Germany's reversal on Ukraine weapons policy 'response to Putin's aggression'

World Sunday 27/February/2022 17:30 PM
By: DW
Germany's reversal on Ukraine weapons policy 'response to Putin's aggression'

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues into its fourth day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed the lower house of German parliament, the Bundestag, on the government's decision to directly supply weapons to Ukrainian troops.

"We need to support Ukraine in its hour of desperate need," Scholz told a special session of the Bundestag.

"There was no other response possible to Putin's aggression," he added, referring to the release of German weapons to Ukraine.

"It was Putin who chose this war, not the Russian people, so we must see clearly that this is Putin's war," the chancellor said.

On Saturday, the German government announced its decision to provide 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 surface-to-air missiles from German military stocks to Ukraine as soon as possible.

Additionally, Estonia and the Netherlands received permission from the German government to transfer German-made weapons to Ukraine, whereas previously such permission had been denied.

The moves reverse Germany's long-standing principle of not sending or selling weapons to conflict areas.

Why did Germany change its policy?

"In attacking Ukraine, Putin doesn't just want to eradicate a country from the world map, he is destroying the European security structure we have had in place since Helsinki," Scholz said, referring to Europe's long-standing security infrastructure.

"We are not alone in defending peace," he added.

Scholz said anyone "who has read what Putin says" can have "no doubt" the Russian president wants to "create a new order in Europe and he has no qualms about using military capabilities to achieve it."

"What do we need to counter this threat now or in the future?" he added.

"We will never resign ourselves to violence as a means of politics ... We will not rest until peace is secured in Europe," Scholz tweeted after his address.

In announcing the policy reversal on Saturday, Scholz said that the "Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability in its defense against Vladimir Putin's invading army."

"Germany stands closely by Ukraine's side," Scholz added.

For years, Germany has refused to export any arms to war zones or allow third countries to send German-made arms to these areas. The policy is rooted in Germany's history as an aggressor during World War II.

Boost in defense spending

Scholz said the German government would allocate €100 billion extra for the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, in the 2022 budget.

"From now on, more than 2% of our GDP will be invested in our defense," Scholz said.

Germany has previously been criticized for devoting less than the 2% mark on defense spending called for by NATO agreements.

The €100 billion will be allocated into a "special fund" for the German armed forces.

How has Ukraine reacted?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed Germany's change of heart. On Twitter, he wrote, "Keep up the good work, Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Anti-war coalition in action!"

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, told Germany's DPA news agency: "We are glad that Germany has finally made this 180-degree turnaround."

Melnyk also told German newspaper Die Welt that Ukraine expects "this is only Germany's first step."

He called for "an immediate ban on the import of all Russian raw materials, without exception, not only for gas, petroleum, coal, or metals."

Melnyk said he hopes that as the Russian invasion rumbles on, the German government will provide additional defensive weapons so Ukraine can protect itself.

"People are not just defending their homeland, they are fighting for liberty and democracy. As democrats, as Europeans, we stand with you, we stand on the right side of history with you," Scholz said.