Russia’s Threat Has Brought About Historic Shift

For the first time, Germany has formulated a national security strategy, setting forth a policy of strengthening its military capabilities and active contribution to peace.

This is a major shift from the previous restrained policy based on the negative history of Nazi Germany.

It is certain that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought about the change in Germany. The strategy pointed to Russia as the “most significant threat.” In response to the drastic changes in the security environment, Germany expressed its determination to play a role toward peace and stability in Europe and the world.

As a specific measure, a policy was specified to secure defense spending at 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP). This would raise the ratio from the current 1.4% or so to 2%, which is the common goal of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The security strategy also calls for the diversification of sources of energy procurement in reflection of the country’s dependence on Russia for energy.

Since East Germany and West Germany were reunified at the end of the Cold War, the unified Germany has vowed not to repeat the mistakes of the Nazis and has continued a policy of curbing defense spending and focusing on the economy and diplomacy. Previous German administrations must have believed that it was unnecessary to formulate a national security strategy.

In contrast, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who decided to formulate the strategy, emphasized that “without security there can be no freedom, no stability, no prosperity.” It can be said that he showed recognition that Germany can no longer avoid discussions on armaments and deterrence as a major power in Europe, amid the growing threat from Russia.

The Scholz administration has already provided tanks and other equipment to Ukraine. It has also announced that it will station around 4,000 troops in Lithuania, a NATO member located close to Russia. The expansion of military involvement is proceeding in a manner that anticipates the new strategy.

It is also noteworthy that the security strategy clearly states that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, maintaining credible nuclear deterrence is essential for NATO and for European security.”

German public opinion is strongly anti-nuclear and the country attended as an observer a meeting of state parties for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The shift to focusing on nuclear deterrence rather than nuclear disarmament is probably a pragmatic decision to counter the nuclear threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The security strategy noted that “China is trying in various ways to remold the existing rules-based international order.” The Scholz administration is said to be formulating a separate strategy regarding China.

The attitude of facing up to the threat of China, even though the country is geographically distant, is commendable. At the same time, China remains a major presence for the German economy. The question will be how to rethink relations with China, which has been positioned in the context of a heavy emphasis on the economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2023)