Suddenly Olaf Scholz is the new strong man


Lerato Khumalo

In Germany his star is sinking, abroad his influence is growing: At the NATO summit a completely different Olaf Scholz appears than at home.

The traffic light government is being lamented every day. There is probably no political commentator in the German media who has not yet disparaged the quarreling three-party coalition. In addition to the ongoing dispute between the Greens and the FDP, the Chancellor’s lack of leadership is seen as the reason for the miserable image of the self-proclaimed progressive coalition: Olaf Scholz not only communicates poorly, he is also unable to keep the show together, so the accusation goes. He will therefore be ousted from the Chancellery in the federal election next autumn.

If many people are not mistaken, anyone who observes the Chancellor closely these days will see a person who is at peace with himself. He even radiates good humor, which is almost worth a separate report for an emotionally thrifty person like Scholz. Casual remarks, liberated laughter, even jokes can be heard.

There are reasons for the Chancellor’s good mood. One is obvious, the other only becomes clear abroad.

First the obvious: After 23 meetings and 80 hours of negotiations with ministers Lindner and Habeck, Scholz managed to draw up a federal budget for 2025 that actually produced only one loser: Defense Minister and party colleague Boris Pistorius is now angry because he is not receiving more money for the Bundeswehr’s rearmament. At the same time, however, he is enough of a party soldier to maintain cabinet discipline. However, the setback could knock him off his poll throne; military experts are suddenly mixing criticism with the praise for the minister. This need not bother the Chancellor, who is currently looking at poll numbers from a lower perspective.

Scholz is proud of his budget feat, and we hear that he clearly put the gun to the head of at least one of his two negotiating partners (or should we say opponents?). Otherwise, the agreement might not have been reached. In short: he led.

There is another reason why Scholz is feeling the momentum these days, and it is evident in Washington: the 32 heads of state and government of the NATO countries have gathered in the American capital. A striking number of them are under pressure (Biden, Macron), others are isolated (Orbán, Erdoğan, and a little Meloni too), two are new to the group (Orpo from Finland, Kristersson from Sweden), and several are still inexperienced (Starmer from Great Britain, Schoof from the Netherlands).

And in the middle of it all stands, speaks and leads the Chancellor. The recognition that the head of government from Berlin receives from the other leaders seems to go beyond the usual polite phrases. Scholz repeatedly hears great thanks for Germany’s strong leadership in dealing with the difficult war in Ukraine.

This development is no coincidence either. With the special fund for the Bundeswehr, the traffic light leader has finally fulfilled the German two percent promise: Germany is currently investing 2.19 percent in its military and has thus set an example for other countries, as we hear. Before the Russian attack in 2022, only 9 NATO countries reached the quota, but now there are 23. “We are serious about the ‘Zeitenwende’,” Scholz boasted during a meeting with members of Congress in the Capitol in Washington.

The Chancellor also played a leading role in organizing additional Patriot air defense systems for Ukraine: for months he increased the pressure on other EU governments, discreetly flanked by the White House. In addition to Germany and the USA, Romania and the Netherlands are now participating in the deliveries. Italy is contributing a comparable SAMP/T air defense system. “Thank you, Olaf, for the air defense!” President Selenskyj shouted in Washington. He may soon be able to expect even more weapons: “In my view, this process is not over,” Scholz promised him.