Ukraine, Berlin weak link on the Western front? Today emergency meeting of the SPD

from Paolo Valentino

The German cautions and the absolute priority that Berlin gives to dialogue with Moscow have fueled criticism and mistrust of the new red-yellow-green government of Olaf Scholz

This afternoon in Berlin, in the Willy Brandt Haus, the headquarters of the SPD, there is one emergency meeting unprecedented and important. It was convened by Secretary General Lars Klingbeil and the group leader in the Bundestag Rolf Mtzenick, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Manuela Schwesig and former party president Martin Schultz take part. There is no Chancellor Scholz, but party sources assure him that he will be informed in real time of the progress and outcome of the meeting. Theme of the meeting: the Ukrainian crisis and the attitude to be taken towards Russia. Germany’s main ruling party has a problem. And Germany has it with the SPD. Since Vladimir Putin has concentrated over 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine, placing a series of demands on the United States and NATO and threatening “technical-military measures” if they are not met, Germany – the first country of Europe, indispensable pivot of the Atlantic Alliance – appeared as the weak link on the Western front.

more a question of perceptions than of substance, given that Germany fully aligned with the allies on the position that military action by the Russians against Kiev would cause “massive consequences” in terms of countermeasures and sanctions, including the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But it is a fact that German caution is the absolute priority that Berlin gives to dialogue with Mosca they fed crites and mistrust towards the new red-yellow-green government of Olaf Scholz.

As always, the evil one hides in the details. There was the “rumor from the escaped sen” of Admiral Kay-Achim Schnbach, the head of the German navy, forced to resign after saying that “Putin is only asking for a little respect and he probably deserves it“. And if the refusal to supply weapons to Kiev is completely inscribed in the post-war tradition of the country, which excludes it in the cases of countries at war, played the decision to give Ukraine 5,000 soldier’s helmets is embarrassing, which did say to former Kiev boxer and mayor Vitali Klitschko: “Will they send us pillows next time?”.

But the real problem is Social Democracy, now openly torn by an internal controversy that risks paralyzing the Chancellor himself. For historical, political and above all economic reasons, the SPD has always supported the need for an open channel with Moscow. The legacy of the Nazi war of extermination against the Soviet Union and the Ostpolitik tradition with which Willy Brandt inaugurated an intense dialogue with the Communist countries in the middle of the Cold War, are still the foundations of this position today. And then there is Russian gas, an indispensable resource for the German economy, of which Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline that passes under the North Sea bypassing Ukraine, now completed but not yet in operation, has become the stone of the scandal. “Project only economic and not political”, said the same Chancellor Scholz a few weeks ago, excluding the cancellation, in this in full continuity with former Chancellor Angela Merkel. Now even Scholz seems to have taken note of the reality, admitting that a Russian military aggression against Ukraine would radically change the scenario and nothing could be excluded, including the blockade of Nord Stream 2.

The SPD for split. Especially for the influence still exercised on this issue by the former Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, who of the Nord Stream 2 consortium president and considered the head of the so-called Putinsversteher (those who understand Putin) in Germany. In truth, Schrder never misses an opportunity to defend the reasons of the head of the Kremlin, to whom also linked by strong friendship. “I hope that all this rumor of sabers in Ukraine will end, they leave the accusations against Germany for not wanting to supply weapons to Kiev speechless,” he said over the weekend. Within the party, Schrder’s line has many supporters, from Mtzenick to Schwesig herself, to Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht. It goes without saying that Schrder and the others are to keep the Nord Stream 2 out anyway. But Deputy Minister Roth and former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel took a critical position both on the pipeline and on arms supplies, saying that “in the face of what is happening, everything must be discussed and no more tabs”. Meanwhile, Calls to party leadership to distance themselves from Schrder are growing more and more. Today’s meeting should bring some clarity.

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