For the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine after the invasion of the Russian Army on February 24, the seams of the German government and the so-called traffic light coalition, between Greens, Liberals and Social Democrats, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, are showing. The Greens and the FDP have publicly accused him in recent days of preventing the shipment of heavy weapons to Ukraine and have denounced that Scholz’s attitude, which they describe as “passive”, damages Germany’s image.
Deputy Anton Hofreiter, a prominent member of the Greens and president of the European Commission of the Bundestag, said Thursday on the RTL channel program Berlin Direct that Germany needed more leadership and decisiveness in sending arms to Ukraine. “We are losing enormous prestige among our neighbors and the problem is in the Chancellery,” said Hofreiter, in the party’s first public criticism of Scholz. “We must finally start supplying Ukraine with what it needs, and that includes heavy weapons. Germany must stop blocking the energy embargo, especially the oil and coal embargo,” added the parliamentarian. “The question being asked everywhere is where does Germany stand? And this is not only a problem for the people of Ukraine, but also for us”, insisted the politician.
Hofreiter has not been the only parliamentarian from the ruling coalition who has condemned the silence and ambiguity of the Foreign Ministry on sending weapons to the kyiv government. The chairwoman of the Defense Commission, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, of the FDP Liberals, also underlined Scholz’s lack of leadership on this issue on Wednesday. “He has the competence to issue directives. He must say clearly what he wants, so that the ministries can act loyally and in coordination within the Cabinet. Now everyone does their own thing. And of course this is not sustainable,” the politician told Welt television channel.
The liberal Strack-Zimmermann, whose name appeared in the pools to occupy the defense portfolio, also said that Chancellor Scholz’s style reminded her of the legislature of her predecessor, Angela Merkel. “She didn’t set the course either, but she looked at where public opinion was going and then she put herself at the head of the movement,” she argued.
The statements by Hofreiter and Strack-Zimmermann came shortly after the visit that these two politicians, together with Social Democrat deputy Michael Roth, chairman of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, undertook in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday. On this first trip of senior Bundestag officials to Ukraine, German deputies met with representatives of the Ukrainian Parliament and visited a hospital with wounded and a refinery destroyed by Russia.
The conversation of the Germans with the Ukrainian deputies focused on the issue of arms deliveries and the German purchase of Russian oil and gas. “The desire to receive heavy weapons, and also to have a complete energy embargo, was conveyed to us very clearly,” Hofreiter said. “I am in favor of stopping oil imports from Russia immediately,” he added.
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After the visit to Lviv, the three members of the Bundestag spoke in favor of a new delivery of arms to Ukraine, to stop imports of Russian oil as soon as possible and to offer kyiv a clear perspective on its application to join the EU. . “There should be a large majority for this in the Bundestag. Germany must take on even greater responsibility,” the joint document from the three deputies said.
Since the war broke out, the German government has come under increasing pressure for its refusal to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to repel the Russian attack. The Ukrainian authorities denounce the government’s procrastination and secrecy, as have opposition politicians.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock spoke out on Monday in favor of supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons and Rheinmetall, Germany’s largest arms manufacturer, offered to send 50 Leopard I tanks. Four days later, Chancellor Scholz, who promised from the rostrum of the Bundestag a radical change in his country’s policy towards Russia and a multimillion-dollar investment in the German army, remains silent.
Scholz has explicitly ruled out Germany and NATO entering the war directly. Some observers believe that this military restraint by Berlin is intended to keep communication channels open with Moscow.