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Foreign Policy U-Turn, Germany Ups Military Spending, Arms Ukraine

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Foreign Policy U-Turn, Germany Ups Military Spending, Arms Ukraine

BERLIN – It invaded a nearby sovereign country, faced threats of nuclear attack, images of civilians against Russian tanks, and a smattering of embarrassment from the Allies for Germany, which was engaged in an anti-military foreign policy. The decades-old belief was shaken. Born of the crimes of the Third Reich.

But once Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to take action, the country’s face brightened.

“February 24, 2022, marks a historic turning point in the history of our continent,” Mr. Scholz said addressing a special session of parliament on Sunday, citing the date when President Vladimir V. Putin ordered the Russian army to launch an unprovoked attack. on Ukraine.

He announced that Germany would increase its military spending to more than 2 percent of the country’s economic output, starting immediately with 100 billion euros, or $113 billion, to invest in the country’s vulnerable armed forces. He said Germany would accelerate the construction of two terminals to receive liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as part of efforts to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian energy.

“At the heart of the matter is the question of whether power can break the law,” Mr Scholz said. “Do we allow Putin to turn the hands of time back to the days of the great powers of the 19th century. Or do we find it within ourselves to set limits on a warlord like Putin.”

The events of the past week have shocked the pacifists in general, as well as countries more closely aligned with Russia. Both found it impossible to watch the attack silently. The pro-Russian, anti-immigrant Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, who a few weeks ago denounced sanctions against Russia, reversed his position this weekend. And Japan, which in 2014 was hesitant to impose sanctions on Russia, strongly condemned last week’s invasion.

In Germany, the chancellor’s speech was limited to a week, with the country abandoning more than 30 years of trying to balance its Western alliance with strong economic ties with Russia. The German government’s move, inspired by the horrors of Mr. Putin’s attack on citizens of a democratic, sovereign European country, marked a fundamental shift not only in the country, but also in the country, starting with Tuesday’s decision to dismantle an $11 billion natural gas pipeline. There are foreign and defense policies, but also its relations with Russia.

Daniela Schwarzer, executive director for Europe and Eurasia at the Open Society Foundation, said of Mr. Scholz’s address, “He re-established Germany strategically.”

Germany, and in particular Mr Scholz’s centre-left Social Democratic Party, have long favored an inclusive approach towards Russia, debating the threat of ousting Moscow from Europe. But images of Ukrainians fleeing the invasion drew on old German memories of fleeing the advancing Red Army during World War II, and sparked resentment among a younger generation at the promise of a peaceful, unified Europe.

On Sunday, several hundred thousand Germans marched through the heart of Berlin in a demonstration of support for Ukraine, with the words “Stop Putin” and “No War”.

Appealing to the Germans’ commitment to European unity and centuries of deep cultural and economic ties, Mr. Scholz blamed Putin, not the Russian people, for Russia’s aggression entirely. But he left no doubt that Germany would no longer hold back and depend on other countries to provide its natural gas, or its military security.

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“The narrative that Scholz used today persists,” Ms Schwarzer said. “He talked about the responsibility towards Europe, what is needed to provide democracy, freedom and security. He left no doubt that it has to happen.”

The country’s resolute denial of its terrible Nazi past meant that it had long pursued a foreign policy of diplomacy and deterrence. But since the Russian invasion, many of Germany’s allies have accused her of not doing enough to reinvent herself and Europe.

Germany pledged in 2014 to increase its military spending to 2 percent of its overall economic output – the target set for NATO member states – within a decade, but projections showed the government was not on track to meet that target, even as that deadline was near. The topic has long been a source of conflict between Berlin and Washington, which spends more than 3 percent of its GDP on defense. Former President Donald J. The debate intensified under Trump, who regularly rebuked the German government for failing to lose weight in the coalition.

In his speech, Mr. Scholz proposed that military spending be included in the country’s constitution. This will ensure, he said, that the country will never again find itself with a military force of soldiers armed with rifles that misfire, planes that can’t fly and ships that can’t. And he made it clear that doubling down on defense was for Germany’s own good.

“We’re doing it for us as well, for our own safety,” he said.

On Saturday, the German government dropped its resistance to two other measures, the country’s allies in Europe and the United States: sending arms to Ukraine by cutting off major Russian banks from the money transfer network known as SWIFT.

It came after a warning from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who personally traveled to Berlin to “shock Germany’s conscience” over how it would respond to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. “Today is not the time for selfishness,” said Mr. Morawiecki, announcing his visit. on twitter,

Germany has had a policy of refusing to send weapons to conflict zones, although it has a steady business of selling to countries in the Middle East. But after a meeting with Mr. Moraviki – joined by Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda – the government announced it would send 1,000 shoulder-launched anti-tank rockets and 500 surface-to-air Stinger missiles to Ukraine.

It also removed its objections to allowing German-made weapons held by the Dutch and Estonian governments to be sent to Ukraine, enabling transfers that had been blocked for months.

Just a few weeks ago, the German government was criticized for its response to the creation of Russia’s military, when it announced that it would send 5,000 helmets and a field hospital to Ukraine to help the country defend itself. .

“Within a week, the political taboos about military spending for relations with Russia are gone,” said Sudha David-Wilp, a Trans-Atlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “Germany is putting money where its mouth is to strengthen defense capabilities, and is forced to isolate Russia even at the cost of its economy.”

Last week, Mr. Scholz drew pressure from abroad to abandon a disputed natural gas pipeline that would directly connect Russia to Germany, Nord Stream 2, as his economy minister announced the country would move away from its reliance on Russia. , which currently supplies more than half of its natural gas needs.

Going forward, Germany will ensure it has strategic reserves of coal and natural gas, Mr Scholz said, as the country holds to oil. In the long run, Germany would like to radically transform its energy sector to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, but this process will take time and, in the short term, Germans will feel the pinch of rising energy and other goods prices.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, whose demands for German weapons have been piling up for months, listened to Mr Scholz’s speech from the visitors’ balcony on Sunday, and MPs from all parties stood up for a minute, even applauding. Far-right alternative to that Germany party.

Its lawmakers, who regularly use their positions for grandeur and strongly oppose speeches coming from the government, instead applauded some elements of Mr. Scholz’s remarks, which the largest opposition party, the Christian Democrats, said. agreed to support.

“Mainstream political parties in Germany realized this was the moment in 1939 and were ready to support this new government,” said Ms. David-Wilp.

Christopher F. schuetz Contributed to reporting.


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