Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Chancellor Scholz Must Change Course and Support Ukraine to Win

An Open Letter to Germany’s Leaders from International and German Experts

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, 13 March 2024. Photo: dpa/Alamy

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is putting Germans and all Europeans in danger. His current policy seriously risks defeat in Ukraine, which would embolden Moscow and raise the likelihood of a wider war with Russia in which the missiles could be falling on Cologne rather than Kyiv.

Defeating Russia in Ukraine and deterring Moscow from further aggression would remove the single largest threat to European security but, instead of changing course and committing to victory, Mr Scholz is doubling down by positioning himself as a ‘Peace Chancellor’. Ignoring the clear need to win the war, which is openly proclaimed by key allies, he fixates on avoiding necessary steps – including sending Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine – which he claims could make Germany a ‘war party’.

This is a fiction as previous weapons deliveries (including cruise missiles) have not made Western states war parties under international law; neither have they triggered the ‘escalation’ that advocates of timidity so fear. What is more, the distinction is pointless given that Vladimir Putin already considers Germany a war party, regardless of Mr Scholz’s view – or the law. Mr Putin’s declared goal is domination of Europe and he already sees Russia as being at war with the West, including Germany.

Mr Scholz’s so-called ‘peace’ posture risks becoming appeasement – shying away from necessary actions in the futile hope of placating an aggressive dictator. Even if this is targeted at his (SPD) party’s declining poll ratings, Germans should know that the real effect of playing domestic politics with our security is to harm our collective deterrence.


‘People Die Because Aid is Delayed’: How Indifference is Killing Ukrainians

As Ukraine is outnumbered 7 to 1 on some parts of the frontline, volunteers explain the dangers they face as right wing politicians in the EU and the US stifle aid

Deterrence works by having the capabilities to defend yourself and demonstrating the will to use them. This raises the cost of any attack and reduces the chance of the enemy succeeding, which decreases the chance of conflict. Failing to project strength and readiness has the opposite effect which is why Mr Scholz’s ‘peace’ campaign is so damaging: it makes a wider war more likely.

Germany may superficially appear a good ally by mirroring the current US position but, look deeper and this is revealed as folly. Berlin is falsely taking the US line as a boundary for acceptable action, whereas in reality, Washington would be happy for Europeans to push ahead. With main battle tanks as well as cruise missiles, the UK and France have demonstrated that it is not necessary to wait for a US lead to do what is needed to support Ukraine.

More concerningly, this mirroring ignores the fact that Germany is physically closer to the war than America and lacks the US’s nuclear weapons, which makes it more directly exposed and drastically more vulnerable to both military and non-military threats from Russia. German national security therefore demands a different policy.

Europe also now faces uncertainty over the future of the US security guarantee. Yet, while Europeans may currently lack the full range and depth of capabilities to defend ourselves, we are collectively re-arming and have many powerful weapons. We also have the economic might to defeat Russia in Ukraine – if we put it to the right purpose. Combining these capabilities with the right attitude and, crucially, by committing to winning in Ukraine, we could still deter Putin – and buy ourselves time to build our strength.

Instead, Mr Scholz is effectively broadcasting that Germany is afraid, can be bullied and blackmailed, and that it is not willing to stand up for its values and interests via victory in Ukraine. Nor is Germany’s re-armament going anywhere near as far or as fast as it should. Mr Putin is skilled at exploiting uncertainty and is emboldened by weakness, so the Chancellor’s approach both makes Kyiv’s defeat more likely – and makes Germany a more tempting target.

Rather than focusing on doing ‘whatever it takes’ to win in Ukraine, the Chancellor points to how much Germany has already promised to spend in comparison to allies. True, others also need to do more, but Mr Scholz’s excuses help no one. They ignore Germany’s massive economic heft as well as its self-declared ‘special responsibility’ for European security, and belittle the ways other allies have shown leadership: by sending more powerful weapons sooner, committing far higher proportions of their GDP to Ukraine or properly arming themselves.

The tragedy of this is that while Germany is spending a lot of money, Mr Scholz’s approach is the most expensive way to make Europe less safe.

The obvious frustration of key allies at Mr Scholz’s latest refusal to send Taurus missiles, despite the dismantling of his excuses, is part of a long pattern of foot-dragging on weapons Ukraine manifestly needs. Unfortunately, Mr Scholz has shown that he will not shift any other way and so the shaming will continue until policy improves.

Yet, such allied actions can only treat the symptoms (delivery of individual weapons systems), not the cause (Germany’s overall approach). Until sufficient pressure also comes from inside the country, there will not be a solution.

National Security is the irreducible function of the state. Leaders from across Germany’s major political parties – the Greens, Free Democrats, Christian Democratic Union, and Christian Social Union – must now fulfil their responsibility to ensure their country delivers. That starts with backing Ukraine to win, urgently and effectively demanding policy to match, and embracing their power to create the conditions for it to be implemented.

Initial Signatories

Hon Chris Alexander, PC, Distinguished Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Diedre Berger, Tikvah Institut gUG, Berlin

Jonathan Berkshire Miller, Director of Foreign Affairs, National Security & National Defence, Macdonald Laurier Institute

Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Washington D.C.

Prof Dr Sören Brinkmann, Willy Brandt Centre for German and European Studies, University of Wroclaw

Aaron Gasch Burnett, Journalist and Analyst, Co-host of BerlinsideOut podcast

Olga Byrska, Sciences Po, Paris and European University Institute, Florence

Edward Hunter Christie, Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs 

Dr Ariel Cohen, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Dr Franziska Davies, Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich.

Gordon B Davis Jr, Senior Fellow, Center for European Policy Analysis 

Dr Balkan Devlen, Director of the Transatlantic Program, Macdonald Laurier Institute 

Dr Thomas Enders, President,German Council on Foreign Relations

Ralf Fücks, Managing Director, Centre for Liberal Modernity, Berlin

Dr Ian Garner, Queens University

Alyona Getmanchuk, Founder and Director, New Europe Center, Kyiv

Keir Giles, Consulting Fellow, Chatham House

Dr Gustav Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

Dr Olena Halushka, Centre for Ukrainian Victory, Kyiv

Rebecca Harms, Former MEP and President of the Green Group in the European Parliament

Dr Pierre Haroche, Queen Mary University of London

François Heisbourg, European security expert, Paris

Valeriia Hesse, Central European University, Vienna

Fabian Hoffmann, University of Oslo

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Former President of Estonia

Prof Dr Thomas Jäger, University of Cologne

Prof. Tomas Janeliūnas, Instutute of International Relations and Political Science, University of Vilnius

Jacob Kaarsbo, Senior Fellow, Think Tank Europa, Copenhagen

Dr Jochen Kleinschmidt, TU Dresden

Ambassador Pavlo Klimkin, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine & former Ambassador to Germany

Dr Valeria Korablyova, Ukraine in a Changing Europe Centre, Charles University Prague

Dr Bohdana Kurylo, University College London

Prof David Clay Large, Institute of European Studies, University of California Berkeley

John Lough, Associate Fellow, Russia & Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Edward Lucas, Senior Advisor, Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

Paul Mason, London

Hanna Manoilenko, University of Melbourne

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Director, Centre for Civil Liberties, Kyiv

Dr Nona Mikhelidze, Senior Fellow, Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome.

Christoph Moosbauer, former Member of the German Bundestag 

Mattia Nelles, German-Ukrainian Bureau, Berlin

Prof Dr Francesco Nicoli, Gent University

James Nixey, Director Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Prof Jacob Oberg, Professor of EU Law, University of Southern Denmark

Dr Maciej Olejnik, Willy Brandt Centre for German and European Studies, University of Wroclaw

Alicia Montiel Oliveros, fmr Lecturer for International Relations, University of Caradobo-Valencia

Prof. Phillips P. O’Brien, Head of School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

Dr Artis Pabriks, former Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister of Latvia

Prof Maria Popova, McGill University, Montreal

Dr Kristi Raik, Deputy Director, ICDS, Tallinn

Prof Dr Stephan Stetter, Universität der Bundeswehr, Munich

Julian Stöckle, Danube Youth Council

Alice Stollmayer, Founder and Director, Defend Democracy, Brussels

Edward Stringer, Retired Air Marshal (RAF), London

Dr Benjamin Tallis, Senior Research Fellow, German Council on Foreign Relations

Dr Maximilian Terhalle, Visiting Professor, London School of Economics (LSE IDEAS). 

Dr Nathalie Tocci, Director, Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome.

Dr Andreas Umland, Stockholm Centre for East European Studies

Kataryna Vakarchuk, Odesa I.I. Mechnikov National University

Dr Alexander Vindman, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired),US Army

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Former NATO Deputy Secretary General, US Asst Secretary of Defense, US Ambassador to Russia

Dr Alexander Wolf, Hans Seidel Stiftung, Berlin

Marieluise Beck, Director for Eastern Europe, Centre for Liberal Modernity, Berlin

This article was filed under
, , , , , , ,