For years – decades even – Germany’s approach to global politics was one of “adolescence and immaturity”, says Ferdinand Otto in Die Zeit. “Always criticise the Americans but hope that in the end they will fix things.” Now we’ve finally grown up. Since the Russian invasion, all the pacifist, trade-focused certainties of Berlin’s foreign policy have been swept away. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia has been cancelled. Germany is sending arms to Ukraine, ending a longstanding policy of blocking lethal weapons from being sent to war zones. In a “revolutionary” speech to parliament on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to increase Germany’s defence budget to more than 2% of GDP and created a special €100bn fund to upgrade our creaky military. Two liquid natural gas terminals will be constructed to help wean the country off Russian energy.
This is all the more remarkable given that Scholz is a Social Democrat, a party that for years has clung to former chancellor Willy Brandt’s policy of engagement with Moscow. Germany’s change of heart might have come suddenly, but no one “can seriously claim to have been surprised” about Russia’s actions. Putin had been moving troops and equipment to the front line for months. We can only hope this long-overdue response will ensure that similar crimes do not happen again.