Olaf Scholz took his chance on the world stage. Speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), the German Chancellor not only condemned Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the announcement of referendums in occupied territories. That was to be expected. He also designed a kind of new world order in which his central promise of respect, known from the German election campaign, plays an important role. Scholz used the English term: “respect”.
Pride in the West’s unity in the face of Russian aggression obscures the fact that emerging economies and other states in the Global South are rather indifferent to Russia’s war. They accuse the West of double standards. The accusation is: the war against Ukraine upsets you, you don’t give a damn about wars in Asia or Africa. And many countries are vulnerable to the Russian claim that Western sanctions against Moscow have harmed them massively.
Not a sack of grain was withheld because of the sanctions.
Olaf Scholz, Federal Chancellor
Scholz has no illusions about this, as his speech showed. He vehemently countered this claim from the Kremlin: Not a single sack of grain is being held back by the sanctions. He promoted the value of a rules-based world order in which no one can invade their neighbors without consequences. And he understood that it is an unjust world order that makes poorer countries vulnerable to the Russian narrative.
With Scholz, Germany offers itself as a partner to the many countries that are skeptical that the West will continue to talk loudly about human rights and self-determination, but in reality will continue to pursue its own selfish interests. A lot has to happen for his promise of a global peace order that overcomes imperialism and neo-colonialism to be credible.
The chancellor called for more cooperation, more partnership, more participation. He tried to prove that Germany is also committed to food security, climate protection and health in poor countries, and that their problems are not being ignored in the struggle with Russia. And he advocated reforming the UN institutions in such a way that the states of the Global South would also have more influence.
The Chancellor will have no illusions that a speech to the UN General Assembly cannot completely change world opinion. But every effort is worthwhile to find more partners to defend a rules-based world order. Because alone the West will not be able to stand up to the autocratic countries of this world. But Scholz has to do one thing: If he wants to gain credibility, he has to fulfill his big promises. Even if it will cost a lot of money.
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