Schröder and Gabriel thwart SPD line in Ukraine crisis

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Two ex-SPD bosses criticize Olaf Scholz’s course: Sigmar Gabriel (l) and Gerhard Schröder. © picture alliance / Federico Gambarini/dpa

The course of the SPD in the Ukraine crisis continues to cause criticism. After Schröder, another ex-party leader spoke up. Security expert Ischinger laments a loss of reputation.

Berlin – After former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Sigmar Gabriel, another former SPD chairman, is crossing the line of the party leadership in the Ukraine crisis.

The ex-foreign minister calls for a “discussion without taboos and bans on thought” on the issue of arms deliveries to Ukraine. “The truth is, you can always be guilty of arms deliveries – by acting and by not acting,” he told the “Bild am Sonntag”.

Klingbeil counters sharply

Party leader Lars Klingbeil promptly confirmed the SPD leadership’s rejection of arms deliveries. “We’re happy to take advice and it’s perfectly fine for others to join the debate. But those who are responsible for the party are clear and unequivocal,” he said in an interview for the ZDF program “Berlin direct”.

Neither Schröder nor Gabriel still have a function in the SPD today. In the podcast “Die Agenda” on Friday, Schröder accused NATO of complicity in the Russian troop deployment on the Ukrainian border and accused Ukraine of “saber rattling” because of its demands for weapons.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, Michael Roth, rejected Schröder’s statement on the news portal “”. “I prefer to stick to the facts. And they leave no doubt as to who is responsible for the current military escalation.” This Monday, Klingbeil will meet with other leading SPD politicians for a closed conference on the Ukraine crisis.

Germany “in a bad, bad light”

The well-known security expert Wolfgang Ischinger sounded the alarm at the weekend because he already sees a noticeable loss of international reputation for Germany because of its restraint in the Ukraine crisis. “Awkwardness” on the part of the federal governments in dealing with the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the question of arms deliveries have meant that Germany is now “in a lousy, bad light” in the USA and with other allies, said the head of the Munich Security Conference in an interview with the dpa. “Germany has already lost the trust of a number of partners or is at risk of losing it.”

The federal government is accused of not putting enough pressure on Russia during the crisis. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had hesitated for a long time before 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 cryptic 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.

Ischinger: “Wobbly German politicians”

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.

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, who is one of the most experienced German diplomats and has chaired the Munich Security Conference for 14 years.

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. He described the controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany 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.”

Security expert Wolfgang Ischinger
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

With the weapons, “the impression was created that we were standing at the end of the convoy with folded hands,” 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.

Don’t “let it pull you through the cocoa”

In view of Germany’s mediating role in the Ukraine conflict, a certain restraint on the subject of arms deliveries makes sense, said Ischinger. “But that doesn’t have to mean that we have to let the world public tease us.”

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,” says the security expert. dpa

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