On the anniversary of the speech of the turn of the century, Olaf Scholz distanced himself from the supposed peace movement, refrained from ridiculing supporters of arms deliveries and declared his support for Ukraine to the skeptics with verve. The chancellor is finally demonstrating his determination.
It was probably not possible for the chancellor, his government, and even the whole country to fully understand the scope of the events within a few days. When Olaf Scholz gave his speech about the turning point less than a hundred hours after the start of the Russian invasion, he made it clear that nothing in Europe would be the way it was until the evening of February 23, 2022.
But what would take the place of the usual conditions was not entirely foreseeable a year ago. Deliveries of arms to a warring party, retraining the Bundeswehr, reorganizing the energy supply: all of these are paradigm shifts that Scholz and his cabinet quickly recognized and converted into sometimes better, sometimes worse decisions. But it also took a year for Germany's head of government to realize that Germany must do everything it could to ensure Ukraine's military success, at a high price and also at the risk of putting the security of its own people at risk.
In his government statement about a year after the change of era speech, Scholz finally gave up his middle position, to which he has repeatedly withdrawn: support for Ukraine, yes, but with the greatest possible caution. Numerous considerations made the people at the top of Germany hesitate: Is there a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO? Could Putin use the atomic bomb in Ukraine or even in Europe? Do EU and NATO countries continue to provide robust support to Ukraine in the form of money, military aid and sanctions against Russia? If at the same time consumer prices are going through the roof and a real recession is looming, will the majority of the German population and especially the SPD voters go along with this? All of these considerations were not only legitimate, they were a prerequisite for responsible government action. But the conclusions drawn all too often ended in indecisiveness, in the image of a procrastinator at the head of Europe's most important continental power.
Scholz always wanted to take everyone with him instead of leading the way, which also means he didn't want to be solely responsible. This pattern was exemplified by the way the Chancellery made the delivery of US main battle tanks a prerequisite for the delivery of German Leopard tanks. And another example of this hesitation is Scholz's dealings with critics who had called for more and more powerful weapons for Ukraine from the start. His often biting mockery of these politicians - traffic light representatives such as Michael Roth (SPD), Anton Hofreiter (Greens) and Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP) - and experts stands in sharp contrast to the fact that all of them were labeled "severe Weapons" discussed devices are now in use in the Ukraine or will be used in the near future. In a few steps, the demanding ones were righted by the procrastinating ones.
Perhaps that is also one of the reasons why Scholz, for the first time in twelve months in an important speech on Wednesday, refrained from digging at the "know-it-alls" who would allegedly call for the use of fighter jets and German soldiers in Ukraine as soon as he, Scholz, release German tanks - even if there were never any calls for ground troops. Scholz's second turning point speech also marks a break with the "Peace!" callers, whose understanding of peace means above all not wanting to be bothered by the boundless violence of this war. In the Bundestag, Scholz called out to these people, who came to Berlin for the demonstration by Alice Schwarzer and Sahra Wagenknecht, among other things, on Saturday: "Love of peace does not mean submission to a larger neighbor." And: "If Ukraine were to stop defending itself, that would not be peace, it would be the end of Ukraine." There is currently nothing to suggest that Putin is currently ready for serious peace talks.
"Our 'never again' means that aggressive war will never return as a political tool. Our 'never again' means that Putin's policies must not prevail," said Scholz. He made it clear: For the German government, peace means no shifting of borders through the use of force. Scholz still doesn't want to talk about a "victory for Ukraine". The way the chancellor is made, he won't do that anymore either. However, if Russia were to withdraw at least behind the border and front line from before February 24, 2022, that would be exactly it: a victory across the board for Kiev - but also for all states that are defending the European security order with the support of Ukraine .
It is correct that Scholz is so aggressively committed to this goal and, when in doubt, gives a damn about the skeptics in the country and the party. The conflict with Russia - in which NATO has not become a legal party to the war by supplying arms, reconnaissance and training services for the Ukrainian army, but has actually become a party to the war - is existential. When dealing with an aggressor like Putin, there is no risk-free action, only the weighing of risks. In such a situation, governance means ruling over short-term moods, if necessary. This chancellor is proven to be able to do that. And because Scholz rarely backs down after what has been said and decided, this is a hopeful sign for Ukraine and for the West as a whole. The positions taken in his speech represent a courageous step for the chancellor. He cannot permanently rely on the US, which is reeling in the presidential election campaign. It is all the more important that Germany and Europe do everything possible to ensure that Russia is defeated militarily as soon as possible, with luck before the end of the summer.