Ukraine war reoccupied Germany’s Greens – POLITICO

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KIEL, Germany — As German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck entered the stage At an election rally on a sunny evening, a small group of protesters honked air horns, blew whistles and chanted, “War mongers! warmongers!”

That accusation is more of a fringe view, voiced in the northern city of Kiel by a few dozen far-right and pro-Russian sympathetic protesters. But it reflects a major shift: Russia’s war in Ukraine has prompted Germany’s Greens to take another major step away from their pacifist roots and emerge as the most combative members of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government.

Habeck, the economy and climate minister, and foreign minister Annalena Baerbock — the leading Greens in the cabinet — helped overturn a long-standing policy by both Germany and her own party to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. And they’ve since gone significantly further, publicly and privately urging the Social Democrat Scholz to send heavy weapons to help Kyiv.

The move is the latest chapter in the relatively short history of a party that emerged from environmental, pacifist and anti-nuclear movements in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is now entering its second term in the national government.

“In this situation, in which people are defending their lives, their democracy and their freedom, Germany and also the Greens must be ready to deal with reality – and this reality is a reality that must repel an attacker,” Habeck said Hecklers a marketplace in Kiel.

“People in Ukraine are also dying for freedom and democracy so as not to be overrun by armed violence,” he added, to applause from the other participants in the rally.

The attitude of the Greens also meets with resonance throughout Germany. Habeck, who is also at the forefront of easing Germany’s dependence on Russian energy, has become the country’s most popular politician an insa survey last week. Baerbock took second place in this ranking – ahead of Scholz, who topped the rankings not too long ago.

The popularity of the Greens as a party is also increasing. According to POLITICO polls, their support has risen to 18 percent from 16 percent before the war. The Greens recently even reached 20 percent Survey by Forsa.

While Scholz – who succeeded Angela Merkel as chancellor last year – has overseen the U-turn on defense weapons and ordered a sharp increase in German military spending, he has resisted sending German heavy weapons like tanks and artillery to Ukraine.

Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have argued that such a move could be a dangerous escalation, that Ukrainian forces would be better off with Soviet equipment they knew well, and that Germany could not spare tanks anyway.

But the Ukrainian government doesn’t buy these arguments, and neither do many Greens. In a thinly veiled dig at Scholz last week, Baerbock explained that “the terrible horror we see every day” means that Germany must now supply Kyiv with heavy weapons as quickly as possible.

“Now is not the time for excuses; now is the time for creativity and pragmatism,” she said.

However, the German public is divided on this issue, as a recent survey shows recommended a slim majority supports the deployment of heavy weapons.

Might be right

The Greens’ embrace of military might against Russia in Ukraine marks another chapter in a decades-long journey away from the pacifism that was once central to their identity.

An earlier turning point came in 1999, when the Greens agreed to support NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia to end Serb repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo – but only after a fierce and bitter debate within the party.

Even an anti-war demonstrator at a party congress threw a red paint bomb at the Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischerwhich finally prevailed and persuaded the party to support the position of the Social Democratic-led government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

The current position of the Greens on Ukraine and Russia represents a further development – this time they are calling for tough military measures before their SPD chancellor.

And there is little internal dissent in a party that has long been divided into two powerful camps – the Pragmatists reallyor realists, and hardliners fundsthe fundamentalists.

Well, the man who is generally regarded as the leader of the fundsAnton Hofreiter, has become the party’s most vocal supporter of a rapid supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“As a Green, it’s really not easy for me, but given the brutal reality of Vladimir Putin’s actions, we have no other choice,” the chairman of the Bundestag’s Europe Committee, Hofreiter, told POLITICO.

After Scholz again shied away from delivering heavy weapons on Tuesday, Hofreiter followed suit: Not acting increases “the risk that the war will drag on,” said Hofreiter told ZDF warns of a scenario in which “other countries will be attacked and in the end we will de facto slide into a third world war”.

Not long ago, Green politicians would have claimed the opposite – that the use of German weapons in a conflict zone would even increase the risk of a third world war.

This point did not escape the attention of the green-friendly, left-wing daily commented that Hofreiter sounded more like “representative of an arms company” than like a green legislator these days.

program change

A look at the greens First election program of 1980 shows how far it has come: at that time the party called for the “dismantling” of the German army, the Bundeswehr, and “the immediate start of the dissolution of military blocs” such as NATO and its Soviet-dominated counterpart, the Warsaw Pact. The party tapped into a sizeable pacifist movement in Germany – hundreds of thousands of Germans the following year shown against a decision to upgrade NATO’s nuclear arsenal.

Although the party has long since abandoned such radical demands, Election program from last year still called for “no German arms in war zones” and a “new push for disarmament” – policies embodied therein government coalition agreement but now stand in stark contrast to the arms deliveries to Ukraine and Berlin’s decision to rapidly upgrade its military with a 100 billion euro special fund.

And some Greens are pushing for a broader reorganization of German arms exports. Sven Giegold, a former MEP and now a top official in Habeck’s ministry, wants to provide more military aid to countries that meet democratic standards, even if they are involved in a conflict.

In some respects, however, the war in Ukraine left the Greens less forced to change course than other leading German parties.

For years you have been warning of Moscow’s dangerous intentions and Germany’s problematic dependence on energy imports from Russia. Scholz’s SPD is still struggling to come to terms with the failure of its long-held policy of close ties with Russia. The centre-right CDU, now in opposition, must also answer uncomfortable questions about how it allowed Germany to become so dependent on Moscow in 16 years under Merkel.

Marieluise Beck, a founding member of the Greens and a former member of the Bundestag, argued that the party could react more quickly to the challenges of Putin’s war and draw the necessary conclusions.

“Of course, pacifist currents have shaped the Greens, but we have always been a party that promotes and defends human rights, the rule of law and democracy,” said Beck. “We made contact with human rights organizations in Eastern Europe and Russia early on, so we knew better what was brewing there. Our image of Russia has never been so glorified as that of the social democrats.”

Wolfgang Schroeder, a political science professor at the University of Kassel, noted that the Greens seem so pushy for action against Russia that “they almost apologize when certain federal government decisions, such as an exit from gas imports, take a little longer.”

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung commented that Habeck was “close to tears” on German television last month when he said the country could not cut gas imports immediately due to decisions by the previous government.

Schröder also pointed out that one of the Greens’ key goals, a rapid switch to renewable energy, now enjoys record political and popular support due to the need to decouple the country from Russian oil and gas.

But not everything runs smoothly at the party.

Despite all the strident calls for heavy weapons, the Greens have yet to manage to significantly change Scholz’s course, which could give the impression that they talk a lot but have little influence on actual decisions.

In addition, Green Family Minister Anne Spiegel was forced to resign last week after it was revealed she lied about a holiday she took as Environment Minister in her home country as the region grappled with the effects of severe flooding.

Spiegel’s resignation, the first from the Scholz cabinet, followed strong internal party pressure to draw a line under the scandal ahead of two key state elections in Schleswig-Holstein on May 8 (for which Habeck was running in Kiel) in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, on 15.

This election will be a test of whether the Greens’ high-profile stance on Russia translates into more support for the party at the ballot box.

The Greens have sometimes struggled to turn good poll results into election results. Last year, the party led the polls leading up to the federal election with Baerbock as the candidate for chancellor, but ended up in third place.

“Of course there is a certain pull from the popularity of Habeck and Baerbock at the federal level,” said Schröder. “But that doesn’t automatically guarantee a good performance in the elections.” Ukraine war reoccupied Germany's Greens – POLITICO

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