Gesine Schwan (SPD) defends Olaf Scholz’s Ukraine policy

woman swan, in Germany there is a very heated debate about the supply of weapons to Ukraine. What is your opinion on this?

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In principle, I am also in favor of arms deliveries to Ukraine. However, narrowing the debate on this issue does not do justice to the difficult responsibilities associated with the war.

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The debate should be conducted in such a way that Germany’s intervention is based on the principles by which it must proceed – as Olaf Scholz has often done. Instead, we currently have a very narrow-minded debate on the types of weapons and agreements in NATO. This once again publicly pretends that Germany is showing less solidarity than other NATO countries. But it is nowhere documented. And if the Chancellor at least guarantees aid to Finland and Sweden, which are not yet members of NATO, then it will not be recognized either. I’m allergic to that.

Cheetah, Leopard, T72 and a “tin can”: These are the tanks of the Ukraine War

Cheetah, Marten, Panzerhaubitze 2000: There is a lot of talk at the moment about the tanks in the Ukraine war – and what vehicles Germany wants to supply. A tank museum in Lower Saxony explains what makes the heavy fighters so special.

Do you think the chancellor will be wronged?

I have the impression that Olaf Scholz is acting wisely and responsibly in consultation with the Allies. And I think he deserves confidence. Besides that, I’m surprised at how many weapons experts there are suddenly in Germany and that people suddenly think they know exactly what kind of tank the cheetah is. I do not want to take part in such a debate because it is blind to the context. It is more important, for example, to think of war goals that one must be aware of over and over again. When Olaf Scholz says that Ukraine should not lose and Russia should not win, it leaves room for interpretation. But it is right.

“Assumption completely absurd”

In which way?

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Because you – especially Ukraine – need room for maneuver. In any case, I think the assumption that Olaf Scholz does not want to supply weapons in order to negotiate with Putin is completely absurd. It bothers me that the gun is always aimed at the chancellor to force a specific response. Still, it would be foolish if he always went into all the details of what is being discussed in negotiations within NATO. Of course, we all have the impulse that Ukraine must have everything so that it can repel the cruel Russian attack. But it also seems clear to me that this should be done in consultation with the Allies and not with a so-called German leadership role, which would be a special role. And it goes without saying that the Ukrainian president is calling for “heavy” weapons. Everyone has their role.

What do you say to the general accusation against the SPD that it did not keep sufficient distance from Russia and Vladimir Putin?

You need to look good. The policy of relaxation before 1989 was about first recognizing the political status quo in order to achieve more freedom for the people of the East on this basis and to make peace more secure. This required confidence-building steps. The motto “Change through trade” was not a motto of the SPD, as it is now sometimes claimed, but from the Federation of German Industries. Later, there were asymmetries in contact with Russia and the other Eastern European states, including the GDR, especially with Egon Bahr, to the detriment of the dissidents. I and others – such as Heinrich August Winkler, Hans Koschnick and Karl Kaiser – criticized this publicly at the time. In any case, the suspicion that the SPD was generally too close to Russia is wrong.

And after 1989?

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The entire Western world, with the exception of Poland and the Baltic states in particular, believed that Putin could be won over to non-violent cooperation because he was not dangerous and could be moved in the right direction. The West was wrong. I have always considered Nord Stream 2 as a political project at the expense of Ukraine and not a purely private project. But even here the SPD is not solely responsible. The whole grand coalition was in charge. We can also see how difficult it is now to find the right answers with regard to, for example, China. It has developed into a totalitarian and, like Russia, revisionist power. But as far as I know, Friedrich Merz has also not called for the severance of all economic ties with China.

Historian Hedwig Richter: “I wish Scholz acted faster and more decisively”

What follows from the “turning point” that Scholz proclaimed? An interview with Hedwig Richter, historian at the Bundeswehr University in Munich.

So the SPD made a mistake – just not alone?

The SPD leadership yes, above all, the relationship between Gerhard Schröder and Putin proved to be fatal. For too long, the West has been counting on Putin doing well. You did not really know how to do it better. And there was no public debate about it, not even in the SPD. But those who now boldly claim that they knew better are, I think, junk and dishonest. Above all, the generalizing critique completely ignores what it means for politicians to ultimately be held accountable for their own actions in relation to the Ukraine war in all its consequences.

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