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For many political observers in the United States and some Eastern European countries, cracks seem to have appeared in Germany’s image as a reliable ally.

A wave of criticism is pouring into Berlin – sometimes mixed with bitter mockery – especially after Germany responded to Kiev’s arms delivery request by promising to provide 5,000 hard hats. Then maps were released showing the flight path of British transport planes carrying weapons to Ukraine, which obviously had to stay clear of German airspace.

Faced with its first major foreign policy crisis, the new German coalition government is also facing an image crisis. The head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, Piotr Buras, for example, told the national daily taz he was “baffled” by the chaotic communication in Berlin: “The German government has not spoken with one voice. We have heard many opinions, but see no clear strategy.”

international newspapers, The New York Times to the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, India, made headlines asking: what is Germany’s position on the Ukrainian conflict?

No weapons for Ukraine, but Russian gas?

Spain has sent a frigate to the Black Sea, Denmark is deploying warplanes to Lithuania and a frigate to the eastern Baltic Sea, the United States is putting its troops on standby – all this contrasts with the refusal of the Germany to supply arms to Ukraine.

Germany has so far refused to allow Estonia to send nine howitzers from Germany to Ukraine. Berlin justifies this by its policy of restricting arms exports to crisis regions.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, deputy chairman of the neoliberal Liberal Democrat parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, believes that such exports would make no difference: “We have a situation in which the Ukrainian Armed Forces are militarily inferior to the Russian Armed Forces by a factor that does not can never be compensated by arms deliveries,” he told DW.

Critics point to Germany’s economic interests and dependence on Russian energy supplies. Russia accounts for more than 40% of crude oil and 56% of natural gas imported by Germany.

This amount could be increased by the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was completed last summer but has not yet been commissioned. Chancellor Olaf Scholz only recently clarified that in the event of Russian military intervention, the pipeline would not get the green light.

Struggling to find common ground

The centre-left Social Democrats leading the new coalition government in Berlin tend to stress the need for negotiations and de-escalation in relations with Russia. His coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, both favor a tougher stance.

But even among the Social Democrats, a real cacophony has been heard for a few days. On Monday, party officials, lawmakers and cabinet members finally hammered out a common position: In the event of an invasion, all options for tough sanctions would be on the table (including considerations around Nord Stream 2).

In the meantime, all diplomatic avenues must be explored, particularly in the so-called Norman format with France; and the ban on arms supplies to Ukraine will remain in place.

On this last point, the Social Democrats align themselves with the majority of German citizens. According to a new survey by the YouGov polling institute, 59% of respondents support the position of the German government not to send arms to Ukraine. Only 20% were in favor of arms deliveries.

Germany is, after all, one of the largest donor countries to Ukraine in terms of economic and humanitarian aid.

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel met in Moscow on August 20 before his departure as Chancellor

Angela Merkel missing

International observers have pointed out that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s long-running departure from the political arena has significantly weakened European Russia policy and left a vacuum that Chancellor Olaf Scholz has apparently not yet been able to fill. .

british magazine The Economistpointed out, for example, that the communication channel between Berlin and Moscow has dried up since the change of government in early December.

“Chancellor Merkel’s advantage was that she could call Putin at any time and strike up a conversation,” former security adviser Horst Teltschik confirmed to DW.

Scholz has reportedly contacted the Kremlin only once so far, at the end of December.

This article was originally written in German.

While You’re Here: Every Tuesday, DW editors summarize what’s happening in German politics and society. You can sign up for the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter here.

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