Olaf scholz

Xi’s nuclear warnings are a coup for Scholz

Checks and balances on Vladimir Putin don’t come from inside Russia. The people around him supported forced mobilisation, pushed his plans to annex eastern Ukraine, and wanted more nuclear posturing. Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, of China and India, can do a much better job at constraining Putin. They’re the only two leaders of major powers that haven’t completely ostracised the Russian leader. He needs them to keep his struggling economy afloat. The pair are putting pressure on the Putin to avoid nuclear conflict. This morning, Xi warned Putin off using nukes for the first time, after saying in February that China and Russia’s friendship had ‘no limits’. In a joint

Olaf Scholz is tanking

North-Rhine Westphalia is Germany’s largest state, almost as large as the Netherlands. It was a traditional SPD fiefdom during the time of Helmut Kohl, but in 2005 it became a CDU state. Surely, if the SPD was on the march, ready to turn Germany’s regional politics red as it did the chancellery in last year’s election, a state like North-Rhine Westphalia would return to the party? But the big news from yesterday’s federal state elections is that the SPD, the party of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, scored its worst-ever result in Westphalia: less than 27 per cent of the vote. The CDU won with 35.5 per cent and will probably

Boris and Scholz parade the new Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed Europe forever. That was the argument that Boris Johnson made on Friday when he held a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. One of the changes Johnson was keen to emphasise was that European leaders are united in their support of Ukraine and against Putin. This, he argued, was one of the ways in which the Russian President had failed: he had sought to create divisions in Europe, but had ‘demonstrably failed’. ‘The Europe we knew just six weeks ago no longer exists: Putin’s invasion strikes at the very foundations of the security of our continent,’ he said, adding: ‘Putin has steeled

Germany’s progressives have a Putin problem

Eighty-nine years ago this week, the German Social Democrats in the Reichstag cast the only votes opposing Adolf Hitler’s dictatorial power grab, the Enabling Act. Today’s SPD members often cite that moment as the proudest in their party’s 146-year history. With a memory like that, there is something awkward about the current SPD Chancellor’s position. Olaf Scholz is now having to come to terms with decades of SPD appeasement towards the dictator in Moscow. Before Putin’s invasion, Russian doves could be found across the German political spectrum, but Scholz’s now-ruling SPD has an especially long and developed history of Kremlin cosiness. The party has been at the centre of German

Germany’s attitude to Russia is changing. Does it go far enough?

It’s hard to overstate the pace of the change now under way in Germany. A country that had been defined by its reluctance to deploy military force is now sending lethal weapons to Ukraine and promising €100 billion more in defence spending. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have ferried more Russian gas to Germany, has been abandoned. Germany has accepted Russia’s exclusion from the Swift banking system, in spite of the collateral economic damage. All of this adds up to the biggest policy shift that I can remember. Perhaps the most significant change is in the tone of German public debate. Take last weekend’s gathering of 100,000 on

Germany has rejected Merkel’s military legacy

‘We are witnessing a turning point… the world is not the same anymore,’ said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz yesterday in a speech that will be remembered as the country’s biggest military shift since 1945. Staring down the barrel of Putin’s gun, Scholz announced a massive and immediate cash injection for Germany’s armed forces as well as a long-term commitment to higher defence spending. Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine has pulled Germany out of decades of complacency and misguided pacifism. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock seemed genuinely shocked at the discrepancy between Putin’s words during her visit to Moscow last month and his actions in Ukraine. She has said she feels betrayed:

A new Europe is emerging from this crisis

With every hour that Kiev holds out, the geopolitics of Europe changes more. Germany, which so values its prohibition on sending weapons into warzones, has just announced that it is sending 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to support the Ukrainian forces. I expect that defence spending will rise considerably in the coming years Germany is also allowing other Nato members to export arms with German-made parts to Ukraine — which will make a material difference to the supplies that the Ukrainian government receives. Yesterday evening, it was announced that Russian banks are going to be cut off from Swift. The EU seems to have realised how unsustainable their position was when

Is Germany finally standing up to Russia and China?

When German chancellor Olaf Scholz met Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday, the visuals said it all. As he had done with Emmanuel Macron, Putin kept his visitor at arm’s length, or rather at five metres’ length. Sitting at opposite ends of the Kremlin’s infamous long table, the two men were as physically far away from each other as they were on content. But Scholz did not seem intimidated by this. On the contrary. At the press conference that followed, he was assertive, even feisty. Are we seeing the beginnings of a post-Merkel foreign policy shift in Berlin? When ex-chancellor Angela Merkel last sat at the same table in Moscow in

Who will succeed Merkel?

The results of the German election have shifted somewhat since last night’s exit poll. What we know for sure is that a red-red-green coalition — between the centre-left SPD, far-left Die Linke and the Greens — is short of a majority, which is contrary to what every single opinion poll projected in the last few weeks That is the single biggest news from the German elections. It deprives SPD leader Olaf Scholz of what he would have needed to force the free-market liberals of the FDP and Greens into a coalition, also known as the traffic light coalition. A coalition involving Die Linke could have been leveraged to sharpen minds,