Zhou Bo: Germany’s Turning Point In The Wrong Direction

  • The abrupt announcement of Chancellor Olaf Scholz in February on creation of a 100 billion euro fund for the Bundeswehr and spending more than 2 percent of GDP on defense every year from now invite a natural question: Does Germany have to make such a U-turn?


    The standing ovation to Scholz’s remarks in Bundestag doesn’t necessarily justify the seismic shift in German foreign policy made by the strongest economy in Europe. Yes it will serve to substantiate European Strategy Autonomy which so far is a French slogan and revive a “braindead NATO”, but the costs are Germany’s image as a pacifist country and Europe’s security.

    Given that Europe’s security will only worsen - be it a continuous hot war in Ukraine or a cold war afterwards across the continent, a traditionally low-profile Germany with pro-Russian Ostpolitik could have been best positioned to lead in negotiations with Russia on Europe’s future. This is now doomed. A militarized Germany will also invite some imagination if not fear of the world given Germany’s Nazi past. At least one of the reasons Russia gave in invading Ukraine is “denazification”.

    Imagine for a moment that all those countries aspiring to join NATO are accepted, will Europe become safer? If Finland joins NATO, the Alliance's troops would be a stone's throw from St. Petersburg. What will Russia think, and perhaps, act? Russia is now described by the west as a pariah. But a frustrated pariah with the largest nuclear arsenal is most dangerous. President Putin has (in)famously asked “why do we need a world without Russia in it? ”.

    Only Putin can decide how long the Russo-Ukrainian war will last. He will fight till he could declare a “victory”. That presumably means Ukraine’s formal acceptance of Crimea being part of Russia, Ukraine not entering NATO and the independence of the two “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk. If this is difficult for Ukraine to swallow, the war will simply continue.

    In the long run, a security arrangement between Russia and NATO has to be made. NATO’s ever expansion may prove its popularity, but it will only make Europe more insecure should Russia feel threatened. Europe’s security could only be achieved with Russia.

    Defense spending tells best how a country views its security environment. Unfortunately, Germany’s drastic increase in defense spending is a panic-driven overreaction. It is a “Zeitenwende”(“turning point”) in the wrong direction.

    (Originally published on Die Zeit on April 21, 2022.) 

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