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Scholz stands his ground in Putin’s cave

The writer is the Fritz Stern Chair at the Brookings Institution

Does he like President Emmanuel Macron of France, lied to by Vladimir Putin? Will he be humiliated, like British foreign secretary Liz .? Shoes at the hands of his counterpart Sergei Lavrov? Worse, would the Russian President trap him in a bogus peace-building role, establishing him as the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century?

Many Western diplomats held their collective breath when Olaf Scholz, Germany’s new chancellor, flew to Moscow on Tuesday for the latest final diplomatic effort to avert war in Eastern Europe.

In the end, none of these three scenarios opens. At the press conference after the meeting, the tone was clear – no smiles, no first names. Putin lied about the “genocide” in Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region. But you shown that he was open to talking about medium-range missiles and the scope of military exercises, as long as the West was willing to discuss his grievances. Just before Scholz’s plane landed, the Russian government announced partial withdrawal of troops encircling Ukraine.

Scholz stood his ground. It is their “damn duty and job” to “prevent aggressive escalation,” he said. He repeated the threat of dire consequences in the event of a Russian invasion; The withdrawal is good, but more will follow. He listed Western concerns about human rights in Russia and the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Of Ukraine’s attempt to become a member of NATO – something the West refuses to rule out and the Kremlin refuses to accept – Scholz said: “It’s not a problem we’re likely to have when we’re still in power.” office.” Then, with a slow smile, he added: “I don’t know how long the president intends to stay in office. I have a feeling it will be a long time, but not forever. ”

Then there are speculate on social media that the comment on Ukraine was a concession in principle. In fact, it’s a clear diversion of the problem. In essence, Scholz is proposing a way to resolve the dispute: membership is not now, but not “never.”

But when was Putin tacitly called a dictator – and reminded that even his rule must come to an end at some point? The Kremlin must have angered the Kremlin because the person who neatly failed this deadly puzzle was a German chancellor, and a member of the Social Democratic Party.

Indeed, it seems that Putin has performed a miracle and forced Scholz’s SPD, previously unknown for its contempt of the Kremlin, to educate himself. The last straw is notification – just days before Scholz’s first trip to Washington – Gerhard Schröder, SPD chancellor of Germany 1998-2005 and the original Putinversteher, will join the board of state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. This is preceded by a cacophony denying the fact from Berlin that Scholz’s visit to the US had turned into a damage-limiting exercise.

After he returned, the SPD parliamentary group organized an emergency meeting to impose a more important line. Jessica Rosenthal, the SPD’s youth group leader, showed more courage than most elders in her party by call Russia “the aggressor” and Schröder “representing Russia’s interests”.

Last Sunday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier – a former close associate of Schröder who has accused Ukraine of being “disruptive” in the past – fought a speech after he was re-elected as head of state. “Don’t underestimate the power of democracy!” he warned. “I appeal to President Putin: loosen the noose around Ukraine’s neck!”

Scholz himself underwent a transformation. Wood and thin in the afternoon standing next to President Joe Biden, at dinner time, Mr convinced some US senators gagged that he would be trustworthy. He decided to go to Kyiv, visit the memorial to those who fell in the 2014 Maidan revolution, and promise more financial support for Ukraine, before going to Moscow.

Are we witnessing not only a prime minister’s upbringing, but his liberation from his party? Ability. But the SPD’s pacifist left is still a force to be reckoned with. Nato write no de-escalation or withdraw Russian troops. The Duma is asking Putin to recognize the Kremlin-backed Donbas bracelet. Belarus is all but integrated into Russia. Moscow has not given up on overthrowing Ukraine’s western path.

In fact, its goals are much larger: the return of democratic transition in Eastern Europe, the neutralization of Western Europe, and America’s separation from the continent. That is the level of the challenge. That’s something the SPD and Scholz have yet to admit.

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