Home World News Berlin moves from “helmet diplomacy” to that of rocket launchers

Berlin moves from “helmet diplomacy” to that of rocket launchers


It took less than an hour on Sunday morning for Germany to make a historic turning point in its security and defense policy – ​​to sum up quickly: by moving from helmet diplomacy to that of rocket launchers. “The world has entered a new era” with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops which constitutes “an infamous violation of international law”, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the preamble in a speech that quickly turned into an announcement of a modernization plan for the German army.

Olaf Scholz thus announced the creation, from 2022, of a special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr. “We will from now on, from year to year, also invest more than 2% of our gross domestic product in our defense” he added. This figure corresponds to the level set by NATO countries. If the increase took effect now, the German defense budget, currently at 46.9 billion euros, would therefore increase to 75 billion euros at the start of 2023.

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Scholz also announced that his country would increasingly support European defense projects, such as the Franco-German FCAS plane. Berlin has finally taken an important step by confirming its desire to order armed drones and soon renew the old Tornado fighters that make up its air fleet engaged in the device of “Nuclear Sharing” of NATO.

For military expert Thomas Wiegold, more than the size of the sum, what is important is the change in mentality behind this announcement: “The most economically powerful country in the European Union had until now given relatively little importance to operational and assertive armed forces. This is a notable difference with France and Great Britain… This was and certainly remains due to German history. But the reference to this history was increasingly understood by European neighbors as an excuse not to have to commit too much militarily” he writes in the confidential letter Europe.Table.

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Hardware shortcomings

After reunification, the Bundeswehr was reduced and transformed into an armed force for missions abroad, in Kosovo, then in Afghanistan and finally in Mali. But the main mission of defending the national territory, as defined in the Constitution, has increasingly been relegated to the background. As a result, the Ukrainian crisis reveals an inadequacy of the German army in the face of a conflict in Europe and significant shortcomings on the material side (lack of ammunition and spare parts, maintenance problems, under-equipment of soldiers).

Given the reality of the unadventurous strategic culture of present-day Germany, this historic change is unlikely to lead to excessive interventionism. Despite this, Berlin also changed its position on arms exports and broke a new taboo. Until last week, the Germans had made a fool of themselves by agreeing to deliver only 5,000 helmets to Kiev and by blocking the delivery of old howitzers from East German army stocks that Estonia wanted to hand over to the ‘Ukraine.

Then, under the pressure of events and the allies, the tide turned. Last Saturday, the Ministry of Economy finally authorized the Netherlands to deliver 400 German-made rocket launchers to Ukraine. In the aftermath, the chancellery confirmed the direct delivery of 1,000 rocket launchers, 500 Stinger missiles and 14 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

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This reversal is also surprising. Because since the Second World War, with rare exceptions, Germany has refused to deliver “lethal” weapons to combat zones. But this position was no longer tenable since the outbreak of the Russian invasion. In another volte-face, the German government has similarly accepted the exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift interbank platform, an essential cog in global finance.

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Since the start of the crisis, Germany has continued to lag behind. In comparison with the past attitude, the step that Scholz has just taken is therefore impressive. Many of these measures were blocked by internal ideological disputes, especially within the SPD. Scholz has decided to ignore it,” believes security and defense expert Christian Mölling. It is interesting to see that this decision was taken with its coalition partners, the liberals of course, but also the ecologists who obviously no longer practice the same pacifism as their founders.

Ukraine, like all other countries in the world, has the right to defend itself. We must not leave the country and its citizens defenseless against the aggressor,” thus estimated the Ecologist Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock. “A choice was made on Sunday which recalls the debate which had formerly agitated the ecologist party at the time of Joschka Fischer and NATO’s commitment in Kosovo, some refusing military commitment in the name of ‘Never again the war”, the others, finally in the majority, advocating the opposite in the name of “Never again Auschwitz””, concludes the Berlin expert.

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