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The gap widens between Macron and Scholz at a crucial moment for Ukraine

Photo: Markus Schreiber Associated Press French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a joint press conference on October 10 in Hamburg, Germany

Isabelle Le Page – Agence France-Presse in Berlin


  • Europe

Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, at the head of the two greatest powers of the European Union (EU), are now displaying their differences over Ukraine with rare ostentation, with the risk of playing into the hands of by Vladimir Putin.

A “disaster”: in an article of rare severity, the influential German magazine Der Spiegel denounces the “egocentric” behavior of two leaders, who willingly present themselves “as engines of Europe” while they are harming it out of pure “vanity”.

Since the austere and reserved center-left chancellor took office at the end of 2021, things do not seem to go well with the French head of state.

The most glaring disputes now are over what form of aid to give to Ukraine, which needs munitions and weapons to fend off Russia's steamroller, at a time when more than $60 billion in vital aid remains blocked in the United States.

The support conference in kyiv organized by Paris on Monday could have been a good opportunity for Europeans to show their unity.

Instead, “new attacks between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cast a shadow over the state of European cooperation, two years after Russia's attack” , deplores the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

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5000 headsets

The French head of state seemed to implicitly attack countries like Germany, which has long hesitated to deliver certain heavy weapons to kyiv.

“I remind you that two years ago, many around this table were saying: “we are going to offer sleeping bags and helmets”. Today they say: we have to do it faster and harder,” he said.

Berlin attracted a lot of sarcasm after offering to send 5,000 helmets to Ukraine, just before the start of the Russian offensive two years ago.

His statement sounds like a response to Olaf Scholz who had just announced his refusal to deliver to Ukraine the long-range Taurus missiles that President Volodymyr Zelensky is demanding.

It also intervened while the German Chancellor, whose country is the largest European contributor in absolute value of financial and military aid to Ukraine with more than seven billion euros planned this year , continues to call on other European countries to do more, implicitly targeting France and Italy.

In this context, the possibility raised by the French president of sending soldiers from European or NATO countries to Ukraine was categorically rejected on Tuesday by Olaf Scholz.

“There is a desire on the part of France to straighten out its image and say, we are not such bad allies as you suggest”, estimates Gaspard Schnitzer, IRIS analyst .

Champagne in Moscow

But these displays of rivalry are “deeply regrettable” and benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin, former German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger warned on Wednesday on Welt TV.

“Where do you think the champagne corks will pop ? Not in Washington, not in Italy, but in Moscow,” warns the former director of the Munich Security Conference.

“Putin’s most powerful weapon is the dispute in Europe”, abounds Wirtschaftswoche.

Beyond Ukraine, France, the EU's only nuclear power, and Germany have several fundamental differences, notably on European preference for arms purchases, design air defense.

“The difference with Scholz is that he does not have nuclear weapons and not the same army as us,” says an advisor to the French executive, and “to close a door it’s strategically giving Putin a point.”

“These disputes weaken European capacity to address its security challenges,” judges Rym Momtaz, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Emmanuel Macron sees the chancellor's defense policy, essentially focused on the protection of the United States via NATO, as “a challenge to the Franco-German compromises” decided in 2017 with Angela Merkel aimed at promoting the sovereignty of EU, believes Jacob Ross, of the DGAP think tank.

“From the French point of view, Olaf Scholz betrays the idea of ​​EU sovereignty and undermines the political legacy that Macron would like to leave in 2027,” underlines the expert.

Zelensky in the Balkans to rally support against Moscow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called on the leaders of South-Eastern European countries, gathered in Albania for a summit, to provide increased support to his country, which is lacking ammunition, facing to Russia which is gaining ground on the front.

“We are experiencing problems with the supply of ammunition, which affects the situation on the battlefield,” Zelensky said, addressing officials at the opening of the meeting.

The head of state of Ukraine stressed that his government wants to organize a “Ukrainian-Balkan defense industry forum”, as some of the states in the region have significant munitions manufacturing capabilities .

Leaders from several Southeastern European states are attending this meeting organized in Albania, including Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as well as Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani and Bosnian Prime Minister Borjana Kristo.

Serbia is one of the few European states that has not aligned itself with Western sanctions against Russia, but Mr. Vucic has met Mr. Zelensky several times on the sidelines of international conferences.

The Ukrainian head of state arrived in the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Tuesday evening after visiting Saudi Arabia.

He has been traveling the planet in recent weeks to rally support for Ukraine, whose armed forces are facing a lack of ammunition and weapons in their fight against the advance of Russian soldiers.

Briseida Mema and David Stout, Agence France-Presse, in Tirana

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116