DThe German-French friendship threatens to collapse due to the war in Ukraine. This is the impression that Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron are currently conveying. In record time they have destroyed the hope that they could form a solid team for Europe despite all the differences in times of greatest possible threat. It has long been known that there is no chemistry between the taciturn Chancellor and the talkative President. Their relationship has reached a new low in the dispute over ground troops and Taurus refusal, which is putting a strain on Europe's cohesion.

The problem lies deeper than the president's flippant response to a late-night journalist's question. Macron stated that from now on he would “rule out nothing” for France in the fight against Russian imperialism, including the sending of ground troops. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces of an independent nuclear power, Macron can cultivate this form of verbal deterrence. Macron is thus moving on to strategic ambiguity, which leaves the opponent unclear about what reactions he has to fear. It is another matter that without reassurance from the allies this is unskillful and not very credible. A sharp blade is needed for saber rattling.

But that doesn't justify how ruthlessly Scholz has shown Macron since then. Although the President has never asked others to do the same or even send soldiers to Ukrainian soil, the Chancellor tirelessly creates this impression. In doing so, he promotes a misleading perception of Macron. The undeserved head of state is not a warmonger who would carelessly send combat troops. Unlike his two predecessors at the Élysée in Libya and Mali, he did not order a new foreign deployment, but rather withdrew soldiers from the Sahel region.

Scholz ruthlessly parades Macron

Franco-German relations were never free of strife and envy. But rarely have a Chancellor and a President fought so bitterly for leadership in Europe instead of moving forward together. At the heart of the dispute is the question of how best to contain Putin's aggressiveness. From now on, Macron will rely on deterrence, Scholz will continue to rely on restraint. Macron wants to admit Ukraine into NATO as quickly as possible, Scholz would rather wait and see. France is thus moving closer to the Baltic states and Poland, which have long doubted that Putin can be defeated with red lines.

This text comes from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Macron's considerations deserved more attention in Berlin. Is it the best strategy to contain Putin to give him information like an open book about arms stocks and the red lines of European support? Macron has come to believe that Putin is becoming increasingly aggressive. French fighter jets patrolling international airspace over the Black Sea recently faced Russian shoot-down threats.

The incident accelerated a semantic shift. In the future, Macron sees Putin's military defeat as necessary to guarantee Europe's security. His credibility suffers above all from the fact that French arms deliveries to Ukraine lag far behind those of Germany and Great Britain. Macron's room for maneuver is limited by a debt burden that amounts to more than three trillion euros. That's why Macron hopes so much for European bonds for defense spending.

Taunts are out of place

Like Scholz, the president's goal is not to become a war party. But it is burned into France's collective memory that the longing for peace is not enough to avoid being drawn into war. The traumatic experience of the German attack in 1940 after years of desperate peace negotiations is kept alive by current book publications. Most recently, the long-time ambassador to the USA Gérard Araud assessed the failure of the peace efforts in his book “We were alone”.

Far too often, what is overlooked in Berlin is that France, a founding member of NATO, also trusts in the transatlantic alliance's promise of protection. The calmness with which Paris reacts to Putin's nuclear threats is not only based on its own nuclear arsenal. The history of the Soviet nuclear power is much more closely maintained than in Germany. People in Paris salons are currently fond of telling how President Charles de Gaulle reacted unmoved to the Soviet ambassador's threat to wipe out Paris with an atomic bomb in the 1963 Berlin dispute. “Very well, Mr. Ambassador, then we will die together!” the founder of the state is said to have replied dryly.

The return to the European community of shared destiny that binds Germany and France is becoming more and more urgent. Otherwise there is a risk of security policy fragmentation, which the Kremlin has long aimed at. It is high time for conciliatory tones. Contempt for France is just as misplaced as Macron's taunts about the first attempts to support Ukraine with “helmets and sleeping bags”.

30776 74941 49251 62275 31674 28186 29145 92304 79815 34762 06989 35270 13255 09477 79011 01932 68983 16713 21647 47519