Honor for Sir Christopher Clark: The historian from Australia was awarded the Charlemagne Medal (“Médaille Charlemagne”) in Aachen on Thursday. This honors “an outstanding chronicler of recent European history” who has “explained to us time and time again why the world is sometimes different,” says the laudatory speech.

The author of the highly acclaimed work “The Sleepwalkers” – an analysis of the genesis of the First World War – swims against the tide in an interview in which he expressly criticizes the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his cautious actions in the current Ukraine crisis praised.

“As for Olaf Scholz: I think this hesitation is absolutely right, and it also befits the statesman of a peace-loving nation,” said the Cambridge-teaching scientist of the German Press Agency.

It is “a bit perverse” if the Germans are now expected to give up their previous policies almost overnight. “Of course that takes time. And I think the process is already underway.” He cannot judge whether the arms deliveries could have been made faster, but he supports Olaf Scholz’s general line.

“I think Olaf Scholz hit the right note,” Clark continued. “I’m also thinking of his speech in Düsseldorf, when he was drowned out by the hooting of the crowd, when he said: It must seem cynical to a citizen of Ukraine when he is told to defend his country without weapons. That was a great moment.”

He thinks it is “absolutely essential” that Scholz continue to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “There is no other way.”

Clark (born 1960), who lives in England, teaches as a professor of modern European history in Cambridge. In the conversation that was held on the occasion of the award ceremony in Aachen, Clark was asked directly whether he saw any parallels between the current situation and his most famous work. WELT documents the relevant passages.

Question: Mr. Clark, are we sleepwalking into a world war like in 1914?

Clark: I don’t see a strong analogy there, quite the opposite. What I wanted to do with the book at the time was to show that there is often no simple answer to how a war comes about. It’s often very complex.

Question: So in your eyes there is no parallel to 1914? Do you see more differences than similarities?

Clark: Before the outbreak of today’s war, I saw parallels: the cat-and-mouse game of mobilizing troops reminded me a lot of the winter of 1911-12, when it was along the Austro-Hungarian-Russian border Reich repeatedly came to mobilizations and counter-mobilizations. But otherwise I mostly only see differences.

Question: What are the differences?

Clark: The European continent is not divided into two large alliances in a binary manner. At that time it was an absolutely essential part of the problem that Europe was divided in two. Today, on the other hand, Russia is quite isolated on the European continent. In addition, the structure of the causes of this war is completely different, because this war began with a brutal act of military aggression, with the invasion of another country. It was very different in 1914. It started with a very tricky crisis surrounding an assassination attempt in Sarajevo. It’s something completely, completely different now. There is an actor who acts.

Question: Is the analogy perhaps not World War I at all, but World War II, when a determined aggressor went on and on?

Clark: I understand why people make that comparison, but I’m skeptical. Behind this comparison lies the equation Putin equals Hitler. That always leads to a dead end. Putin is not Hitler. He doesn’t want to wipe out any group of people. The claim that he would commit genocide in Ukraine is simply false. Its armed forces commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not genocide. I would advocate that we assess the matter a little more differentiated and with a cool head.