Faber challenges Scholz: The traffic light rebel who doesn’t want to be one

Faber challenges Scholz
The traffic light rebel who doesn’t want to be one

By Volker Petersen

You have to be able to afford your own opinion – this is especially true for young politicians. FDP defense expert Marcus Faber allows himself this luxury. And puts pressure on Chancellor Scholz from inside the traffic light in Ukraine politics.

It was Friday the 13th of May when Marcus Faber’s political career threatened to derail. The young FDP member of the Bundestag from Saxony-Anhalt left a meeting of the defense committee early – even though the Chancellor was there as a guest. Olaf Scholz was actually supposed to provide information about arms deliveries to Ukraine, but instead spoke a lot about the looming food crisis in the Global South. “Today we had the Federal Chancellor on the Defense Committee and as Free Democrats we believe that he had the opportunity to explain how we can better help Ukraine against Putin’s war of aggression. Unfortunately, he didn’t use this opportunity,” said Faber visibly afterwards annoyed. At that time he was still FDP spokesman for defense policy.

Faber is only 38 but has been politically active for 21 years. He is state chairman in Saxony-Anhalt and on the federal executive board of the FDP.

(Photo: dpa)

As brisk as he sounded after the session, a few hours later he seemed subdued. “Today’s Defense Committee comment was inappropriate and did not do justice to the seriousness of the situation,” the 38-year-old wrote on Twitter. “I apologize for this and will offer my group on Tuesday, at their next meeting, to step down from my post as spokesman.” Which the group then accepted. Had Faber been classified? After that it looked. The office of the committee chair and FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann only commented to ntv.de: “You stay until the guest leaves”.

Although Faber got a bloody nose, two and a half weeks later he seems at peace again. “In the Ukraine, children sit in basements while bombs fall on their blocks of flats,” says Faber in an interview with ntv.de. “You can’t pretend that this is everyday life.” Then it is “problematic” if you do not get an answer to all questions in the defense committee. “The food situation in the Global South is also a very important issue, but perhaps also exciting for the Committee on Agriculture and Food. In the defense sector, it’s not about the 23rd amendment to any law, but about the question of whether people can get out of their come out of the basement.”

“Have absolute consensus among Free Democrats”

The fact that the scandal in the committee had no further consequences for him is also due to the fact that Faber received encouragement – from the public and from his party. He has offered his group to change his tone, he says. But: “We have an absolute consensus in terms of content among the Free Democrats. I’ve had broad support here in the last few weeks. I’m very grateful for that.” This is also due to the fact that Faber is not the only one in the FDP, but also in the traffic light coalition, who finds Scholz too slow and hesitant. “It must not be that at the end of the war the world sees Germany as a complete brakeman and loser just because we are not able to organize and communicate,” said Strack-Zimmermann at the end of May. The quote from the Green Party politician Anton Hofreiter, chairman of the European Committee, also made headlines that the problem was in the Chancellery.

But Strack-Zimmermann regularly defends Scholz and the traffic light. She sees herself more as a critical companion. And Hofreiter has also moderated his tone. Hofreiter said in a recent interview with ntv.de that he hopes “that the chancellor will quickly implement his promise to deliver heavy weapons” and that it is not true that Scholz does not want Ukraine to win at all. “I’ll be honest, I really hope so.” One hears clearer tones from the Greens only outside the parliamentary group: MEP Viola von Cramon said on Deutschlandfunk that in Ukraine there was only contempt for Germany because the federal government was too hesitant.

Faber’s clear words that Friday the 13th were not an outlier. The FDP sacrificed his spokesman’s post to the peace of the coalition, but he has since continued on Twitter where he left off. The tips against Scholz are clear: “The effect of Putin’s rocket artillery should not motivate to philosophical questionsbut for quick help.” Scholz had previously tweeted: “The war raises many questions such as: Can violence be fought with violence? Can peace only be achieved without weapons? We should discuss both with respect. But one thing is clear: we support Ukraine so that violence does not become the norm.” That didn’t exactly seem like a signal of determination.

Should Ukraine win the war?

In the general debate in the Bundestag last Wednesday, Scholz then gave his critics the opinion. He listed the extent to which the federal government is already helping Ukraine, announced the delivery of a modern missile system and another exchange of rings. This time Greece is supposed to deliver armored personnel carriers to Ukraine and get replacements from Germany. As usual, Scholz presented his critics as if they made it too easy for themselves. His message: he weighs things up, he has the big picture in mind. And the journalists noted at the end: he again didn’t say: “Ukraine must win this war”.

A lot of excitement has arisen around this sentence – should it be said or not? In the traffic light coalition, the FDP in particular has a clear language rule. Party leader Christian Lindner said at the party conference at the end of April: “Ukraine can and will win this war.” In May he and the FDP federal ministers repeated this to the “Bild” newspaper. The next day, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on ZDF that Ukraine had to win. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, like Scholz in the SPD, continues to avoid speaking of a Ukrainian victory.

“For me, a victory means that Ukraine controls as much of its territory as possible, that the Russian invasion can be thrown back, that Putin does not leave the field militarily as the victor,” says Faber. For some, the word “victory” may have been associated with a surrender by the Russian side and with the thought that such a surrender would be preceded by the use of nuclear weapons. “For me, such a kind of Russian defeat is so absurd that I don’t mean it when I say Ukraine must win.” Russian military doctrine only provides for the use of nuclear weapons when the Russian heartland needs to be defended and there are no other means of defense. Pushing Russia back to where it was before the war began would also be a “great success,” he says. It is crucial that a stable peace then accompanies it. Not like in the previous eight years, when there was still live fire in the Donbass and there were regular casualties.

The way is right, the pace too slow

For this, Ukraine needs more heavy weapons from Germany. Faber is now demanding that they also supply transport and infantry fighting vehicles – after the Gepard anti-aircraft tank and the Panzerhaubitze 2000 had already been given the go-ahead. “I cannot understand why the one step that is right is taken and the logical second step is not taken.” “One worked and the other didn’t. Then you have to explain to the citizens that that makes no difference under international law.”

Faber rebels. Against a lack of communication, against too little determination and consistency. Of course, as a traffic light politician, he doesn’t see it that way. He prefers the word “initiator”. The action in the committee in mid-May was not style-defining for his more than 20 years in politics. “I want this government to be successful,” he says. He doesn’t want to stop her. On the contrary, the path taken is the right one. Only he will not be walked fast enough. There is a lot at stake. “How we react now will change the reality in Europe. That’s what we will be measured against.” For example, by China, which is said to be planning an attack on Taiwan. “Accordingly, how we act is very important. When I look back on this time in 20 years, I would like to say that we did it right and we prevented worse things from happening.” Faber is also Vice President of the German-Taiwan Society.

International law permits the supply of weapons to states under attack and makes no distinction between heavy and light weapons. “By the way, others are already doing it. The Czechs, the Slovenes, the Poles were very quick to deliver heavy equipment, including battle tanks,” said Faber. He now saves himself direct attacks against Scholz. You also know what he means.

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