Why Olaf Scholz is being closely watched

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Written By Pinang Driod

Washington. The US government has issued a heat warning. It is scorching hot and humid in Washington, and according to weather logic, a powerful thunderstorm should arrive soon. As if this mood were a metaphor for the NATO summit in the city. NATO’s past, in which crises have been overcome, is a success story, but the present, with the Russian attack on Ukraine, the war in Gaza and the Chinese threats against Taiwan, is a powder keg. The future is fraught with worries about the Big Bang.

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Will Russia defeat Ukraine? Will China attack Taiwan? Will Donald Trump become US president again? Who will hold the alliance together? Could it be Olaf Scholz, the chancellor who deliberately describes Germany as a middle power and, instead of leading the way, has not deviated one millimeter from the US line under Joe Biden?

The military alliance is celebrating its 75th anniversary on the eve of the summit at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. The venerable Beaux-Arts building was where the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in 1949. The ceremony is a mix of high emotion and seemingly cheap pathos. US President Biden himself reads the lines from the teleprompter about outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – he is standing right next to him. Prevention is better than cure.

When the US president prepares to award him a medal, people inevitably keep their fingers crossed that the good part doesn’t fall off. Since the devastating televised duel with his challenger Trump, there have been serious doubts as to whether the 81-year-old will be able to withstand the hardships. But this time, everything is going well.

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If Trump wins, NATO’s key formula will be in jeopardy

Scholz stands in front of the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday morning. It is now almost 30 degrees. He says: “Germany is the largest country in Europe within the NATO alliance. This gives us a very special responsibility. And I can say this very clearly: we will do this, I will live up to this responsibility.” That certainly sounds like leadership.

The greater the concern that Biden will lose to Trump in the November presidential election, the greater the fear that there will no longer be a guarantee for the most important NATO formula: one for all, all for one. Article 5, duty to assist. In any case, during the election campaign, Trump encouraged Russian war criminal Vladimir Putin to do whatever he wanted with delinquent NATO members. There are fears that Trump would withdraw American troops from Germany and Europe and stop payments to NATO – and let Putin do his part.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says it is in America’s security interest to have a strong NATO. And he warns: NATO is like a marriage: You have to work for it every day.

The summit with Joe Biden sends the opposite message: a joint statement by the US and Germany announced that starting in 2026, Tomahawk-type cruise missiles and other long-range weapons for military deterrence will be temporarily stationed in Germany to protect NATO partners in Europe. should be.

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NATO anniversary summit: Military alliance celebrates 75th anniversary

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as the first guest in Washington on Monday.

Within NATO, politicians and the military are counting down what they could achieve without the previously large role of the US, and who would hold the rest together. In the words of one diplomat, in the Chancellery they see that, even as an ally with the largest military contributions, “many eyes are automatically on Germany and what we do is closely watched.” The federal government wants to fulfill this responsibility without leadership.

Scholz is not a man of charisma and grace, that seems right. But it is questionable whether his perception of his own leadership power and the stability of the traffic light government he claims is correct. Representatives of autocratic states in international discussions are mainly amused by the difficult and dramatic budget negotiations in Berlin. But at least the traffic lights are still there. After the recent elections, France and Great Britain are busy forming governments and it will take some time before everything is in order.

The one who doesn’t have time is Ukraine. If Trump were president, Ukraine would be lost because he would make some kind of deal with Putin that Moscow would be happy with, so it is said in NATO circles. Scholz, however, is said to believe that NATO structures and aid to Ukraine are now so intertwined that they cannot be disbanded so quickly.

Scholz had hoped for more support for Ukraine

There are disappointments, however. An additional delivery of strategic air defense systems to Kiev from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and the US is announced. But the truth is that there is little “extra” of it. The US is sending a second Patriot system. Everything else is largely known. Scholz had hoped for more from other states, since only the federal government is delivering three Patriot systems. Germany has taken the lead here. Otherwise, this step would not be taking place now. But the chancellor also says: “In my opinion, this process is not complete.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now asking Washington for more support. With an important signal from NATO to Russia, he can fly back to Kiev: by the summer he will receive F-16 fighter jets promised by foreign partners to defend against Russian bombardments. How many is still unclear. In the future, NATO will coordinate arms deliveries and training activities for the Ukrainian armed forces from Wiesbaden. However, there is still no invitation to NATO membership – but their path to membership should be enshrined in the final declaration of the summit as “irreversible” – “irreversible”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the Ronald Reagan Institute on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the Ronald Reagan Institute on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

Scholz has many confidential talks in Washington, with the new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdgan, with Zelensky and with American senators. NATO is not the traffic light. But if Scholz can do anything, it is endless negotiation and stubborn persistence. Always with the aim of not getting a bang in the end.

The expectations at the end of the summit

On the second and final day of the summit, heads of state and government of the 32 NATO states will continue to discuss support for Ukraine and with partner states from the Indo-Pacific region on how to deal with China. The NATO-Ukraine Council was established a year ago at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Unlike the previous NATO-Ukraine Commission, it allows for exchanges on an equal footing. The commission meets at the end of the summit.

Earlier talks with Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand will discuss Beijing’s support for Russia’s war on Ukraine through industrial goods that will enable Russia to wage war (dual-use goods). “This behavior by China is in direct contradiction to our fundamental security interests,” according to German government circles. Washington’s call will be to stop such transactions.

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end of an era

The end of the summit also marks the end of Jens Stoltenberg as NATO Secretary General. The 65-year-old will hand over the office to Dutchman Mark Rutte (57) on October 1 after ten years. Stoltenberg actually wanted to step down two years ago, but stayed in power because of the war in Ukraine to give the alliance continuity and stability at the top. Biden awarded him the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday. It is America’s highest civilian honor.

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