In the spring of last year –– as war raged in Ukraine, President Macron staged photo-ops with the German leader, Chancellor Scholz, and played an unavailing game of telephone footsie with President Putin –– the Kremlin’s talking heads gifted a term, “to do a Macron.” Broadly understood, the phrase suggested a state of telephoning incessantly to no end –– or, as this column then opined –– working toward no good.  

Some eight months later, a new term has emerged in European politics: “Scholzing.” The neologism is a gerund that captures the act of communicating good intentions only to manufacture innumerable reasons for their failure to materialize. As in, “I was Scholzing on writing this column.” Though conceived as a reproach, the term connotes a kind of dithering in the face of grave uncertainty.

For weeks, Mr. Scholz had been Scholzing on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Western allies have long argued that the German-made battle tanks could likely help Kyiv mount a counteroffensive against Russia. Despite setbacks endured in the summer and fall, Russia’s military appears to have at least partly recovered and –– inasmuch as it can be said to have an overall war strategy –– gotten smarter. So for Ukraine, tanks, so the thinking goes, are now of the essence.

Why then the floundering, Herr Scholz? Some pundits are positing incompetence. Others are pointing to the SPD’s history of coziness with the Kremlin –– arguably the most important relationship in post-war Europe. Others in Berlin a  Neue Ostpolitik, i.e., a new version of Willy Brandt’s outreach to the East beginning in 1969. There was, too, a nod to the nervousness that unleashing the Leopards could expand war in Europe.

With German Leopards now on their way to Ukraine, America poised to send Abrams M1s, and Spain and Sweden signaling that they, too, will likely send significant numbers of their armored vehicles, that is now what has happened.