Before Scholz’s visit to Washington: incomprehension about German hesitation

Status: 06.02.2022 7:50 p.m

Does Germany put economic interests ahead of security in Europe? In the Ukraine crisis, many US media doubt Berlin’s loyalty to the transatlantic alliance – even if the Biden government waves it off.

By Torsten Teichmann, ARD Studio Washington

Germany’s position in the conflict with Russia was even the subject of a press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. Blinken was asked if he was satisfied that Germany was delivering 5,000 helmets to Ukraine instead of weapons.

US newspapers and TV news reports are frustrated with Berlin: All allies are making additional efforts to counter Russia’s threats – with one notable exception, according to the news page of the TV channel NBC. I mean Germany.

And the New York Times reporter, Michael Crowley, told the now well-known story a few days ago that British military transporters with anti-tank missiles on board bound for Ukraine flew around Germany. It just seemed as if the Germans were saying: ‘We don’t want to be part of the arms shipments to Ukraine,’ explained Crowley as an on-call expert on MSNBC television. The Germans do not want to escalate, he concludes – and that is a problem for the Biden government.

Ambassador Haber at Fox News

A request to cross German airspace was never made by the British side, countered the German ambassador Emily Haber on the Fox News television channel. These are all just pipe dreams, the diplomat said.

With her interview on Fox News, Haber first reached the conservative side of America. That could mean that Berlin sees the debate about German participation primarily as a slugfest within US politics. The narrative that the Europeans are at odds or that Germans are opposed to the United States or even Ukraine is only useful to one person – Russian President Vladimir Putin, Haber said afterwards on Twitter.

Baerbock’s attitude makes you prick up your ears

Behind all the anecdotes and headlines in the USA lies the following consideration: is the West really as united towards Russia as, for example, Foreign Minister Blinken repeatedly asserts? Flashing white about the difficulties.

At the beginning of the year, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Washington. She declared support for the attempt to prevent another Russian military attack on Ukraine. However, she pointed out differences on one point: With regard to its own position, Germany has a different view of arms exports to Ukraine.

Baerbock added that Germany has been helping to set up a military hospital since 2014. Then came the announcement of the delivery of 5000 military helmets and the whole debate on the issue of German solidarity started all over again.

Even those who try to explain the attitude of the Germans in the United States – including the laws against arms deliveries to crisis areas and the belief that everything can be solved through negotiations – say at the same time that Germany can do more. The previous commitments are no longer sufficient, explained the publicist Andreas Umland at a discussion of the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington: “Germany has given countries like Ukraine a lot of support; in economic development, culture, science. But if it’s too tough When it came to questions of power, Germany often failed to translate its declarations of solidarity into political practice.”

Crack in the transatlantic alliance?

Does the Federal Republic put its economic interests above the security of its European neighbors? In the end, that is the question that is often asked in the United States. The “New York Times” journalist Michael Crowley put it directly with the words: Germany and France have a lot to lose.

The Biden government apparently does not share the view. In his press conference, US Secretary of State Blinken did not directly address the question of the German helmets for Ukraine. Blinken almost sounded like a father protecting one of his children: “Different states have different tasks, different areas of expertise,” he said. “And we implemented all of this, but in a way that complements each other. And it follows a shared commitment to defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.” Blinken said he was fully convinced that Germany would stand with the United States as they jointly countered Russian aggression against Ukraine.

He will hardly stop the speculation as to whether there is a rift somewhere in the transatlantic coalition. The question will come up again at the latest when Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits.

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