Gemany’s lack of leadership
The current hesitance of the German government of whether or not to deliver tanks to Ukraine (or at least allow other countries to deliver German tanks) is shameful! Whether it is based on a deeper political calculus vis-à-vis Russia or for domestic political reasons does not matter – the German government has failed in its European leadership role. It also shows an amazing ignorance about history. Yes, after World War II, there should be no war ever again started from German soil; but this war has been forced upon us and the rest of democratic Europe by Putin’s brutal aggression against Ukraine.
There are different excuses, but the most telling is what recently a German journalist said: “After World War II, never again can German tanks be used against Russia”. Never mind that Russia has been brutally attacking Ukraine, another country invaded by Germany in World War II. Another argument is pure fear – Putin will come after us if we send tanks, possibly even with nuclear weapons. A rather naïve approach – does anyone think he would stop at Ukraine if he gets his way. Almost 80 years after the end of World War II one might think that Germany has finally found its role in Europe – unifying and leading where needed. In many occasions over the past decades it has done so, but it has now all but given up any leadership role during the most immediate challenge for peace and democracy in Europe and that is not just sad and shameful, it is also dangerous.
There is a lot of discussion that a long-term approach has to look beyond the war and to future engagement with Russia – after all, an approach like the defeat and occupation of Germany in 1945 is all but impossible with Russia. And one has to avoid the Allied mistakes after World War I, pushing Germany economically and politically against the wall, facilitating the rise of Hitler. But any future engagement with Russia can only start after a complete defeat of Russia in Ukraine; anything else would simply encourage Putin (or any successor) to repeat such an invasion again in a few decades.
For the past year or so I thought that it was simply a lack of communication skills by the new chancellor; however, it seems more than that. A final argument against delivering tanks to Ukraine now is that the German public is not quite in favour yet. BUT: leadership is not waiting until opinion polls tell us that the right thing to do is finally popular; it is to do the right thing and tell people why one does it.