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“NATO will not become a war party”

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In the first general debate in the Bundestag since the change of government, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) promised Germany’s solidarity with Ukraine. “President Zelenskyy, Ukraine can count on our help,” he said in Berlin on Wednesday. But he also emphasized: “Hard as it may be, we will not give in to demands for a no-fly zone. NATO will not become part of the war.” The allies agree on this.

[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]

“Weapons must be silent, immediately,” Scholz said. He has repeatedly exchanged views with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj on the next steps, and has also held long and intensive talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent days. “Putin needs to hear the truth about the war in Ukraine,” Scholz said. “And that truth is: the war is destroying Ukraine. But with the war, Putin is also destroying the future of Russia.”

Scholz assured: “We will leave no stone unturned until peace reigns again on our continent.” No one can say whether the ongoing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be successful. It is clear that the Ukrainians are negotiating on Ukraine, “and no one else.” Anything Germany can do to help Ukraine find a political solution, “we will do.”

Germany has been supplying weapons and equipment since the beginning of the war and, together with its partners, has imposed insurmountable sanctions. These had an effect and also steadily flared, Scholz said.

Scholz said, however, that he sees no short-term chance of giving up Russia’s energy supply. Germany wants to end its long-term dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal, Scholz said. “But to do that overnight would mean plunging our country and all of Europe into a recession,” he warned. “Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be at risk. Entire branches of the industry are on the brink of the abyss.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks at the general debate in the Bundestag.Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The sanctions imposed on Ukraine due to Russia’s war of aggression are already hitting the citizens of Germany hard, and not just in the form of high fuel prices. However, it acts according to the principle: “Sanctions should not affect European states more than Russian leaders.”

The Chancellor promised the Union faction with its chairman Friedrich Merz (CDU) to participate in the discussion on decisions on better equipment for the Bundeswehr. “It should be a common cause that we do for our country.” At the beginning of the debate, Merz had previously presented a six-point catalog with the conditions for the Union faction’s approval of the planned amendment to the Basic Law in this context .

Scholz said it was “completely fine” for the Union to formulate its ideas. Scholz expressly thanked Merz and the Union faction who were willing to “follow this path.”

The foreign minister promised that all investments, guaranteed in the Basic Law, would benefit alliance and defense capabilities. Long-term planning security and reliability are created, which are necessary above all for upcoming large-scale projects. In addition, the sustainability of German finances is monitored, including the Basic Law debt rule and the Maastricht criteria.

Scholz spoke of excruciating images of destroyed apartments, bombed hospitals and besieged cities in Ukraine, and of women and children fleeing Russian President Putin’s bombs, tanks and rockets.

Scholz gave thanks for “an overwhelming wave of compassion and solidarity.” Tens of thousands not only opened their hearts, but also houses and apartments. Above all, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania and Hungary did an extraordinary job.

“It is not yet entirely clear how many women, men and children from Ukraine will seek refuge with us. All we know is that there will be many,” the SPD politician said in the Bundestag on Wednesday. He emphasized: “Refugees are welcome here with us.” Germany will help, and the federal government is also prepared to take additional measures.

The chancellor confirmed that the federal and state governments wanted to clarify the open questions about the admission of refugees in Germany before April 7. “It is the duty and obligation of all – federal, state and local – to work together in the interest of the matter, instead of first having long debates about responsibilities.”

[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen]

At the beginning of the debate, Merz accused the traffic light coalition of not reacting enough to the Russian war against Ukraine. In view of the war in Ukraine, Scholz spoke of a turning point, said the CDU chairman, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Bundestag. However, he and the Union faction did not really notice much of this turning point in Finance Minister Christian Lindner’s (FDP) speech.

Opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) spoke with Olaf Scholz.Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa

“Spending will increase as a result of the Ukraine war, and yet you are presenting a budget as if nothing happened.” If the government is serious, it should renegotiate the coalition agreement. Government is based on basic assumptions that are already known to be incorrect. Above all, the two percent target for defense spending is a sticking point.

More about the Ukrainian war on Tagesspiegel Plus:

Merz criticizes the coalition’s plan to expand the budget with “special budgets” and “special funds.” That was dishonest, according to the CDU leader. The CDU wants the two percent target for defense to be set or exceeded, every year, according to Merz. “We’re not going to write a $100 billion blank check here.”

Merz stated: “We are not the majority buyers of the federal government.” Each law will be discussed and voted on individually. At the end of his speech, Merz von Scholz demands: “You must visibly lead through this turning point.” (with dpa)

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