Katja Hoyer Katja Hoyer

Germany has rejected Merkel’s military legacy


‘We are witnessing a turning point… the world is not the same anymore,’ said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz yesterday in a speech that will be remembered as the country’s biggest military shift since 1945. Staring down the barrel of Putin’s gun, Scholz announced a massive and immediate cash injection for Germany’s armed forces as well as a long-term commitment to higher defence spending.

Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine has pulled Germany out of decades of complacency and misguided pacifism. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock seemed genuinely shocked at the discrepancy between Putin’s words during her visit to Moscow last month and his actions in Ukraine. She has said she feels betrayed: ‘stone-cold lied to.’

Now Baerbock feels the moment has come for ‘a 180 degree’ turn. ‘Germany will leave the era of reluctant foreign policy behind’. The Chancellor too stepped up his tone. He said Putin had ‘provoked a coldblooded offensive war’ against Ukraine, solely because Ukrainian freedom ‘puts into question his own oppressive regime’. Scholz’s emotional speech condemned Russian actions as ‘inhumane’, ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘appallingly unjust’ — words that were met with long spells of applause from the German parliament.

Germany will leave the era of reluctant foreign policy behind’

The realisation has clearly sunk in that the long underfunding of Germany’s armed forces has left them hollowed out. The country’s ability to act in times of crisis has been hindered.

Scholz announced that, in the short term, the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military, will receive a massive one-off cash injection of €100 billion ‘in order to put the troops in a position where they can do their duty’. To put this remarkable sum into perspective: the entire defence budget for the year 2021 was €47 billion, less than half the special boost it has just received.

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