War in Ukraine, Germany supplies arms to Kiev and invests in Defense: “The world will never be the same again”

Of Paolo Valentino

This morning in the Bundestag, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the allocation of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, the federal army, to be used “for necessary investments and new weapons systems”

from our correspondent
BERLIN – “Today we woke up in a new world,” said the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, a few hours after Vladimir Putin had started military action against Ukraine. It seemed like yet another statement of circumstance, generally devoid of substantial practical consequences in Germany when international politics leaves the terrain of diplomacy and continues on that of war. But this time it was different. Within days, the Federal Republic put decades of caution, measured risk and reluctance behind it to make its economic weight coincide with its strategic commitment. On Saturday evening, the Berlin government crossed the Rubicon of arms supplies to Ukraine, authorizing the delivery of 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 surface-to-air Stinger-type missiles. Perhaps more importantly, this morning in the Bundestag, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the allocation of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, the federal army, to be used “for necessary investments and new weapon systems”.

From now on, Scholz explained, “Germany will invest more than 2% of its gross domestic product in defense every year”. It is a historic decision. For years, Berlin was the last of the class within NATO, refusing to raise defense spending to the 2% of GDP threshold, a target endorsed by all member countries of the Alliance. Even in the coalition program of the new red-yellow-green government there is no mention of the commitment, nor the willingness to respect it. But now, as the Chancellor said in front of Parliament, “We are experiencing a change of season and the world will no longer be the same”. Reduced to the core, according to Scholz, “the question is whether power can violate the law, whether Russian President Vladimir Putin can turn the clock back to the nineteenth century with impunity and whether we have the strength to prevent it.”

On the supply of weapons to Kiev, still excluded from Berlin until a few days ago, which for this reason had attracted numerous criticisms, Scholz explained that the Russian attack radically changes the whole scenario, as it threatens the post-war order in Europe: “Our duty in this situation is to help Ukraine defend itself from Putin.” In addition to the delivery of anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles, Berlin has also authorized the Netherlands to supply Kiev with 400 howitzers originating from the GDR and hitherto blocked by the German government, which is the legal owner. Germany, due to its history, has always refused to sell or supply weapons in war zones.

However, too this rule has already known at least two exceptions: the most modern German conventional submarines are in fact sold to Israel, while defensive weapons systems were supplied in 2014 to Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq, engaged in the fight against Isis. The no to arms supplies to Ukraine also had a particular motivation: the Nazi war of extermination against the Soviet Union and the refusal to deliver German bombs that could kill Russian citizens.

In his address to the Bundestag this morning, Scholz has launched an unusual appeal to the Russian opposition: «Germany stands by all those in Russia who resist Putin’s power apparatus and reject his war against Ukraine. We know you are many. Don’t give up! », Said the chancellor, eliciting a standing ovation in the courtroom. Scholz also spoke of the country’s energy autonomy, at risk after the Nord Stream 2 blockade, the Russian-German gas pipeline that passes under the Baltic completed but not yet operational, as a punitive measure against Moscow. The Chancellor announced the construction of terminals for the liquefaction of shale gas on the North Sea coast.

In the parliamentary debate, Minister Baerbock explained that it took some time to develop responses to the Russian aggressionboth the European one and the more specific German one, is because the crisis is not destined to last a few days: “We need a broad breath,” he said referring to the decision to exclude Russia from the Swift system, which had to be ” calibrated in order to hit the Putin system and not produce repercussions on us ». Criticism of the federal government’s defense policy was expressed by the leader of the Christian Democratic opposition, Friedrich Merz, according to whom “Germany is no longer surrounded by friends and unilateral disarmament leads to less security”. For this reason now “it is necessary to rearm and clarify our position in the world”. Berlin, so Merz, “must finally be ready to define and defend its strategic interests”.

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