Chancellor Olaf Scholz is trying to dispel the impression that Germany is only acting half-heartedly and hesitantly in the Ukraine war. The image of the Federal Republic is particularly bad in Eastern Europe.

Some call it so, others so. Olaf Scholz says: “We help extensively.”

At the beginning of the budget debate in the Bundestag, the Chancellor explained just how extensively: Politically, economically and not least militarily, the Federal Government is fighting against Russia’s “imperialism” and will support Ukraine “as long as it is necessary, with all the Opportunities that we have set in motion”.

The federal government is doing a lot, that’s how Scholz wanted it to be understood on Wednesday. “And that could also be noted and not challenged by questions that simply have nothing to do with facts.” With not-so-kind regards to Friedrich Merz, who had previously, well, done just that.

But not only the leader of the opposition has (desperate) doubts about the German course, which is benevolently perceived as prudent and all too often as hesitant. In the meantime, there is “only resentment” in the European Union, Merz complained, “disappointment” about Germany’s unclear role, and even “really annoyed” about the chancellor and his government.

The criticism within the EU is not quite as extensive, but at least in Eastern Europe the impression seems to be gaining ground that Germany is only a half-hearted partner in the fight against Russia.

Germany does not cut a good figure in Poland

Indecisive, self-centered, breaking their word: Polish politicians in particular have been harsh on the German government and its course in Ukraine since the beginning of the war.

Yes, Germany is not doing well in Poland right now.

In particular, the hesitation in delivering arms to Ukraine has damaged Germany’s image, says Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

“The Poles are actually quite disappointed across the board and also surprised that Germany is not up to date here,” said Buras to “”. “Germany would be expected to take the lead in a massive crisis we are witnessing today and not lag behind events and other allies.”

Berlin’s increasing loss of importance

Initially, others preceded. Poland, but also Estonia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, decided early on when the Russian war of aggression began to send weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. Working together, Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria closed their airspace to Russian aircraft while other EU countries (including Germany) were still making preparations. And the eastern EU member states also stepped up the pace when it came to sanctions. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala was quoted by Die Zeit as saying that based on one’s own experiences with “aggressive Russian politics” one must set an example for the West.

In this respect, the advance of the former Eastern Bloc states illustrates a role reversal to a certain extent. For years, all eyes have been on Brussels, Paris and Berlin, but the states of Central and Eastern Europe are now showing an increasing willingness to go their own way. Germany and Angela Merkel in particular were considered to be important pacesetters, the then Chancellor distinguished herself as a committed negotiator and “compromise machine” who once again threw her political weight into the balance for Eastern European concerns.

Now Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose actions are perceived as hesitant and hesitant, says the Russia policy under Merkel’s patronage can ultimately be considered a failure. “Ostpolitik is now Lostpolitik”, judges the US political magazine “Politico”, the Federal Republic is in a lost position with its former strategy, so to speak. A loss of meaning.

“We don’t need German protection; history has proven it’s on the wrong side of history,” Politico quoted an unnamed diplomat from Eastern Europe as saying, who criticized the long-standing soft-handling policy with Moscow. “Poland has shown good leadership on Russia, on taking in Ukrainian refugees, on phasing out gas. The Baltics have smart leadership. Bulgaria has a new, credible government. Romania is stable,” the diplomat continued.

In a combative speech, Scholz defended his course in the Ukraine war and promised weapons deliveries of a new quality. Germany wants to equip Ukraine with multiple rocket launchers, a modern anti-aircraft system and a tracking system designed to detect artillery positions.

The chancellor thus launched a liberation strike, which is intended to once again emphasize and underpin the “extensive aid” from Germany. Whether it will be effective remains to be seen. In any case, the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Andrei Melnyk, was pleased: “Finally we can say to Chancellor Scholz from the bottom of our hearts: Thank you!” said the diplomat on Thursday. “Now one can really speak of a turning point for Ukraine. We hope for more modern weapon systems from Germany.”