Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Putin’s War in Ukraine Started a Revolution in Olaf Scholz's Germany

By Jeff Rathke

27 Feb 2022 · 5 min read

German politics is normally characterized by a cautious continuity, finely balanced and slow to adapt to changing circumstances. But it remains able to surprise. In the past week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his government have carried out a revolution in Germany’s foreign policy, discarding in a matter of days the outmoded assumptions of Berlin’s post-Cold War dreams and setting a course for confrontation with Russia that will bring dramatically increased resources and modernize the country’s armed forces.

Each day has brought new breaks with German tradition. On Feb. 27, in an extraordinary session of the German parliament (the first-ever Sunday meeting), Scholz described the Russian attack on Ukraine as a “turning point” that required a German national effort to preserve the political and security order in Europe. Scholz announced the creation of a one-time 100 billion euro ($113 billion) fund for the German military this year and committed Germany to spending 2 percent of GDP on defense henceforth. He highlighted Germany’s contributions to NATO and expanded commitments, including its deterrent presence in Lithuania and making German air defense systems available to Eastern European member states. He underscored Germany’s nuclear role in NATO and indicated that the government would likely acquire F-35 aircraft instead of the previously planned F/A-18 Super Hornet purchase. The chancellor emphasized Berlin’s responsibilities within NATO but in a departure from the style of German defense policy also defined these measures as ensuring Germany’s national security. Decades of German taboos and sensitivities dissolved amid applause from the mainstream parties and the pro-Ukrainian chants of upwards of half a million demonstrators throughout central Berlin.

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