“The boys and girls have prevailed”: Merz’ reckoning with the absent Scholz – and the sharp counter

Klaus Ernst can no longer contain himself, he asks for a brief intervention. “My God, what are we actually talking about here?” the left-wing MP calls out to the plenum with his arms outstretched.

“We are discussing here whether the chancellor is going to Japan or not. I don’t think we are at all clear what we are deciding here,” Ernst criticizes that the debate is less about Ukraine and more about whether it is right that Olaf Scholz did not, despite the decision to also supply heavy weapons present in the Bundestag, but flew to Japan. And left some unanswered questions, didn’t explain himself.

In an interim intervention, left-wing politician Klaus Ernst warns of nuclear war.Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa

“The chancellor recently said an important sentence,” emphasizes Ernst. Namely that you have to be careful not to head towards a nuclear war. “That’s why he’s ruled out heavy weapons so far.”

And suddenly everyone, especially Friedrich Merz, would speak out in favor of the delivery of such weapons. “I have to say, I’m glad that the chancellor helped us to be spared a few years,” he calls out to Merz, who is fumbling with his glasses. “We’re talking about the question of whether we can walk through a Berlin that hasn’t been destroyed in six months or a year. Because if there is a nuclear war, we are affected too.”

For Ernst you get closer to the scenario. On the other edge of the Bundestag sits the AfD, like the left, it is against the motion, both parties are linked by their closeness to Russia. Alexander Gauland describes the strategic dilemma as follows: “Russia must not win – Russia must not lose either.” Otherwise it could just resort to the nuclear option.

He then gives a lecture on Russian history and great power politics in Europe. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) shakes his head on the government bench – and prefers to use his cell phone. He is trying to move forward, constantly working on new sources of oil, coal and gas. And put pressure on Scholz to do more with the weapons.

The Union with its parliamentary group leader Merz and the Ukraine summit in Ramstein convened by the USA then did the rest so that the Chancellor gave the green light within a few days for tanks made in Germany. The SPD would have to think about new language rules again, since Scholz had just tried to justify braking with the danger of nuclear war.

The day before, it still looked like a large demonstration of unity in the democratic center, which Putin now wants to stop with heavy weapons. So first of all to deliver such a device to a war party, Ukraine.

The traffic light groups SPD, Greens and FDP agreed with the CDU/CSU that German industry could also supply Ukraine with howitzers and tanks. A joint application was seen as an important signal of unity to the people. In the end, it is passed in the Bundestag with a large majority of 586 votes.

But again and again the question arises as to whether this is the right strategy, whether arms deliveries can really decide the war in Ukraine’s favour.

Most recently, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also warned that the debate should be conducted in a very deliberate manner – and expressly defended Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s course: “I’m not one of those who accuse the federal government of ignoring the opportunities and risks involved in decisions that can be of great importance,” he said during a visit to Slovakia, during which he also thanked Bundeswehr soldiers on NATO’s eastern flank for their service.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (M) and Zuzana Caputova, President of Slovakia, visit the site of the…Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Merz, Scholz and the quote with the “boys and girls”

But when Friedrich Merz was one of the first to speak in the Bundestag in the morning, the new common ground quickly came to an end. He mercilessly takes on the one who isn’t there: the chancellor. In difficult times, he wants to weld the world’s major democracies closer together, which is why the trip to the Far East does not go to China first. “I have to say to these boys and girls: Because I don’t do what you want, that’s why I lead,” Merz begins very politically.

Must take a lot of criticism for his course: Union faction leader Friedrich MerzFoto: IMAGO/Future Image

The Chancellor said in a radio interview that the committee chairmen Marie-Agnes-Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), Toni Hofreiter (Greens) and Michael Roth (SPD) were probably meant, who had made a trip to western Ukraine and him then teased with their demands for more weapon aid.

That was condescending and “completely unacceptable” for a Chancellor. Merz is really getting going now. “This use of language is a sign of insecurity and weakness.” Scholz is happy to answer “all questions that have not been asked and not a single one that has been asked”. When it came to weapons, he hesitated anxiously.

Now the Union is being criticized for putting pressure on it. “But the problem for the Chancellor was not and is not the opposition, the problem for the Chancellor was and is the criticism from his own ranks.” Again and again there are calls and outrage from the SPD. “If you understand state-political responsibility to accept everything uncritically, that’s wrong.”

The Chancellor adorns the “Time” cover

Scholz’ nuclear war argument is irresponsible. “Why should German weapons in particular have such an effect and other weapons not?” History teaches that appeasement policy is no way to end such wars. Scholz now even adorns the cover of the new “Time” magazine, which the SPD is happy to note, as usually only the big drivers and hopefuls get on it.

But the story is not particularly positive, it is also about his type of leadership – and what role Germany can play under this chancellor in the future.

Left parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch later emphasized in his speech with a view to Scholz’s U-turn and the green light for Gepard tanks: “The boys and girls have actually prevailed.” And in addition, Merz blackmailed him, because Scholz needs the Union to change the Basic Law to create the 100 billion special fund for the Bundeswehr. Bartsch criticizes that the motto of many MPs is: “Higher, faster, further: who will deliver the heaviest weapons?”

Not in the Bundestag, but in Japan. Chancellor Scholz with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.Foto: Shuji Kajiyama / AFP

The sharpest counter to Merz comes from the SPD boss. Unlike Merz, who is working on the chancellor, Lars Klingbeil first addresses the war, the suffering of the Ukrainians, and Vladimir Putin. “He will go down in history as a war criminal.”

Then Klingbeil says to Merz that he actually has “Thanks to the Union” on his note for the joint application. “Mr. Merz, that could have been a state-political speech today.” Instead, he’s playing party-political games.

In 2009, after going into opposition, the SPD supported the government in Bundeswehr mandates, the euro rescue packages. “We acted according to the principle: first the country, first the party.”

The CDU politician Johan Wadephul then counters this as follows: “You spoke of a state-political speech, Mr. Klingbeil, the Federal Chancellor should have given this state-political speech here today.” And with Gerhard Schröder the following applies: “First the account, then the country.”

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil defends the deliberative course.Photo: photo booth

And so the situation for the chancellor remains difficult. The Chepard decision – it’s about a maximum of 50 of the anti-aircraft tanks that are to be upgraded by the Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann group – and also a possible subsequent one for Marder tank deliveries, act like a valve that is opened. Even if the SPD has a big stomach ache. But they could turn out to be air numbers.

The cheetah and marten ammunition was produced in Switzerland. However, in accordance with its neutrality, the country prohibits exports for use in Ukraine. And could supposedly do the same for Brazil, since the country got the ammunition from Switzerland. The South American country bought more than 30 Cheetah tanks to protect stadiums from drones at the 2014 World Cup. And so it could be a long time before they could be used in Ukraine.

The only one who still builds new bridges that day is Strack-Zimmermann. The FDP defense politician had tackled Scholz particularly hard, saying that he might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now she is stretching out her hand in the direction of the SPD, quoting Willy Brandt at the end of an emotional debate: “Nothing comes by itself. And very little lasts. Therefore – reflect on your strength and on the fact that every age wants its own answers and you have to be at their height if good things are to be achieved.”

By Editor

Leave a Reply