Ischinger: Germany’s loss of reputation in the Ukraine crisis

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Germany has been heavily criticized by allies in the Ukraine crisis. Security expert Wolfgang Ischinger attributes this to clumsy actions by the federal government. © Kay Nietfeld/dpa

Germany has been heavily criticized by allies in the Ukraine crisis. Security expert Wolfgang Ischinger attributes this to clumsy actions by the federal government.

Berlin – The security expert Wolfgang Ischinger has sharply criticized the restrained action of the federal government in the Ukraine crisis.

“Awkwardness” in dealing with the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the issue of arms deliveries to Ukraine have meant that Germany is now “in a lousy, bad light” in the United States and other allies, says the head of the Munich Security Conference in an interview with the German Press Agency. “Germany has already lost the trust of a number of partners or is at risk of losing it.”

Ischinger also complained that Germany’s reluctance was playing into Russia’s hands. “Of course, the wobbling of various German politicians was precisely registered in Moscow,” said the former German ambassador in Washington.

“Reputation damage has already occurred”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) hesitated for a long time in the Ukraine crisis before clearly positioning himself. It was only in mid-January that he put the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on the table as a sanctions instrument in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine – and that only in a vague way. At the same time, unlike other allies, he clearly rejected the delivery of lethal weapons to Ukraine. This has been criticized by Ukraine, but also by countries like Poland and the Baltic States. In the USA, the question is also being raised as to whether Germany is still a reliable partner.

Everything that has been said about Germany in Washington, Brussels and Kiev and written in the international press over the past few days has made him “fear and anxious,” said Ischinger. “There have been some awkwardnesses. I don’t think it’s irreparable. But reputational damage has already occurred.” A lot will have to be done to repair this damage.

Nord Stream 2 as a “thorn in the flesh”

For Ischinger, the fact that Germany is in such a bad position now has to do with Nord Stream 2. The former top diplomat describes the controversial gas pipeline as a “thorn in the flesh” of German foreign policy. “I have the suspicion that we in German politics in Berlin underestimated the size of this thorn and its negative effect. And that thorn has now exploded with the issue of arms shipments.”

In view of Germany’s mediating role in the Ukraine conflict, a certain restraint on the subject of arms deliveries makes sense. “But that doesn’t have to mean that we have to let the world public tease us,” said Ischinger. But that is now happening, for example, with Estonia’s planned export of nine artillery pieces to Ukraine, which originally came from Germany. Ischinger says that the fact that the federal government has been examining an approval for weeks now is clumsy. “Let’s let the Estonians decide that, please.”

“With folded hands at the end of the convoy”

When it came to the delivery of weapons, “the impression was created that we were standing at the end of the convoy with our hands folded,” Ischinger complained. In view of Germany’s open flank at Nord Stream 2, he would have thought it more clever to position himself in the middle – if possible due to an EU decision.

Ischinger does not consider the criticism of Germany to be entirely fair and refers to the extensive German economic and financial aid for Ukraine and the diplomatic commitment to solving the Ukraine conflict that has lasted for years. “But the communication policy of the federal government was not appropriate to the importance of this process,” said the security expert. It has also hardly become clear to the public that Germany is trying to find a European position in the Ukraine crisis. The federal government has not lived up to its self-imposed European leadership task. dpa

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