Germany's chancellor promised to deter Putin. Then he did nothing.

Rather than boldly leading his country in a moral and strategic effort to deter Mr. Putin’s murderous militarism, the chancellor, despite his strong talk at the beginning of the war, has chosen effectively to do nothing. His indecisiveness is more than a political failure. It amounts to a dangerous weakening of the resolve of those who oppose Russia’s war, clearing the way for more brutality and violence.

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Germany has provided Ukraine with some support, to be sure. But it has fallen far short of initial expectations and Mr. Scholz’s inaction has been covered by a smoke screen of confusing words. The government’s explanation for holding back the weapons — including tanks, howitzers and antiaircraft systems — was that Germany needed them. The government also suggested the tanks would take too much training for the Ukrainians to use, before reversing the claim. Instead of clarifying the matter, Mr. Scholz has chosen to publicly worry about military escalation that could lead to nuclear war.

It’s a concern all allies of Ukraine share, of course. But only Germany seems to have been transfixed by it. Yet the reason for the government’s reluctance to furnish Ukraine with the support it needs is perhaps less high-minded, and closer to home. Mr. Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, at the head of the ruling coalition, has a long history of conciliatory relations with Russia. As the weeks wore on, it became clear it was this historic entanglement — and the habits it set — that underpinned Mr. Scholz’s hesitancy.

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