Ukraine conflict: SPD is looking for a Russia course

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From: Marcus Mäckler

Old friends and business partners: Vladimir Putin (left) and Gerhard Schröder (archive image) © Peer Grimm/dpa

How do you feel about Russia, dear SPD? There are very different views on this in the party, which is why it has so far made an unfortunate impression in the Ukraine crisis.

Munich – There are not many who feel flattered by the attribution “Putin understander”, but Gerhard Schröder is undoubtedly one of them. The former chancellor has had close ties to the Russian president for a long time and has repeatedly shaken Berlin with bold theses. It is therefore not at all surprising that the 77-year-old asked Ukraine at the weekend to stop “saber-rattling” against Russia. Striking: The very big contradiction from the SPD* did not materialize.

It is obvious that the Chancellor’s party is torn on Russia policy; This is particularly evident in the debate about Moscow’s threatening gestures on the Ukrainian border. More hardness? More relaxation? The SPD is tackling. Party leader Lars Klingbeil said on Monday that it was “completely clear” that the escalation was coming from Russia. However, the fact that he asked leading Social Democrats for a confidential meeting* in the afternoon shows that there is obviously a need for discussion.

Few are fighting as hard for Nord Stream 2 as Manuela Schwesig

It’s certainly not the case that the SPD is full of people who understand Putin, says political scientist Ursula Münch Munich Mercury. However, there is an irritating cacophony with regard to the attitude towards the Kremlin. This can be seen, for example, in the question of whether arms deliveries to Ukraine are sustainable. Chancellor Olaf Scholz* ruled that out, to the delight of Schröder and many SPD members. Sigmar Gabriel, like Schröder ex-party chairman and today head of the Atlantic Bridge, called for a “discussion without taboos and bans on thinking” about the weapon issue in the “BamS”.

Schröder and Gabriel no longer have a say in the party. But they are something like the extreme ends of two sides that have not yet come together. Some dream of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, call for more diplomacy and sometimes emphasize that Russia’s security concerns about NATO must be understood. The others may not be advocating weapons, but a tougher approach. The rift seems to run not only between left and conservative, but also between east and west. In any case, only a few are still fighting as doggedly for Nord Stream 2 as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig.

(Traffic lights ahead of big tasks – you can find out what the SPD, Greens and FDP are planning in our political newsletter.)

SPD and Russia: Chancellor Scholz has so far balanced on a middle ground

Münch has a certain understanding. “The SPD is a people’s party with different tendencies that connects East and West. What other party does that? An opinion-forming process is part of it.” Chancellor Scholz has so far been balancing on a middle ground, he is against weapons, but hesitant in favor of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 in the event of an attack. The attempt at internal balance has so far led to NATO allies doubting Berlin’s will and reliability.

Strictly speaking, the problem is not only one of the SPD, but of the entire federal government. The Greens also reject arms deliveries, while the FDP at least wants to discuss it. Experts like the head of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, consider this to be extremely problematic. The “shaking of various German politicians” scared him, he said, and spoke of Berlin’s reputation being damaged in the world.

Political scientist Münch: Scholz with communicative failures on the Ukraine question

However, the focus is currently on the SPD, whose General Secretary Kevin Kühnert recently declared in Schröder-style that a conflict in Ukraine should not be talked about. As far as is known, Kühnert did not take part in Monday’s meeting – nor did Chancellor Scholz. Above all, Münch certifies that he has failed in communication on the Ukraine question. Clear announcements are now needed, but Scholz simply leaves too many gaps open.

It is doubtful whether the meeting at the beginning of the week brought much that was new. In addition to Klingbeil and Schwesig, participants included Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who recently celebrated the delivery of 5,000 helmets to the Ukraine. If you follow Klingbeil, the SPD is already on the right track. Scholz said that all options were on the table in the event of a Russian attack. That is “unmistakable”. (Marcus Mäckler) * is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.

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