OpEd

Five German historians against Chancellor Scholz

Eminent German historians are heavily accusing Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD). According to them, with the vague policy and often based on untruths, the SPD is encouraging Russia in the war against Ukraine. This is one of the harshest criticisms made to this party by German intellectuals. Frustrated with the politics of the SPD is also prominent social democratic politician Michael Roth, a critic of Russia (and authoritarian Serbia). Roth has announced that after 26 years he will retire from politics.

Five German historians, each more prominent than the other, have addressed Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD) with a scathing letter. The German media call it "Brandbrief": fiery letter! The most famous signatory of the letter is Heinrich August Winkler (85 years old) from Humboldt University. Winkler is the author of major works on 20th century German history. 

The authors of the letter express dissatisfaction with the lack of clear positions and the lack of undoubted solidarity of Germany towards Ukraine. 

Since it is an important security issue, historians have decided to appeal to the leadership of the SPD to clarify the position and clarify it publicly. Regarding Germany's refusal to supply Ukraine with effective weapons (such as Taurus missiles), the authors say that the arguments used by the chancellor and other party functionaries are often arbitrary, confusing and often factually false. Historians accuse the Social Democrats of failing to coordinate with allies, and any lack of unity emboldens Putin in his war against Ukraine.
Historians then express their concern that the German Social Democrats lack the willingness to face up to their mistakes in Russia policy in recent decades. Here historians allude to former chancellor Gerhard Schröder and current president Frank Walter Steinmeier as the creators of Germany's dependence on Russian gas. 

Historians point out that the SPD is still flying the banner of uncritically romanticizing Russia as Egon Bahr did. Bahr was one of the important social democratic figures of the time of chancellor Willy Brandt. Bahr was an opponent of the NATO intervention for the liberation of Kosovo. 

Historians reproach the SPD for not taking into account the scientific opinions of Eastern European experts, and even worse: trying to disqualify them and thus paving the way for a dangerous culture of disinformation. Along with Professor Winkler, the letter was signed by historians Jan Claas Behrends from the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Gabriele Lingelbach and Martina Winkler from the Christian Albrecht University in Kiel as well as Dirk Schumann from the Georg August University in Göttingen.

After Russia's occupation of Crimea, Professor Winkler opposed the SPD's concept that Russia can be changed by deepening cooperation with it, for example in the field of energy. In 2016, Winkler published an article in the journal of the Social Democratic Party, where he emphasized: "The SPD must understand: Russia wants to revise the borders in Europe." Winkler was then retorted by SPD senior functionary Rolf Mützenich: "The politics of relaxation today is more important than ever." 6 years later, in 2022, Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine. The same Mützenich a few days ago demanded that the war in Ukraine "stop". Historians believe that this means the end of the war in favor of the attacker. Putin, according to them, will stop the war only when opposed with the necessary force.

Historians are not the only ones disappointed with the SPD. This week prominent social democratic politician Michael Roth announced that after 26 years he will retire from the Bundestag, the German parliament. Roth is committed to arming Ukraine, and is also a harsh critic of the president of Serbia. Roth compared the atmosphere in the SPD caucus to a refrigerator. Lawmakers like Roth point out that any pushback emboldens Vladimir Putin, while the far-left wing of SPD parliamentarians are pushing for a diplomatic solution and hope China can help step up pressure against Russia.