Germany’s desire to help arm Ukraine signals a historic shift

VEIN – Germany’s stunning decision to send anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine – a renunciation of the long-standing refusal to export weapons to conflict zones – is nothing short of a historic break with its foreign policy after World War II.

“A new reality,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an uncharacteristically disturbing speech at a special session of parliament on Sunday. Usually reserved Chancellor Scholz said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine requires a sharply different reaction from Germany than in the past.

“By invading Ukraine on Thursday, President Putin has created a new reality,” Scholz told the Bundestag. “This reality requires a clear answer. We gave one. “

Scholz said that Germany was sending anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. He also said the country is there allocate 100 billion euros ($ 113 billion) to a special fund for its armed forces and increase its defense spending above 2 percent of GDP, a measure it has long lagged behind.

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The image of Germany was a shining example of how fundamentally Russia’s war in Ukraine is changing Europe’s security policy after World War II.

Germany’s foreign policy has long been characterized by a strong aversion to the use of military force, the approach of German politicians is explained as rooted in the history of military aggression against neighbors during the 20th century.

As a strong ally of the United States and a member of NATO, post-war Germany sought to maintain good relations with Moscow, a policy also driven by Germany’s business interests and energy needs.

“Many of the things Olaf Scholz said would have been unthinkable even a few months ago,” said Marcel Dirsus of the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel. “It has become very clear that Russia has just gone too far, and as a result Germany is now waking up.”

However, before this weekend, the German government refused to send weapons to Ukraine, even though it faced growing international criticism for its hesitations.

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But then a series of announcements, which began Saturday night, shook traditional notions of German politics.

It began with a government announcement that it would allow the supply of 400 German-made anti-tank weapons from the Netherlands to Ukraine, which it had while refusing to do so.

Shortly afterwards the office went on and said she will send her own weapon, including 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 surface-to-air missiles, directly to Ukraine. He also pledged to deliberately ban Russian banks in the global financial system SWIFT, to which German leaders were reluctant.

On Sunday, breaks with the past continued, and Scholz pledged to increase defense spending.

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The development was all the more noticeable given that they followed another historic decision last week when Germany took steps to halt the certification process Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

Germany’s reluctance to send German-made weapons to Ukraine in recent weeks has drawn criticism from NATO allies. Although Germany is one of the world’s leading arms exporters – it exported 9.35 billion euros worth of weapons in 2021 – it has long pursued a policy of not sending deadly weapons to conflict zones. By Saturday, German leaders had refused to send anything but 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.

Scholz’s Sunday statement on defense spending, at least for now, will stop the oft-repeated criticism that Germany is not making a proper contribution to the defense of its own and NATO.

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The country has been a favorite target of former US President Donald Trump for failing to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense, a target for NATO members. According to NATO, in 2021 Berlin spent about 1.53 percent of GDP, or almost $ 65 billion. Its budget has been increasing annually for several years.

Refusing new spending, Berlin has always insisted that Germany invests enough money to meet any NATO military requirements. Officials also noted that by spending such money, Berlin’s defense budget would exceed Russia’s budget and possibly make its own European neighbors nervous.

NATO countries cut their military budgets in the 1990s after the Cold War, but were prompted to take action when Russia annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014. That year, the Allies pledged to halt cuts and move to spending 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

German officials supported their reversal policy, calling it a necessary adjustment to a new normal life.

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“We cannot leave Ukraine defenseless against an aggressor who brings death and destruction to this country,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbok said on Sunday. “If our world is different, then our policy should be different.”

The decisions were praised by many Ukrainian leaders and European allies, who have been most critical of Germany in recent weeks.

“Keep it up, Chancellor @OlafScholz!” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter on Saturday night after news of arms supplies. “Anti-war coalition in action!”

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Lorne Cook made her contribution from Brussels. Geir Moulson made his contribution from Berlin.

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