Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier regrets his controversial statement about “caliber experts” in German discussions about arms deliveries to Ukraine. Steinmeier “was subsequently annoyed by his formulation,” the Federal President’s Office told Stern. “Especially because he doesn’t want to contribute to further escalating the already controversial debate.”

At an event in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” on April 26, the Federal President mocked “caliber experts” who discussed the supply of additional weapons systems for Ukraine “with exuberance and growing ambition.” Steinmeier was heavily criticized for this, especially since he also considered it a good interim result that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Ukraine policy was still supported by a majority of the population more than two years after the start of the war in Ukraine.

The chairwoman of the Defense Committee and FDP’s top candidate for the European elections, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, accused Steinmeier in the Berlin “Tagesspiegel” of “ridiculing experts in order to support the SPD’s election campaign.” CDU foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen said there was “mockery and condescension in the Federal President’s formulations.” Other politicians in the traffic light coalition were also irritated by the head of state.

Steinmeier had already been asked about the criticism of his statement during a visit to Thuringia last Friday. At this point, he did not want to reevaluate his comment. It is important “that we take the threat seriously, but also not downplay our own contribution to warding off the threat.” Germany spent around 30 billion euros in aid for Ukraine, including a high military share, which contributed to Ukraine’s effectiveness. Ukraine, but also European partners, recognize that Germany is playing a leading role.

The debate on Steinmeier’s statements also takes place against the background of his policies as a former foreign minister. After the start of the war in spring 2022, Steinmeier admitted mistakes and misjudgments in his Russia policy as Angela Merkel’s foreign minister. His relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymir Selenskyi was therefore long considered strained. A visit by the Federal President to Ukraine after the start of the war only came about after several attempts and a lengthy telephone conversation between the two presidents.