Saxony’s head of government Michael Kretschmer is right about one thing: the federal government has crossed every red line it had drawn in military support for Ukraine. First no weapons were to be supplied, then no offensive weapons, then no tanks, then no longer-range missiles. And now it’s about the Taurus cruise missile.
The Chancellor hesitates, he has turned his hesitation into a virtue. His topic is not a lack of leadership, but caution in Germany’s interests. As with the Leopard tanks, Scholz hesitates with the Taurus missiles, but his federal government is weighing the options. For example, to shorten the range of the Taurus missiles to well under 500 kilometers.
International law of war permits defense on the attacker’s territory
The reason: the Ukrainians should not be able to attack Russian territory with these German missiles. Taurus’ publicly celebrated hesitation is an open vote of no confidence in Ukraine. But – the matter is also complex, because this cruise missile would only unfold its full effect in attacks on bunker-protected Russian ammunition depots. That’s what Taurus was developed for – as a German-Swedish joint production. Technically, the range of this two-component rocket could be reduced from 500 to 300 kilometers – but it would not be any less dangerous either.
By the way, the international law of war allows an attacked country to defend itself on the territory of the attacker. If Ukraine itself wanted to eliminate Russian supplies of military equipment in Russia, such attacks would be legally covered. Which doesn’t mean that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin simply has to accept this – he doesn’t give a damn about international law either.
Kretschmer adopts AfD rhetoric
The Chancellor’s argument from the first days of the war over Ukraine that Germany should not become a party to the war is popular. In almost all polls, the Germans are committed to helping Ukraine – as long as they don’t get caught in Putin’s crosshairs. Michael Kretschmer, who is head of government and would like to remain so, also knows this. In Saxony there will be elections in autumn next year. And Kretschmer is breathing down the neck of the pro-Russian AfD. And Kretschmer has made their argumentation his own.
The CDU man – Kretschmer is even deputy party chairman – does not argue like the Chancellor. In three points, Kretschmer argues differently than Olaf Scholz – and differently than his own party leadership, of which he is a part.
Kretschmer wants the Nord Stream pipeline (back, because it was already built) and with it the Russian gas. Kretschmer is against banning Russia in principle, weakening it permanently, which is the US strategy. And finally, Kretschmer does not want to “accept that German missiles could hit Russia”. In doing so, Kretschmer tells the story that is also held up in the Left Party and the AfD as a lesson from National Socialism. And, shortly before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the current Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, said that Germany could not deliver weapons to the Ukraine “due to historical responsibility”. Five weeks later the war was here. And today the Greens are the most zealous arms suppliers to Ukraine.
The story of the “historical responsibility” of the Germans, which prevents the Federal Republic from supplying Ukraine with weapons that could be used against Russia, a victim of Hitler at the time, has only one flaw: it is false. And multiple times.
Lesson from history: arms to Ukraine
Ukraine was Stalin’s and Hitler’s victim. Both dictators killed millions of Ukrainians. Stalin in the years 1932 and 1933 about 3.3 million people – in the “Holodomor”, the mass starvation. It was genocide, recognized as such by the Bundestag. A few years later Stalin had 70,000 Ukrainians shot during the years of the “Great Terror”. According to the renowned Yale historian Timothy Snyder, the goal of both of these Soviet assassination campaigns was the colonization of the country – “a politically cleansed, starved, collectivized and terrorized Ukraine”. Then came Hitler.
His henchmen, the SS and the Wehrmacht, murdered five million Ukrainian civilians during World War II. In addition, 3.5 million Ukrainian soldiers who fought against Hitler in the service of the Soviet Army fell. Hitler wanted to make Ukraine a German colony, Germany’s “granary”.
So if there’s a lesson Germany should learn from Ukraine’s history, it’s to help Ukraine with arms so that it doesn’t fall victim to Russians again. So to a party friend of Kretschmer – Roderich Kiesewetter.
He is one thing above all: a man who is free thanks to the trust of his voters. Kiesewetter won his constituency in Aalen, Baden-Württemberg, three times – and each time he did significantly better than his party. Which means: Kiesewetter acts in his own right, he doesn’t have to worry too much about the sensitivities of his party. Not even whether he puts a party friend in the laces, who is a prime minister who is under pressure from the AfD and a member of the CDU leadership.
Kiesewetter picks Kretschmer apart
And that’s why Kiesewetter can attack his party colleague Kretschmer head-on, here’s the full quote: “With your attitude, Ukraine is falling apart and Putin is continuing the war against Moldova and the Baltic states. Millions of Ukrainians will then leave their homeland and there will also be a shortage of living space in Saxony. Then you can rightly forget your re-election and (the) CDU Saxony.”
But that is not enough. Kiesewetter continued: “After the handover, they are Ukrainian missiles! Why do you accept that Infineon chips from Saxony in Russian missiles kill Ukrainian children and destroy families? Why do you have double standards??? I am both disappointed and horrified.”
It’s a remarkable process. I can’t remember that the CDU leader Friedrich Merz ever approached the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz in parliament and outside of it like Kiesewetter did to his fellow party member Kretschmer. Kiesewetter says about Kretschmer that his attitude earned him his election defeat. Is that already party-damaging behavior?
On the other hand: With regard to the heated debate about the question of how to behave towards the AfD at the local level – Kretschmer argues more or less completely in line with the AfD on a central question of German foreign policy.
What does Friedrich Merz say about this?