doing enough, and what can we still do?” This little bow in the direction However, Merz embedded them in sharp criticism of the CDU chairman. She called his comment on “social tourism” “populism,” which he should keep his hands off.
Beyond the immediate confrontation with the war, it was about its consequences. As expected, the coalition speakers praised the relief packages that the traffic light has launched and also the 200 billion umbrella in the fight against the enormous energy prices. As expected, the opposition complained that it was taking too long for people and companies to find out when and to what extent help could be expected. There we were again with the topic that occupied German politics more in the autumn than the war in Ukraine.