Annalena Baerbock is considered a foreign minister who likes to speak plain language - especially in the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But not everyone in the traffic light coalition likes the style of the former leader of the Greens. Especially in the SPD there are politicians who don't shy away from criticism behind closed doors. One accusation, for example, is that diplomacy is neglected at Baerbock, making no attempt to call for an end to the aggressive war in Moscow. Even with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), some statements by Baerbock should not go down well.
Especially in the debate about the delivery of German Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, it became clear where the lines in the traffic light government made up of SPD, Greens and FDP are. While Baerbock could have her party, FDP representatives and even the opposition from the Union behind her when she wanted a quick decision on the Leopard delivery, Scholz made long hesitant statements. Until last week - as announced in step with US President Joe Biden - he finally gave the green light for the delivery.
In the Chancellery, the latent push is not well received
The fact that Baerbock had been promoting such a step internally for a long time was an open secret for a long time. But the latent pushing of the 42-year-old was not well received in the Chancellery. Shortly before the decision was made, she also blurted out that there would be no obstacles to a Polish application for the export of such tanks.
"These bellicoses," the chancellor is said to have scolded internally according to "Spiegel" and spoke of "war enthusiasts" - although it is not entirely clear who Scholz meant. The deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann leaves open the question of whether Scholz actually made such statements with a reference to confidentiality. In any case, she herself had not heard such words from his mouth.
Chemistry between Scholz and Baerbock
The chemistry between Scholz and Baerbock doesn't seem to have been right from the start. She the plain texter, he one who prefers to do foreign policy in back rooms than on the open stage. The federal government is talking about a completely different type of communication strategy for both. So far, there have been hardly any joint appearances by Scholz and Baerbock. Are Scholz and Baerbock the rivals of German foreign policy?
In times of war like these, when the world is reorganizing itself, what really matters is that there isn't a piece of paper that fits between the chancellor, the foreign minister and the defense minister.
Foreign Minister causes irritation
On Tuesday last week, in a one-hour question-and-answer session at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Baerbock called for the cohesion of the western allies in English with the following words: "We are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other." It goes without saying that such statements are not well received in the Chancellery.
The Baerbock statement even followed the Chancellor to Latin America. In Buenos Aires, he was confronted with it at a press conference with Argentine President Alberto Fernández. "This is a war between Russia and Ukraine," Scholz clarified again. Germany will do everything to ensure that there is no escalation that leads to a war between Russia and NATO countries. "That's out of the question for us. We'll do everything to ensure that it doesn't happen." Basta.
Distance Baerbocks in decision to China
But different opinions between the chancellor and his foreign minister have also become clear on other issues. In October, for example, Scholz prevailed in the cabinet in the dispute over the participation of the Chinese state-owned company Cosco in a terminal in the port of Hamburg, against the resistance of several ministers from the SPD, Greens and FDP. Baerbock even distanced himself from the decision in a memorandum. Before the Chancellor went on a trip to China, she also asked Scholz to stick to the coalition agreement there.
National security strategy stuck
There are also problems with the planned national security strategy, which is being developed under the auspices of Baerbock's Foreign Office. A meeting between the Chancellor and Baerbock and other ministers last Thursday did not result in an agreement. According to information from the German Press Agency, the formal departmental coordination with all ministries has not yet begun. And there is still no agreement on the idea of a new "National Security Council". It is unlikely that the strategy will be presented at the Munich Security Conference in mid-February as planned.
"Shall I speak of love? No."
Deputy government spokeswoman Hoffmann was asked that day who determines the foreign policy of the federal government, the chancellery or the foreign ministry. The chancellor works closely and trustingly with all his ministers, she says, without forgetting to point out that the chancellor has the authority to set guidelines. When asked, she added: "Should I talk about love now? No."