Germany’s Scholz announced tectonic policy shifts, but a year on, not much has budged

© Annegret Hilse, Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Washington for talks with US President Joe Biden on Friday, with Ukraine the sole item on the agenda. This comes just over a year after Scholz’s momentous “Zeitenwende” speech in reaction to the Russian invasion, in which he vowed radical changes to Germany’s defence and security policies. But analysts say Germany is failing to meet the expectations Scholz set.

Three days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, a German word burst into the English language to capture this tectonic shift in world policy and history: Scholz declared that Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II marked a “Zeitenwende” (“a turning point in history”), drawing a curtain on the post-Cold War era.

Scholz signalled a pivot in Germany’s foreign and security policy, pledging to not just meet but to surpass the NATO 2 percent defence spending target, while creating a special €100 billion fund to revamp the German military after decades of under-investment.

Scholz’s insistence on the Abrams precondition underscored Berlin’s caution and enduring fear of Russian retaliation without the US security umbrella.

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