Scholz calls Putin: good grip on the phone

Chancellor Scholz signals to Moscow that Germany is ready for negotiations. And continued to support Ukraine. Both are correct.

Scholz and Putin at the long table

Chancellor Scholz at the long table with Vladimir Putin in February 2022 Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/dpa

Chancellor Scholz spoke to Putin on the phone. For the first time since May. So talk instead of delivering battle tanks? It may rain malice again. But the chancellor is right. The idea that Germany, unlike the USA or other NATO countries, is supplying Western battle tanks, which is currently also being eagerly awaited by editorialists who are not very military, is a mistake. The fact that the weal and woe of Ukraine depends on German battle tanks is a fixed idea and overconfidence.

It is reassuring that Scholz adheres to the doctrine of German foreign policy no going it alone to do. Since Ukraine made surprising military gains, the chorus of those who know exactly how to end the war in Ukraine has grown very loud. With arms for Kyiv. Right now. With the Russian aggressor retreating, Ukraine's defeated army advancing - this scenario understandably mobilizes sentiment and an urgent desire to see Putin's dictatorship fall.

The requirement, to accelerate the collapse in Moscow with battle tanks, has something feverish. Is the decisive battle approaching? Is the empire imploding? There's something overheated about the fantasies. But what is needed is a cool look at what we know and what we don't know. The withdrawal of the Russian army has cracked Putin's edifice of lies.

There is open criticism of him and a search for culprits for the undeniable defeat - that's new. To think of this as the dawn of his downfall is extremely hasty. The regime works with violence, repression, murder - and the democratic opposition has no influence, power or structure. It is also unclear what the military reaction will be like: is there a growing realization that this war cannot be won – or is Putin radicalizing the war?

Nobody knows what Putin will do next

It is difficult to estimate how irrationally this system reacts. But to pretend that escalation is not an option is naïve. Few things are more dangerous in wars than confusing one's own desires with reality. That's why this is Scholz had a phone call with Putin correct. It will not open up Putin's distorted world view, which is hermetically sealed against reality. But it sends the signal: negotiations are possible.

Scholz has demanded the familiar from Putin: ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops, negotiations. He has made it clear that the West will react to a Russian escalation of the war. The message is: the war cannot be won by Putin. Contrary to what AfD and parts of the Left Party want, the West will support Ukraine in the long term with money, weapons and sanctions against Russia.

Sending this message over and over again is not appeasement. On the contrary. It is right to negotiate, to renew the offer. Because this war will not end with a tank battle, but with negotiations.

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