|Michael Bluhm: Other countries have complained that Germany wasn’t sending weapons quickly enough and that they weren’t sending their best weapons, particularly the Marder tank. But Scholz says that Germany is providing more support than anyone except the U.K. and U.S., which isn’t sending its most sophisticated tanks or weaponry, either. What’s going on here?
Liana Fix: There are two perspectives on Germany’s performance in Ukraine. The first sees how far Germany has come since before the war, when it wasn’t at all considering sending weapons to Ukraine. Germany said then that it didn’t export weapons to war zones. Now, the first German air-defense system has arrived in Ukraine, and so far, it’s been very successful in helping Ukrainians protect their cities and infrastructure.
From that perspective, Germany is being helpful: It’s trying to raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP, as NATO is demanding of its member states. It’s changing its policies on energy security, after going in the wrong direction for many years.
But from the second perspective, Germany is only doing what was overdue. For years, allies had criticized its energy dependence on Russia and its refusal to support Ukraine militarily. Germany has delivered weapons only under massive internal and external pressure. That created a sense of frustration and lacking leadership: A leader should be sending weapons first, not after everyone else has.
The crucial question is, what should Germany’s role be? Is it just to be part of an alliance and a reliable follower of U.S. leadership in this war? Or should Germany take a leadership role itself?
If the goal is to take a leadership role itself, then just doing your homework isn’t enough. For example, Germany could be putting together European initiatives on battle-tank deliveries for Ukraine. Germany could be leading together with the United States, to regain the trust that it’s lost among its Central and Eastern European neighbors.
From the first perspective, Germany started from a low level and is doing a good job as one member of an alliance. From the second, this is a historic opportunity, and Germany needs to step up and assume a military leadership role—and it’s not doing enough.
Bluhm: You mention the defense budget. The government has released annual budget projections through 2026, and none of them allocates 2 percent to defense. Why isn’t Scholz following through on his pledge?