Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Why Olaf Scholz needs Vladimir Putin

Photo: Olaf Scholz and Vladimir Putin Source: Spiegel  In the first half of June, the media reported on a possible visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Kyiv. The three EU leaders express their support for Ukraine, join the sanctions and provide assistance together with other partner countries, including within the G7 and the EU. However, as of June 15, 2022, the position of these three countries remains ambiguous, as the level of involvement of these states in counteracting Russian aggression remains insufficient, while the goals and vision of how to end the Russian-Ukrainian war may differ greatly from the vision of Ukraine itself and countries providing the biggest assistance for Ukraine.

Germany has not yet supplied Ukraine with heavy weapons, and new promises to provide Ukraine with air defense systems or other equipment are already making Ukrainians smile ironically. German howitzers and self-propelled anti-aircraft guns ”Gepard” have not yet arrived in Ukraine, and BMP ”Marder” will be likely transferred to Greece in exchange for the supply of obsolete Soviet BMP-1 to Ukraine. The leadership of Ukraine requested the German government to supply Marder armoured vehicles, as the state is in dire need of such assistance in order to be able to conduct counter-offensive operations. According to the German newspaper Bild, if the German authorities had approved Rheinmetall's agreement with Ukraine, the terms of which were discussed back in March this year, the first Marder BMPs would arrive in Ukraine this summer. However, the German government is delaying the transfer of armored vehicles to Greece, as a result of which Ukraine does not receive even the old BMP-1. "When is Ukraine supposed to receive armored vehicles as a result of this  3  Ukraine – European Union  circular exchange? When the war ends? This is a circus. A mockery of both Ukraine and Greece. Olaf Scholz does not want to help Ukraine directly, and does not want to openly admit it" - This is how Greek senior Defense Ministry official commented on Germany's 1 actions in his interview with Bild.

Just like Greece, Spain cannot transfer its heavy weapons to Ukraine, after Olaf Scholz government blocked the supply of 40 Leopard 2A4 tanks. Germany's actions aroused indignation in neighbouring Poland, which has already transferred more than 240 tanks to Ukraine, but has not received a replacement from the FRG. So far, the only country that has a chance to receive equipment from Germany through the so-called "circular deliveries" is the Czech Republic. Prague has also sent a significant amount of heavy weapons, including T-72 tanks, but will only receive 15 Leopard 2A4s from Berlin. And according to the Polish edition, only due to the fact that they have a contract for the purchase of fifty Leopard 2A7 for 800 million euros. 

In addition to insufficient military support, Germany has continued economic cooperation with the Russian Federation. Although the German Ministry of Economy has announced  plans to reduce its dependence on gas from Russia from 55% to 30% in 2022, in January- April 2022 the country has increased its total imports from Russia by 60% and transferred to  Moscow almost 6 billion euros more than during the same period last year. The actions of 3 Olaf Scholz's government contradict the words, and this leads to rethinking Germany's overall strategy in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

If Ukraine wins, the balance of power in Europe will change dramatically. The parameters of the new European architecture will be determined by the winning countries, namely Ukraine, Eastern European Poland and the Atlantic countries: Great Britain and the United States. Continental Powers: Germany, France and Italy will then lose their role on the European continent. US influence in Europe will increase, in particular, directly on France and Germany. Paris and Berlin were satisfied with the relations they had with Moscow before February 24. After all, they had a balancer against American influence and source of cheap energy. That is why Russia is important for Europe's continental powers, and a return to “Business as usual” would be a desirable scenario for them. That is why we hear the French president's calls "not to humiliate Russia and save Putin's face".

This approach has a theoretical basis. Russian geopoliticians, the most influential of whom is Alexander Dugin, professed the concept of the division of Europe since the late 20th century. According to Dugin's theoretical approach, Russia and Germany are natural allies. The Russian-German partnership will ensure their dominance on the European continent and significantly reduce American influence. "Russia and Germany must resolve all disputes jointly and in advance, working out a common plan for the redistribution of the geography of influence in the region, and then severely end all local initiatives of Eastern European nations aimed at revision of Russian-German plans. At the same time, the main thing to strive for is the categorical elimination of any kind of the "sanitary border", the clear dispelling of illusions of in-between countries about their potential independence from geopolitically powerful neighbors "- Dugin wrote in his work "Foundations of Geopolitics".

So, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy came to Kyiv to persuade Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make concessions to Vladimir Putin, as was the case when George W. Bush arrived in Kyiv with a speech that went down in history as "Chicken Kyiv." Back then, fearing the emergence of four nuclear-weapon states with weak economies and potentially unstable domestic situation that would hit the non-proliferation regime, the US president called on the Verkhovna Rada to abandon the idea of independence. Now the leaders of European countries are trying to persuade the President of Ukraine to make concessions on Ukrainian territory and sovereignty.

Such a path, however, will not ensure lasting peace on the European continent. In the midst of hostilities and in the wake of Macron's calls to save Putin’s face, the Russian president openly compares himself to Emperor Peter I, who fought the Northern War for 21 years and, in the words of the Russian autocrat, "did not seize but returned Russian lands." It is obvious that any truce will be a pause before the next wave of the Russian-Ukrainian war, because the task of the Russian leadership is the complete destruction of Ukrainian statehood and the Ukrainian people as a nation. And this is the vision not only of Vladimir Putin, but also of the vast majority of Russian politicians, from the most radical to the so-called "Russian liberals" who consider the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to be “the will of the people of the Crimean peninsula”. Therefore, the only way that can bring peace to Europe is to increase military support for Ukraine and counter Russian aggression.

It is worth noting that, even in Germany, despite the position of Olaf Scholz's government, there are political forces that understand this. The German publication Spiegel is especially critical of Olaf Scholz's actions. "Scholz and his government are clearly playing for time. Initially, they didn’t believe that the Ukrainians had a chance against Russia and sent the bare minimum necessary for plausible deniability, starting with 5,000 helmets. Later, it was a mixture of incompetence and a lack of will – and a desire to hide behind its allies. Not to mention the refusal to take international leadership” - it is noted in an article entitled “Why Has Germany Been So Slow to Deliver Weapons?”. The article states: “It seems likely that Scholz would never have delivered any weapons at all without massive pressure from abroad and from within his own governing coalition. The chancellor has had to be pressured into taking every single step...

According to a survey performed by Civey, half of all Germans don’t believe that Scholz is doing everything in his power to rapidly provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs.”5 Dissatisfaction with the actions of the current Chancellor is reflected in the rating of the Social Democratic Party. According to a poll conducted by the YouGov Centre for Public Opinion Research, only 18% of citizens support the SPD. 30% of eligible to vote Germans say they will vote for the CDU / CSU, 21% for the Green Party and 7% for the Free Democratic Party.

Of course, electoral sentiment is shaped by a variety of factors, but as noted earlier by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Ukrainian issue is an important element of the current political agenda, which can both increase the popularity of the incumbent government and hit it.

In France, Emmanuel Macron managed to avoid criticism for insufficient support for Ukraine. First, unlike Germany, the French opposition, represented by Marie Le Pen, is not in favor of increasing support for Ukraine, but for partnership with Russia. Secondly, the French leadership successfully promoted the transfer of 12 Caesar self-propelled guns to Ukraine, although the military-technical support from France is incomparable with the help of Poland, Great Britain, and even more so the United States. Also, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi showed leadership and earned domestic political dividends by proposing a plan to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian war, and in fact, the plan implied the end Ukraine's resistance in exchange for membership in the European Union.

Words of support for Ukraine from the leaders of Germany, France and Italy are not supported by practical actions. Of course, three states supply certain weapons and impose sanctions against Russia within the framework of the G7 and the European Union. At the same time, the countries continue economic cooperation with the aggressor state and do not arm Ukraine sufficiently so it could conduct effective counter-offensive action. Probably, a number of EU countries intend to return to "Business as usual" with Russia. Belief that such a scenario is possible is a big strategic mistake, which stems from a lack of understanding of the nature of Russia's policy toward neighboring countries.

Sustainable peace on the European continent is possible only if Ukraine wins, so it is important to ensure a complete economic blockade of Russian exports and the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine. Further weakening of Russia must take place to the extent that the Russian leadership agrees to nuclear disarmament, which would remove the danger of Russian state terrorism in the future. But obviously the leaders of the three states will not stop trying to push the President of Ukraine to make concessions to the Russian aggressor, despite the crimes that Russia has committed and keeps committing in Ukraine.

Греція назвала німецьку схему передачі БМП "цирком" і знущанням з України, 07.06.2022,
Польща не побачить німецьких Leopard 2: перемовини зайшли у глухий кут, а "кругове постачання" під загрозою, 13.06.2022,
Німеччина за останні 4 місяці збільшила обсяги імпорту з Росії - посол, 10.06.2022,
Олександр Дугін, «Геополітика»,
Why Has Germany Been So Slow to Deliver Weapons?, 03.06.2022,
Франція передасть Україні 155-мм САУ "Caesar": що це за зброя (фото), 22.04.2022,