The winds of change blew over Germany’s defence and energy policies this week after the German government reversed its ban on supplying lethal weapons to conflict zones and beefed up its defence spending.

In an effort to deter the conflict in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that 100 billion euros ($113bn) would be reserved for military spending.

Speaking at a special session at the German Parliament in Berlin over the weekend, he said: “There was no other response possible to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression. In attacking Ukraine, Putin doesn’t just want to eradicate a country from the world map, he is destroying the European security structure.”

Berlin has agreed to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to Ukraine to deter Russian military forces in Ukraine.

Four hundred anti-tank rocket launchers will also be delivered to Ukraine through the Netherlands. Estonia also won Germany’s approval to supply nine German-origin Howitzer weapons to Kyiv.
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‘Keep it up’
Applauding the decision, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter: “Keep it up, Chancellor Olaf Scholz! Anti-war coalition in action!”

But up until last week, the country’s coalition government embraced a softer line towards the crisis in Ukraine, citing Germany’s world war legacy guilt as the reason behind its restrictive arms export policy.

Harry Nedelcu, policy director at Rasmussen Global, told Al Jazeera the sudden shift in Germany’s defence policy occurred because of the severity of the crisis in Ukraine.

Four hundred anti-tank rocket launchers will also be delivered to Ukraine through the Netherlands. Estonia also won Germany’s approval to supply nine German-origin Howitzer weapons to Kyiv.

‘Keep it up’
Applauding the decision, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter: “Keep it up, Chancellor Olaf Scholz! Anti-war coalition in action!”

But up until last week, the country’s coalition government embraced a softer line towards the crisis in Ukraine, citing Germany’s world war legacy guilt as the reason behind its restrictive arms export policy.

Harry Nedelcu, policy director at Rasmussen Global, told Al Jazeera the sudden shift in Germany’s defence policy occurred because of the severity of the crisis in Ukraine.

Welcoming Scholz’s announcements, Dr Stefan Meister, Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera: “I think this new stance not only signals the end of the [former German Chancellor Angela] Merkel era but the end of the ‘Ostpolitik’ of the last 30 years.”

The “Ostpolitik” or New Eastern Policy was initiated in 1969, seeking to ease relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Possible repercussions
After being criticised for watching the crisis unfold from the sidelines, Scholz also highlighted how Germany is one of the EU’s major military nations that is willing to act, at the German parliament’s special session on Ukraine.

He committed to investing more than 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in defence.

Stefan Scheller, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said the chancellor has not proclaimed Germany a military leader, but rather, a reliable partner in Europe.

“On one hand, we see a clear paradigm shift of German security policy with a boost in defence spending no one expected. On the other hand, the German Armed Forces are in a deplorable state,” he told Al Jazeera.

Moreover, being one of NATO’s strongest economies, Germany has also been criticised in the past by the United States for investing less than 2 percent of its GDP in bolstering the alliance’s defence agreements.

Rasmussen Global’s Nedelcu said a stronger NATO requires more than just financial commitments.

“A stronger NATO will only happen when NATO countries (including Germany) stop hiding behind institutional inertia and give Ukraine a membership action path, and also welcome countries like Sweden and Finland,” he told Al Jazeera.
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While Scholz’s announcements come after he realised that the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens Germany and Europe’s entire post-war order, Ivana Stradner, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who works on Russia and cybersecurity, said Germany’s new defence stance will not really threaten Putin.

She highlighted that repercussions in the near future could include threats in cyberspace.

“Putin has lost many allies in Europe and Germany was one of the most important. I have little doubt that Putin will retaliate – likely asymmetrically – in cyberspace. This is Moscow’s typical playbook. It’s been used before and the EU must be ready to defend itself and strike back against Moscow’s cyber provocations,” she told Al Jazeera.

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