The German Greens abandon their pacifism

“The olive green ones”, reads one of the latest covers Der Spiegel. In it, the German weekly presents Annalena Baerbock , German Foreign Minister, in an illustration Robert Habeck, wallet holder of Economy and Climate Protection -, and the green deputy Anton Hofreiter sheathed in military clothing. Baerbock holds a sunflower in his left hand, while Hofreiter holds a bazooka with his right shoulder. These three relevant figures from the German eco-liberal party illustrate the turn that the formation has made as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and also the historical dilemma that the environmental formation faces when it comes to taking a position on security and foreign policy issues.

Logic would lead one to think that in the current Traffic Light Coalition – tripartite government of social democrats, greens and liberals of the FDP -, the environmentalist formation, with pacifist roots, anti-nuclear and opposition to NATOshould be the most cautious in offering a militaristic response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to send heavy weapons to the kyiv government. Nothing could be further from the truth: The Greens have been publicly pressuring the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz to send more weapons -especially heavy weapons- to Ukraine so that its Army can thus stop the advance of Russian troops.

scholz, heir to the traditional Social Democratic foreign policy of détente with Moscow through trade relations, has been much more cautious than the Greens about sending heavy weapons to Ukraine. “The problem is in the chancellery,” Hofreiter came to say, who is not part of the ministerial cabinet and has assumed the harsh discourse within the green bench in the German Parliament. His statements have angered the Social Democrats. In front of them, Scholz justified his caution before the actual risk of one Third World war. “We cannot allow a nuclear war,” the foreign minister went on to say in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit.

Support for kyiv and rearmament

The Scholz’s caution It has not resisted much in the face of public and private pressure from its two government partners. The German federal government has ended up approving the shipment of heavy weapons to Ukraine in addition to the light weapons that it had already ceded to kyiv. The German Ministry of Defense confirmed last Friday the supply of seven Panzerhaubitze 2000 type armored howitzers. At the end of last April, Berlin already announced its intention to send Gepard tanks a Ukraine. This type of weaponry, with long-range artillery of up to 40 kilometers, can be used for offensive and not just defensive purposes.

The decision to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine is preceded by a decision approved in the Bundestag shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: the injection of a special budget of €100 billion to strengthen the military capabilities of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic. The Greens have fully supported the measure despite some reluctance among their youth. “Pacifism does not mean that we let others die because of our inability to make uncomfortable decisions & rdquor ;, said the Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck at a party congress at the end of April.

For critics, this readiness to help Ukraine unapologetically with arms borders on militarism. The criticisms come from a part of the old guard of the environmentalist party. Hans-Christian Strobele, co-founder of Los Verdes in the 1980s and federal deputy for Berlin four legislatures after winning the direct mandate in four consecutive elections, has not held his tongue: “We are already part of the war. Politicians and NATO media have forced the supply of tanks. What makes them be so sure there won’t be an escalation into a world war?” Ströbele wrote in a resounding tweet.

historical discussion

The Criticism of Strobele point a generational gap among the founders of The Original Greens -founded in the final stretch of the Cold War- and the new green party leadersplus pragmatists and willing to take on contradictions of power.

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It’s not the first time The German Greens they are torn between their pacifist roots and support for military interventions. In 1999, the then Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, supported the participation of the Bundeswehr in the NATO bombing against what was left of Yugoslavia and before the war in Kosovo.

Fisher defended the first German military intervention abroad after the Second World War citing the danger of a new genocide in the Balkans. He had to put up with the boos of a significant part of the delegates participating in that congress and even that one of them threw a bucket of red paint in his face. Little more remains of those scenes of tension in The German Greens than the archive images. The environmentalist party has definitely taken path of the realpolitik.

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