Germany should become Europe’s leading military power, the country’s defense minister has said, as Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed Berlin’s strategic thinking.
Christine Lambrecht made her remarks as Ukraine pressured the east of the country with its counter-offensive and Russia vowed to continue the offensive until all of its military goals were met.
The war increased pressure on Germany to assume a greater role in the Western Coalition, and Lambrecht argued that Berlin did so for reasons “to do with our size, our geographic location, our economic power, in short our weight”. was doing.
In comments to the German Council on Foreign Relations, he said: “This makes us a leading power whether we like it or not – even in the military sense.”
Lambrecht said the US would remain Europe’s main defender and “there can be no substitute for a future US nuclear deterrent”.
But he argued that escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan and a US pivot to the Asia-Pacific mean “we are asked to do more for Europe than ever before”. She added: “Germany stands ready to make a decisive contribution to proper burden-sharing.”
Echoing a landmark speech this year by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the defense minister said Germany had to meet NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense “over the long term”, not just the next few years. for years.
“We must avoid a situation where, in a few years, we can’t afford to maintain the equipment we’re buying now,” he said, adding that three combat-ready army divisions were established in the early 2030s. Reiterating the plan to do so.
The success of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which has reclaimed more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory in the east, has also raised hopes that the West will increase arms deliveries to Kyiv. Ukraine’s Southern Operations Command said on Monday it had also liberated some 500 square kilometers of territory from Russian forces.
“Without a doubt the tone has changed,” said a senior European diplomat. “You really won’t hear anyone talking against more weapons anymore, just a chorus of supporters and a second or two keeping quiet.”
But some allies accuse Berlin of less than whole-hearted support for Kyiv.
Claudia Major, a military analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said many in Central and Eastern Europe felt that Berlin’s aid was “too slow, hesitant and small-scale”.
Lambrecht rejected such allegations, reiterating that Berlin had no intention of acceding to Kyiv’s request for battle tanks. He added that no country has so far “delivered Western-made infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks”.
The defense minister also called for the easing of strict rules on military exports to allow Germany to participate in European defense projects. “Which partner is going to co-invest in projects with us when he will always worry that we will stop exporting [of the weapons],
His speech came less than two weeks after Scholz’s cabinet formally announced the start of work on a national security strategy, a first in Germany’s history, that would redefine its foreign and defense policy.
Lambrecht said the West must “draw the essential conclusion” from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – that “we ourselves need strong, battle-ready troops so that we can defend ourselves and our alliance”.
He acknowledged that Germany’s Nazi-era crimes and the “war of destruction” waged by its army in Europe between 1939 and 1945 “turned suspicions about the military into a kind of virtue”.
But he said Germany could guarantee peace and freedom for its people only if it renounced its “old self-image” and defined security as “the central task of this country”.
She said Germans had become accustomed to seeing the Bundeswehr as a sort of disaster relief agency that helped with epidemics, floods and wildfires, and participated in missions in places such as Afghanistan and Mali. “But those times are over,” she said.
“The Bundeswehr is not just an item in the budget – in ideological terms, it is a primary institution for our security.”
Additional reporting by Henri Foy and Polina Ivanova