Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Germany’s New Resolve on Russia Is Already Flagging

By Peter Rough

16 Jun 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

The German political class has long sought to "appease and satiate Putin," according to this cutting essay by a US conservative foreign policy analyst. Little has now changed, he argues.

When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stood before his country’s parliament in the first days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and announced a Zeitenwende—or turn of an era—in German foreign policy, his country was agog. So were Germany watchers around the world. The country, Scholz announced, would immediately start rebuilding its military, supplying Ukraine with weapons, and eliminating its energy dependence on Russia. In one speech, he overturned not only decades of Russia policy but also German restraint and pacifism in security and defense. Scholz had taken the initiative without consulting anyone other than his finance minister, flooring even senior members of his own Social Democratic Party, which has a long record advocating for appeasing Russia. For a brief moment, a dramatic shift seemed in the offing.

Alas, the shift has not come to pass. In Berlin last week, German officials and observers described the speech to me as a moment in time rather than a shift in course. In a way, this is unsurprising. A former mayor of Hamburg, Scholz led his party to victory in last year’s election by leaning into the Hanseatic reputation for quiet competence, prudence, and composure. In other words, he sold himself as another version of his predecessor, Angela Merkel, who was known for her understated style and technocratic mastery. Lacking experience in geopolitics, Scholz promised little new in foreign policy.

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