When Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets the American President in the White House this Monday, he will have to dispel major doubts about Germany’s loyalty to the alliance. Critics accuse Scholz of softly kicking Putin. It is about the refusal to deliver arms to Ukraine, the severity of possible sanctions against Russia and also the consequences for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion of the neighboring country.
The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz accused Scholz of hesitant foreign policy and believes that he missed the right time for a trip to Washington. “This trip comes too late. It would have been necessary weeks ago and then with a clear message from the most important European countries,” Merz told the “Bild am Sonntag”. Now the trip seems more like a visit from a petitioner who can no longer get out of a situation that he has caused himself and therefore has to ask his big brother in Washington for help. Even determined transatlanticists in Berlin see the foreign policy course of the traffic light coalition as alienating from America. There are voices in the US Congress who doubt Germany’s reliability. But criticism has also been voiced within the coalition itself.
“Not all cups in the cupboard anymore”
“In the United States, the impression has arisen that the Germans no longer have everything in their cupboards,” said FDP defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the AFP news agency. “In the last 14 days, not everything has gone smoothly in terms of communication.” For example, Germany should have made it clear that although it is not supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine, it is helping the country in many other areas. “Scholz should make it clear in Washington: Of course Germany is a reliable partner,” says the chair of the Bundestag Defense Committee.
Scholz is supported by the former Minister of State in the Foreign Office and current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag Michael Roth (SPD), who points out that criticism of Germany in the United States can also have domestic reasons. Attempts are sometimes made to discredit Biden’s constructive attitude towards Germany.
500,000 euros annually
In the meantime, the German taxpayers’ association has called on the former Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, to waive his post-official endowment. “I appeal to Mr. Schröder to give up his state-provided office, employees and company car,” said Vice President Michael Jäger of “Bild”. Schröder “lobbies for Russian economic interests with tax-financed German infrastructure”. Former Federal Chancellors and former Federal Presidents are entitled to offices and staff in Berlin. In Schröder’s case, this cost the taxpayer more than 500,000 euros a year. After seven years as Chancellor and eight years as Prime Minister, Schröder will receive a monthly pension of 8,700 euros.
As was announced last Friday, Schröder has been nominated for the supervisory board of the Russian state gas company Gazprom and is to be elected at the general meeting scheduled for June 30th. He is to replace Timur Kulibayev, a son-in-law of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was ousted in the wake of the January unrest.
“Stirrups for Putin’s interests”
Schröder is already Chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee of Nord Stream AG and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nord Stream 2 AG. The former chancellor is also the chairman of the supervisory board of the Russian state energy company Rosneft. The deputy general secretary of the CSU, Florian Hahn, said that a former chancellor “cannot cash in on Gazprom and the German state at the same time” and added: “Anyone who becomes a stirrup holder for Putin’s interests harms Germany and is unworthy of his office.”
SPD politicians are now also distancing themselves from Schröder. The Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, told the “Rheinische Post”: “Gerhard Schröder is an ex-Chancellor and does not hold any office in the party. I also don’t know anyone in the party who shares his views.” The SPD takes the risk of war in Europe very seriously. “It is very clear that the aggression comes from Russia.” It is also clear “that we are firmly convinced of sanctions against Russia if the situation worsens”. At the same time, the Social Democrats are of the opinion “that we must pave the way for robust discussion formats that are coordinated with NATO”. Germany needs “perspectively a channel to Russia in which disarmament can be discussed again”.