Olaf Scholz is surprisingly relaxed as he sits on the government bus to Ankara, those few moments when he leans back. The chancellor celebrates 96 days in office this morning and did not anticipate such a war, which calls into question all certainties.
The weekend was unusual again. The federal budget was launched in a feat of strength, almost 100 billion euros in new debt, 100 billion in special assets for the Bundeswehr, and there will also be a supplementary budget for “Ukraine”, also to relieve citizens of fuel and heating. costs
[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.]
And then there was the phone call with Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin. 75 minutes long. However, this phone call has pretty much tarnished the hopes of an imminent ceasefire.
In the phone call, Putin spoke in Russian, Scholz and Macron spoke in English. The Russian president moved in a world of his own, he spoke of executions by the Ukrainians. Scholz had an interpreter with him for the Russian, who has been sworn to secrecy. These phone calls are likely to become a case for historians.
When the chancellor lands in Anatolia three hours later, where the mountains are still covered in snow, he quickly realizes that he has never received such a reception. Dozens of horsemen carrying German and Turkish flags escort his limousine to the entrance of the Bestepe Palace, which was built on the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is even larger than the Kremlin.
The driver is already waiting for Angela Merkel’s successor. She plays the German national anthem, then the Turkish one. 21 gun salutes can be heard, which creates strange thoughts these days. Scholz completed his task of saying “Merhaba Asker” (Hello, soldiers) to the Turkish soldiers in their turquoise uniforms without any accident.
Conflicts with Armenia, actions against Kurds, human rights issues suddenly take a backseat during a visit to Turkey. Scholz only warns afterwards that Deutsche Welle must continue to report freely and independently in Turkey. And he almost gets angry when a journalist insinuates that here Merkel has always swept the issue of human rights under the rug. “That’s not true. You do my predecessor an injustice, I have to disagree,” he says.
They talked for almost three hours, the atmosphere is warm. Erdogan has repeatedly emphasized that a new chapter will open. He calls Scholz a “friend and ally of Turkey.” The host enjoys being caught up again by the West, the NATO country has become a key player in the question of whether Putin’s war can somehow end.
The chancellor lives these days the obstacles of international politics. The West now has to court difficult heads of state again. Iran and Venezuela, governed by the socialist Nicolás Maduro, are also interesting again, as they could replace Russian oil and gas supplies.
The big problem facing Putin’s war: there is no mediator (state), only mediation attempts. Scholz has been silent for days about the strange mission of his SPD predecessor and gas lobbyist, Gerhard Schröder. He spoke with Putin for several hours and then flew back to Germany with his wife via Istanbul. The Chancellor prefers to stick to the channels and partners that he sees as officially authorized to do so.
More about the Ukrainian war on Tagesspiegel Plus:
That is why he is also with Erdogan, the NATO state. Turkey has good connections with Russia, Ukraine and Israel. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions, but the declaration of support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, along with drone deliveries as part of a joint Turkish-Ukrainian venture, are also clear signs. And Turkey is becoming increasingly important to the West in terms of supplying raw materials, especially natural gas.
“We will maintain our friendship with Mr. Zelenskyj, but also with Mr. Putin,” says Erdogan. Although this largely neutral role suits Scholz, he then tries to specify Turkey’s role as a NATO partner.
“Turkey has clearly spoken out against the war,” says Olaf Scholz. Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks at him, and does not contradict him. Scholz and Erdogan want to continue working together on an early ceasefire in Ukraine.
On Thursday, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia met in Antalya, Turkey, for the first high-level talks between the two warring parties. A meeting of Schröder with Ukrainian negotiators was also arranged with the help of Turkey.
Is there real progress?
Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) urgently advises the Germans to recognize the importance of Turkey as a strategic partner. The Turkish president also blocked warships from the Bosphorus so they could not cross the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine. “Dare more Turkey: one look at the map shows how important Turkey is for our security,” says Gabriel.
When Scholz was in the Kremlin a good week before the war started, he asked Putin if he would invade Ukraine. Putin squirmed but never said no, not even in the press conference that followed. So the dilemma for the heads of state and government is this: if there really is progress, as Moscow and kyiv have said, Moscow will really move away from the highest demands (neutralization of Ukraine, appointment of a government loyal to Moscow) and Could Moscow, for example, deal with the recognition of Settle Crimea and the cession of the Donbass territories?
The main maxim of the Western partners is: it is the Ukrainians who say what they are ready to do to end the war, nothing is decided on the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyj.
The other variant: the Russians lie to everyone again and the diplomatic backdrop is just a Potemkin village to create more facts on the ground in Ukraine. In the end, Scholz, in the presence of his ally Erdogan, sent a clear warning to Putin: “Every day, with every bomb, Russia moves further away from the world community.”