On Ukraine and on Energy, Germany Is Upsetting Its Allies in Europe – The New York Times - 25.10.22
The government has dismissed criticism of its refusal to provide modern tanks to Ukraine and its massive energy subsidy for its own citizens. But its friends are bridling says Steven Erlanger.
BERLIN — At a moment when Germany’s allies seek reassurance and leadership, even its closest partners wonder aloud about its commitment to European solidarity.
Although Germany has long been Europe’s de facto leader, it has been slow to provide serious military equipment to Ukraine. It has also subsidized its own citizens’ energy bills while working to water down a price cap on gas that could alleviate pain in poorer countries of the European Union.
“Can we trust Germany?” Latvia’s outspoken defense minister, Artis Pabriks, asked bluntly last week at an open forum in Berlin, referring to NATO and the risks associated with the war in Ukraine. “You say ‘We are there for you.’ But do you have the political will?” He added: “We’re willing to die for freedom. Are you?”
Those criticisms are coming not only from countries that would be expected to push for a harder line against Russia, like Poland and the Baltic States, but even from Germany’s closest partners.
It is “not good for Europe and for Germany that it isolates itself,” France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, subtly chastised his German counterpart, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, before a European Council summit meeting last week.
Mr. Scholz and his advisers bridle at such criticism — and disagree.
Germany is a force for pragmatism and the third-largest contributor of military equipment to Ukraine after the United States and Britain, they argue. Wolfgang Schmidt, the chancellor’s top aide, publicly compared German security policy to a teenager in a world of adults, finding its way with good intentions.
If late and seemingly reluctantly, Germany has recently supplied advanced weapons to Ukraine, like Gepard armored antiaircraft guns, and at least one advanced mobile antiaircraft missile system, the IRIS-T. Germany rushed that delivery this month, promising three more systems down the road.
And as part of its effort to counter the criticism, Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, hosted a multinational conference on Tuesday to focus minds on how to help Ukraine reconstruct, both during and after the war — a massive task. The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose role is more symbolic, also visited Kyiv on Tuesday for the first time since the war began, after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, disinvited him in April, angry over Germany’s tight relations with Moscow.
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Steven Erlanger is the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, based in Brussels. He previously reported from London, Paris, Jerusalem, Berlin, Prague, Moscow and Bangkok. @StevenErlanger
Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, right; Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine, center; and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, at a conference in Berlin on Tuesday on the reconstruction of Ukraine. Germany has pushed back against the idea that it is isolating itself. Credit...Markus Schreiber/Associated Press