Press play to listen to this article
Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday announced a major boost to German military spending — the latest in a series of dramatic policy shifts by Berlin in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Speaking at an emergency session of the German parliament to discuss the war, Scholz said that his government would set up a special €100 billion fund to swiftly upgrade its armed forces and that Germany will in future adhere to the NATO goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence.
Describing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a turning point in the history of our Continent,” Scholz told lawmakers that “it is clear that we need to invest significantly more in the security of our country in order to protect our freedom and our democracy.”
“We will from now on, year for year, invest more than 2 percent of our gross domestic product in our defense,” Scholz said. His remarks were met with loud applause by lawmakers.
Germany currently spends around 1.5 percent of GDP on defense and the current coalition government had previously been reluctant to commit to the 2 percent target, despite pleas from NATO allies.
“We need planes that fly, ships that sail, and soldiers who are optimally equipped for their missions,” Scholz said in reference to the current state of the Bundeswehr, which has suffered from financial and equipment shortages for years and which was just this week described by army chief Alfons Mais as “more or less bare.”
The chancellor, a Social Democrat, added that such goals should be “well within reach given our size and importance in Europe.”
Scholz also justified Saturday’s historic volte-face by Berlin on arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying that “in response to Putin’s aggression, there could be have been no other choice.”
Scholz said Putin attacked Ukraine “for a single reason: The freedom of Ukrainians challenges his own oppressive regime.” He added: “This is inhuman, this is contrary to international law, this cannot be justified by anything or anyone.”
Warning that Putin is seeking to re-establish a new “Russian empire” through aggression, Scholz said that the EU must be willing to consider further sanctions without any “thought limits.”
“Let’s not fool ourselves: Putin will not change his course overnight. But very soon the Russian leadership will feel the high price it is paying,” he said.