One year of war in Ukraine: Germany’s farewell to an illusion – politics

One year of war in Ukraine: Germany’s farewell to an illusion – politics

When Vladimir Putin’s troops on February 24, almost a year ago, Ukraine attack and the war returns to Europe, one loser is already certain: Germany with its Russia policy of the past few years. Against repeated advice from the US or Eastern Europe, Berlin has long believed that it could understand or contain Moscow better than anyone else. The departure from this illusion did not come overnight, but was a process that accompanied the new Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz almost from day one. A reconstruction of the Süddeutsche Zeitungbased on dozens of interviews with government officials and senior officials.

In the weeks after the federal elections in autumn 2021, finance minister and chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz (SPD) still seems to believe that the gas business with Russia will continue as usual. Together with his confidante Wolfgang Schmidt, who is now Minister of the Chancellery, he is calling for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is intended to transport Russian gas to Germany, to be approved quickly. This will continue to be the case during the former chancellor’s term of office Angela Merkel advanced the procedure for Nord Stream 2. For Scholz, this has the advantage that he avoids a conflict with his future coalition partner, the Greens, who view Nord Stream 2 much more critically than he does.

After Scholz was then sworn in as the new chancellor on December 8, there were increasing indications of increasingly hostile behavior on the part of the Russian president Wladimir Putin. Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are gathering at the borders with Ukraine. The German gas storage facilities, which were then under Russian control, are almost empty, while Moscow cuts off the flow of gas through the Yamal land pipeline. Energy prices are rising, the economy is worried. Scholz then has the emergency plans checked in the event that Russian gas supplies fail to materialize. The answer is that the ministries never planned for this case.

During this time, the US government repeatedly tried to warn the Germans of the impending disaster

The weeks leading up to the war also raise questions about the performance of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) on, the German foreign secret service. He informed the federal government on February 15, 2022 that the preparations for an invasion had been completed. It could start at any time now, without warning, it was said at the time. But the BND also repeatedly points out that Putin’s intentions are not exactly known. This also applies to the 24 hours before the attack. While warnings of an imminent attack are mounting in the USA and at NATO, on the evening of February 23, 2022 the Chancellery is not aware of this. That evening, no reports from the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defense or the BND about the approaching start of the war were received by the government headquarters. Scholz does not convene a crisis round.

During this time, the US government repeatedly tried to warn the Germans of the impending disaster. For example, on the evening of February 23, during a visit by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Secretary of Commerce and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck received an envelope from a member of the US delegation containing intelligence information suggesting an imminent Russian attack. It is unclear if and when Habeck will share this information with other members of the government. In any case, in the evening he warns in the ARD talk show “Maischberger”: “We are on the verge of a massive land war in Europe.”

Almost a year after the beginning of the war, the massive changes in the world situation, but also in Germany as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, were the focus of the Munich Security Conference on Friday. Germany has “broke with decades-old principles of Federal Republican politics,” said Chancellor Scholz at the start of the three-day conference with 40 heads of state and government and almost 100 ministers and other politicians from a total of 96 countries. Scholz referred to the break with the line of not delivering weapons to war zones. He rejected criticism of the arms deliveries. “It’s not our arms deliveries that are prolonging the war. The opposite is true,” he emphasized. The sooner President Putin realizes “that he will not achieve his imperialist goal, the greater the chance that the war will end soon and that Russian troops will withdraw.”

“Care before quick shot, cohesion before solo performance,” said Scholz as his leitmotifs

Scholz defended his decision-making, which had been repeatedly criticized by the opposition and especially by Eastern European partners as hesitant, for example when it came to the delivery of battle tanks. “We will continue to strike a balance between providing Ukraine with the best possible support and avoiding an unwanted escalation,” he announced. He was “glad and grateful” that US President Joe Biden and many other allies “see it the same way I do”. It is important to weigh up all the consequences carefully and to coordinate all important steps closely among allies. “Because it’s about a war near us, in Europe – a dangerous war,” he said. “Care before quick shot, cohesion before solo performance,” said Scholz as his leitmotifs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Kiev for the support from the West and expressed confidence that Ukraine would still be able to achieve the Russia will win the war that has started. “We can do it together,” he said. However, Ukraine is dependent on the “speed” of arms deliveries – “because our lives depend on it”.

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