NewsScholz faces East-West rift over NATO policy and Ukraine stance

Scholz faces East-West rift over NATO policy and Ukraine stance

Scholz faces East-West rift over NATO policy and Ukraine stance
Images source: © East News | Markus Schreiber

26 June 2024 10:11

In the former GDR, there is a disproportionately high number of proponents of the thesis that NATO is at least partially to blame for the war in Ukraine, according to "Süddeutsche Zeitung."

In a recent interview with ARD television, Chancellor Olaf Scholz admitted that his policy of "prudence" regarding military support for Ukraine does not resonate with many citizens, notes the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).

"Those who are against any military support for Ukraine cannot be appeased by refusing to supply this country with long-range cruise missiles," writes commentator Daniel Brössler. He acknowledges Chancellor Scholz's assessment that particularly many such individuals are in eastern Germany. According to Scholz, this explains the high support for the AfD and the left-wing Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) in this part of the country, as well as the weakness of his party, the SPD.

"No other issue besides migration has recently raised the political temperature in the East as much as the Russia-Ukraine complex. Even if it is painful to say so, 34 years after reunification, it still reveals a deep dividing line running through Germany," he writes.

He adds that "silence or looking the other way will not make this division disappear. Long before the war (initiated by Russia), surveys showed that understanding for Putin in the East was greater, and scepticism towards NATO and the USA was more pronounced. It seems the war has not led to a convergence of views between East and West Germany but has become a driver of alienation," writes Daniel Brössler.

Reserves of empathy for Ukrainians

The author explains that it is not about a stronger or weaker desire for peace because any reasonable person wishes for a swift end to the war for Ukrainians. "The differences begin with the right of Ukrainians to self-defence, the reasons for the war, and the motives for Western support for (Ukraine). Where once there was the GDR, there is a disproportionately high number of supporters of the thesis that Ukraine and NATO bear at least partial, if not full, responsibility for the war. In some places, it seems that reserves of empathy for Ukrainian war victims are exhausted, manifesting as deep resentment towards Ukrainian welfare recipients," writes the "SZ" commentator.

Naive belief in the triumph of democracy

In his opinion, votes for the AfD and partly for the party of Sahra Wagenknecht are also an expression of "rejection of liberal democracy in its Western form – and thus the hallmark and recipe for the success of the former Federal Republic of Germany."

The disappointment of East German residents has many causes, the author writes. He recalls that in the years after reunification, there was often talk of pain, frustration, and great uncertainty. "One of the mistakes of those times was the belief that GDR citizens as a whole wanted to belong to the political West. It was a time of naive faith in the inevitable triumph of democracy and in a Germany that only had friends," writes Daniel Brössler.

He notes that currently, "liberal democracy in its Western style is under pressure worldwide." "In the USA, Donald Trump is on the brink of returning to power. In France, shortly before the parliamentary elections hastily announced by Macron, it is doubtful whether Marine Le Pen can still be stopped. German democracy is currently undergoing a serious test. From the outside – and from the inside," concludes the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" journalist.

FAZ: Manuela Schwesig's Kiev benchmark

Meanwhile, "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ) reports on Manuela Schwesig, the prime minister of the eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 's visit to Kiev today. Schwesig travelled to the Ukrainian capital as the chairwoman of the Bundesrat, the second chamber of the German parliament. This SPD politician previously supported the Nord Stream 2 project and economic ties with Russia.

It is all the more significant that before her departure, Schwesig stated: "Ukraine must win this war, and Russia's aggression cannot go unpunished." These are bolder words than those previously expressed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who repeats that Russia cannot win and that Ukraine must exist.

"Centre of friends of Russia"

As FAZ journalist Julian Staib writes, the trip to Kiev, which began on Monday (24.06), is a "personal turning point" for Manuela Schwesig, who is "firmly breaking the close ties of her state with Russia." "The mistakes of German, particularly Social Democratic, policy towards Russia are nowhere more visible than in Schwerin," writes the author. He describes the city, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as the "centre of German friends of Russia" and recalls that the foundation supported by Schwesig, which aimed to circumvent American sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, was established there.

Schwesig changed her stance after Russia's aggression against Ukraine. However, as "FAZ" notes, in her state, support for Ukraine meets with scepticism. In the European elections, the SPD garnered only 10.3 per cent. The party largely blames its policy on Ukraine for this," writes the newspaper. It adds that the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) accuse Manuela Schwesig of lacking credibility on supporting Ukraine. In Mecklenburg, the SPD governs in coalition with the Left, "which still sees NATO and not Russia and Vladimir Putin as the main problem." The Social Democrats also press the brakes on settling policy on Nord Stream 2 and ties with Russia. The inquiry commission's work is progressing very slowly, claim the Christian Democrats.

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