Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday lashed out at German intellectuals who had urged him in an open letter not to send heavy weapons to Ukraine and to instead seek a compromise that both sides in the war could accept.
In a tweet, Scholz did not mention the letter specifically but declared: “I respect all pacifism and every position. But it must seem cynical to the citizens of #Ukraine when they are told to defend themselves against Putin’s aggression without weapons. This is out of time.”
The letter — signed by more than 20 prominent figures from academia, culture and journalism — urged Scholz not to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine, citing fears it could lead to a third world war and “make Germany itself a party to the war.”
The signatories included author Martin Walser, journalist and feminist Alice Schwarzer and Green politician Antje Vollmer. The letter has gathered about 120,000 supporters online since it was published on Friday.
Until a few days ago, Scholz had held back on approving the transfer of heavy weapons to Ukraine and had cited some of the same arguments used by the intellectuals to justify his position.
However, on Tuesday, his government announced it would deliver anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, bowing to strong pressure from Kyiv, international allies and domestic politicians, both inside and outside the ruling coalition.
Since the war began, Germany has faced accusations at home and abroad that it has failed to show leadership in confronting Russia’s aggression, manifested in its reluctance to send heavy weapons and to back a swift ban on Russian energy imports.
In an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Scholz rejected such criticism and defended Berlin’s cautious approach to sending heavy weapons to Ukraine. “I make my decisions quickly — and coordinate them with our allies. I am suspicious of hasty action and maverick German efforts,” he said.