German phrase of the day: keine Alleingänge

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
German phrase of the day: keine Alleingänge
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has regularly used this phrase over the last several months to justify Germany’s long decision-making process on sending Ukraine modern tanks.


What does it mean?

Alleingang literally translates as “a solo effort.” Alleingänge, is its plural. The phrase keine Alleingänge, literally means “no solo efforts,” but it’s probably better understood as “no going it alone.” It’s become one of the most recognisable phrases in Germany’s political debate about how to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russia’s invasion.

How do you use it or where might you see it?

You’re reasonably likely to have seen or heard keine Alleingänge over the last few months in newspapers and on German news programs and political talk shows.


In a September 2022 interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Scholz justified Germany’s reluctance to send heavy weapons – such as modern battle tanks – to Ukraine by saying: “wir werden bei allem, was wir tun, keine Alleingänge machen,” or “We won’t go it alone in anything we do.”

By saying this, Scholz was insinuating that Germany would only send tanks when other countries – particularly the United States – would send tanks.

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German chancellor Olaf Scholz at a special meeting at the Bundestag.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz at a special meeting at the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Ever since then, keine Alleingänge has become a politically charged phrase that’s come to represent an often tense German debate – so much that using it in many conversations with average Germans might leave some of them asking you your opinion of Olaf Scholz.

After months of no decision on tanks, Germany finally agreed this week to send them to Ukraine once the US sent some as well. Scholz supporters might argue that keine Alleingänge was successful in getting Ukraine more powerful weaponry – by making sure many countries were involved.

Scholz detractors might be more likely to use keine Alleingänge in a sceptical or outright mocking tone, arguing the phrase symbolises Scholz’s indecisiveness – or even cowardice – in crisis.

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