Skip to main content

German defence support to Ukraine: Goodbye to foreign policy pursued since 1945

Olaf Scholz (right)
By James W. Carden 
News came at the end of March, courtesy of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, that Germany had completed a delivery of 18 Leopard 2 A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Still more, as Reuters reported on April 2, the German defense contractor Rheinmetall will set up a “military maintenance and logistics hub” in Satu Mare, Romania. What some might reasonably see as a major departure from Germany’s postwar foreign and defense posture is also the fulfillment of a promise German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made in his paradigm shifting Zeitenwende (“Turning Point”) speech of February 27, 2022.
Speaking in the chamber of the Bundestag, Scholz proclaimed: “We are living through a watershed era. And that means that the world afterwards will no longer be the same as the world before.The issue at the heart of this is…whether we have it in us to keep warmongers like Putin in check.That requires strength of our own.”
Scholz went on to pledge €100 billion for “a special fund for the Bundeswehr” and to meet what had heretofore been a mysteriously unattainable target of two percent of German GDP on defense spending.

The Green’s Hawks Take Flight

In an interview with a leading member of Washington’s captive nations lobby, Germany’s ambassador to the US, Emily Haber, made the case for the Zeitenwende’s efficacy, noting that Germany is “…now the EU’s largest [provider] of military support [to] Ukraine and mind you, before the war, we even refused to send military equipment to Ukraine.”
Haber, in an interview with the Ukrainian-born CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, also put forward her view that the war in Ukraine, “is not only about borders and security in Europe, the outcome of the war is about the future, the global map of influence. And that’s existential for America too.”
Haber has been a particularly strident supporter of the Scholz policy, relentlessly tweeting about the size and scope of the military and humanitarian aid provide to Ukraine by Germany, to the point where she, taking a page out of US ambassador to Michael McFaul’s playbook, has become embroiled in twitter battles with representatives of her host country.
Why Haber feels she has the standing to twit-lecture a sitting US Senator (JD Vance) who was just sent to Washington by 2.2 million Ohio voters is anyone’s guess. But it is indicative of the self-righteous stridency which characterizes the German Foreign Ministry under the leadership of Green foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. Perhaps because popular sovereignty doesn’t count for much among the Greens, as witness Baerbock’s pledge that she will put Ukraine first “no matter what my German voters think.”
Withal, the transformation of the Greens into the most militant and slavishly Atlanticist members of the German political establishment is one of the more remarkable transformations in recent European political history and one that was repeatedly remarked upon in conversations I had with parliamentarians, staffers and activists on the left, right and center of the political spectrum in Berlin in March.
Die Linke’s deputy leader, Sevim Dagdelen, MdB, told me that, “The Greens were once the party of peace and demilitarization, but now they are the strongest warmongers in Germany…very linked to the Trans-Atlantic community.”
The power that the Greens now hold in Berlin is partly owed to the influence of a network of transatlantic think tanks which many observers I spoke to believe serve as a kind of beachhead for the US national security establishment. In Dagdelen’s view, “The media landscape in Germany is very much influenced by the trans-Atlantic think tanks. Most of the executive editors, chief editors, are members of transatlantic partnership think tanks, such as Atlantic Council, Atlantic Bridge, German Marshall Fund.” And as if to prove her point, right on cue, the neoconservative Atlantic Council published a piece complaining that Scholz has “routinely missed the mark and gotten in the way of his own big idea.”

Zeitenwende oder Ostpolitik?

A SPD parliamentarian who was in the chamber when Scholz delivered his Zeitenwende address told me that he and his colleagues were shocked – not so much by the content of the speech but by the militant, even joyful reaction of the conservative CDU/CSU members to Scholz’s seeming repudiation of German foreign policy since 1945.
Ostensibly, the Zeitenwende is a 180 degree (not, as Ms. Baerbock recently opined, a 360 degree) turn away from Ostpolitik, the “Eastern Policy” of normalizing relations with the countries of the communist bloc that was crafted by Chancellor Willy Brandt and his advisor Egon Bahr in the late 1960s.
According to Ralf Stegner, MdB, deputy leader of the SPD in the Bundestag, “There is pressure on SPD to change their policy to send more and more weapons combined with an attack on the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt.”
“On foreign policy,” he continued, “some in the CDU/CSU and many in the Green Party have a moralistic view that ‘we must punish the authoritarian regimes,’ but it’s not a smart foreign policy not to speak to them.”
Some don’t see the Scholz policy as that drastic of a change. Joachim Schuster, SPD member of the European Parliament told me that, “Scholz has said we don’t want to become a party to the war. Nor does he say that Ukraine must win the war. He speaks about the fact that Ukraine must not lose the war. In addition, he stressed that further diplomatic efforts are also needed.”
Professor Hajo Funke, professor of politics and culture at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science at The Free University of Berlin, told me that in his view, “Formally, at least, the SPD is united being Scholz but there are signs of an internal split, the Bundestag SPD faction chief Rolf Mutzenich, is a supporter of Ostpolitik. Scholz himself is wavering, being very cautious not only because of the public wave of support for Ukraine, but also because his coalition partners, the Greens and Free Democrats, are pushing it, so it’s a balancing act, and in this situation he is somewhere between Biden and Macron.”
Others on the left and right ends of the political spectrum take a more critical view.
Die Linke’s Dagdelen agrees with Funke that Scholz is “under pressure from a number of different quarters, especially by his coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberals.” Yet she believes that by deciding to get further involved in the war effort, Scholz has “entirely turned his back on the legacy of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik.”
Dagdelen said, “The decision of the German government to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks taken in response to massive pressure from the US, paves the way to making Germany more and more of a party to the conflict and sending it into the line of fire against Russia. The German government is acting as a willing vassal to the US administration and bowing down to the US’s strategy of driving a wedge between Germany and Russia.”
Officials I spoke to on the far-right have also been critical. A AfD politician from Brandenburg told me that in his view “a Cold War mindset still holds power over the Western part of Germany.” “But Germany,” he said, “should be neutral and has no interest in this war.”
Yet it would be a mistake to view the Zeitenwende as burying Ostpolitik once and for all. Indeed, recent months have seen a wave of popular dissent over Germany’s deepening involvement in the war.
In February, at the instigation of the feminist activist Alice Schwarzer and Sarah Wagenkneckt, a leading Die Linke member of the Bundestag, a ‘Manifesto for Peace’ was published which called for Scholz, “to stop the escalation of arms deliveries, Immediately!” Further, the Manifesto called for Scholz to, “Lead a strong alliance for a ceasefire and peace negotiations at both German and European level.” The Manifesto led, in the weeks that followed, to a demonstration which drew 50,000 to the center of Berlin.
Professor Funke, one of the original signers of the Manifesto, told me that when it was released the signers faced what he described as a series of “McCarthyite smears” from the media. Yet the tide began to turn as the popularity of the Manifesto grew to the hundreds of thousands (as of this writing it has garnered over 775,000 signatures). One positive sign Funke pointed to is the support for negotiations by Wolfgang Ischinger, a former ambassador to the US who served as chairman of the Munich Security Conference from 2008 to 2022. Funke says that “public opinion may be turning and Ischinger is a good indication of this as an important German public intellectual.” A follow up peace appeal spearheaded by the historian Peter Brandt, son of the late Chancellor, was published in Germany in early April.
So while it is clear that the German political establishment remains, for now, firmly under the thumb of the US national security establishment, German public opinion is a different matter altogether – and may be at a ‘turning point’ of its own.
This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA). James W. Carden is a former adviser on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department. He is a member of the board of ACURA.
Source: Globetrotter



'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore: COP's Geneva meet

By Our Representative A comprehensive Belgian report has held MNC Etex , into construction business and one of the richest, responsible for asbestos pollution in Kymore, an industrial town in in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The report provides evidence from the ground on how Kymore’s dust even today is “annoying… it creeps into your clothes, you have to cough it”, saying “It can be deadly.”

Women's emancipated under Mao: Girl completed primary school, began working in farm collective

By Harsh Thakor*  The book “New Women in New China”, a collection of articles projecting dramatic transformation -- political and economic -- in the status of Chinese women after liberation, originally published in 1972, and reprinted in 2023 by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, encompasses the period between 1949 and 1972, seeking to give justice to the subject of women’s emancipation in China after the 1949 revolution.