Scholz acknowledges German public unease over Ukraine aid

Despite disappointing recent election results, the chancellor insists there is no alternative to arming Kiev

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has acknowledged that many citizens are unhappy with the country’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. This dissatisfaction is reflected in declining approval ratings for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) in several regions.

In an interview with ARD on Sunday, Scholz addressed the SPD’s poor performance in the recent European parliamentary elections, particularly in eastern Germany, where the party received as little as 7% of the vote. This region has traditionally been more favorably disposed towards Russia.

“Something is going on there,” the chancellor remarked, adding that there is “no way around it.” 

He acknowledged that the lack of support for the SPD stemmed, in part, from “many people disagreeing with the support for Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia. This is also reflected in the election results,” Scholz stated. “There is no alternative to changing that.” 

The chancellor also commented on upcoming state elections in Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Saxony. According to polls, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is poised to win, albeit narrowly, in each of these eastern and central German regions.

While expressing hope that the elections would not result in an AfD member becoming head of local government, Scholz voiced concern that such an outcome “would be very depressing.” He suggested that despite the AfD’s growing popularity, other parties would still maintain a parliamentary majority.

Scholz’s SPD secured only 14% of the vote in the European parliamentary election earlier this month, marking the party’s worst showing in decades. The Christian Social Union (CSU) emerged as the top performer with 30% of the vote, followed by the AfD with 16%. The election results revealed a stark division between voters along the former Cold War-era border between West and East Germany, with the CSU prevailing in the West and the AfD gaining support in the East.

The AfD has consistently opposed weapons deliveries to Ukraine, criticized Western sanctions against Russia as detrimental to German interests, and called for immediate peace talks. Germany is the largest provider of military aid to Ukraine in Europe, having pledged or delivered assistance valued at approximately €28 billion ($30 billion).

Russia has repeatedly condemned Western arms shipments to Ukraine, arguing that they only prolong the conflict without altering its outcome.