The Germans get on board

Posted: March 1, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized

By Christopher Harper

One of the most important developments from the invasion of Ukraine is the apparent change in Germany’s government toward Russia.

The Germans have played footsy with the Russians for years, expanding economic ties with Moscow and weakening military forces, particularly with NATO.

In neck-snapping changes, Germany said it would send 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. That’s a reversal of Berlin’s policy since World War II of not supplying lethal weapons to other countries.

After the reversal, Chancellor Olaf Scholz went even further, announcing a massive overhaul of German security and defense policy. Berlin is stepping back from its decades-long entente with Moscow and is going all-in on NATO.

“Putin wants to establish a Russian empire,” Scholz said Sunday. The critical question, he said, is “whether we can summon the strength to set boundaries to warmongers like Putin.”

Scholz vowed to increase defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, as all NATO members are supposed to do, and added $113 billion to the defense budget. The money will purchase weapons such as F-35 fighter planes and Israeli drones. 

Germany had slashed the number of main battle tanks from 5,000 in 1989 to 300 currently while reducing its armed forces from nearly 500,000 personnel to around 180,000.

It’s worth noting that Donald Trump called upon all NATO members to bump up their spending dramatically while he was in office—an action most European leaders rejected.

In an editorial, The Wall Street Journal noted: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a shock to German politicians and voters who assumed diplomacy alone would secure Europe’s borders. It’s been an embarrassment to a government caught flat-footed by Mr. Putin’s marauding.” 

And that’s not all. Scholz vowed to cut Germany’s reliance on Russian energy, a reversal of a decades-long policy that enabled Berlin access to cheap energy but tied it ever closer to Moscow. Berlin gets more than half of its natural gas and a quarter of its oil from state-controlled Russian exporters.

Earlier this year, Joe Biden and Scholz removed all restrictions to constructing a new pipeline, the Nord Stream 2. Since the invasion, all work on the pipeline has stopped.

The next important step for Germany and other European members of NATO will be to insist on the provisions that an attack against one member is an attack against all.

Although Biden has said the United States will back any country that is attacked, it is critical to make sure troops are available to fight any Russian advances on any NATO country. 

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