WendenThis is an extremely common German word. This word can be used for saying you wish to flip a cake, make friends, tighten screws, go around corners or appeal to others. Germans can say die Wende, These words refer only to the end result of the Soviet Union’s collapse, which included the fall of Berlin Wall (and the unification of Germany). Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany could not have picked a stronger word to express the transformations caused by Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Zeitenwende. Germans consider the notion that events from the past week are a part of a Wende This implies that there will be a reverse of the tide of democratization, commercialization and economic growth in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
Scholz needed a big word to justify the big spending package he was announcing—a 100 billion Euro one-time subsidy intended to bring the German military up to speed, followed by a proposed increase of military funding to amount to 2% of Germany’s gross domestic product by 2024. It is the beginning of a new age for Germany’s military. BundeswehrIt has been intentionally kept at a low level since the Second World War. The news—which sent the stocks of defense contractors sky-rocketing—Fundamentally alters the German military’s nature. “My goal, our goal is to have one of the most powerful militaries in Europe,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the ARD Morgenmagazin. Based on reporting by Die Welt, The Bundeswehr The new Tornado strike plane will be replaced by an American F-35, and the Eurofighter’s development will continue. They’ll be new transport helicopters to replace the aging CH-53s, most likely American Chinooks or CH-53Ks. Germany’s Puma tanks will likely be retrofitted in advance of the deployment of a “supertank,” and the navy will build two new submarines in a joint venture with Norway.
The Greens, like the SPD have traditionally been an antiwar party, and though there does seem to be a widespread feeling among members of both parties that an increase in the military budget is necessary in the current political crisis, the secretive manner of Scholz’s announcement has begun drawing increasing criticism. Jessica Rosenthal is a member the Bundestag and the leader of the SPD’s youth organization Notified that she was “very surprised” by the scope of Scholz’s “reversal of course.” It wasn’t only Rosenthal who was left out of deliberations regarding Scholz’s Reversal of over 70 years of German military policies. According to the report by The Süddeutsche Zeitung, kept almost entirely secret it appears, at least, that Scholz did not consult with anyone from the Green party, nor did he discuss his plans with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, or Rolf Mützenich, the parliamentary leader of the SPD. Instead, Scholz seems to only have spoken with Christian Lindner (Finance Minister and Head of FDP), a minor political party within the current government.
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But even as the military’s procurement officers plan their purchases, public criticism of Scholz’s defense spending proposal grows louder. While few commentators doubt that increasing military expenditures is necessary given Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, Scholz is coming under increasing criticism for the secretive and arguably undemocratic nature of his decision, with some members of the powerful parliamentary Green fraction going so far as to call the legitimacy of Scholz’s announcement into question. “We’ve made it clear that decisions about the budget are finally a parliamentary matter,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a press conference, while Ricarda Lang, co-chair of the party said that “everything is still up for discussion,” according to the TAZ, A left-leaning newspaper based in Berlin. Indeed, even the generally more bellicose CDU hAs insisted that they, “won’t sign any blank checks” for the Bundeswehr,” as Bundestag member Thorsten Frei told RND.
It’s hard to understand why Scholz would be so secretive or why he would attempt to initiate skirt public debate in initiating such an enormous change to Germany’s defense policy. It is highly unlikely that the additional funding will play any role in Ukraine’s response to Russian aggression. The Eurofighter, submarines, and supertanks that will eat up a large percentage of Scholz’s proposed special subsidy are all still years if not decades away from being ready for service. The funds cannot be used for any other purpose than to raise the funding. Bundeswehr’sThe war in Ukraine required manpower that could be used as a deterrent. “If society again determines that we need to be able to mobilize our armed forces, there will have to be a debate,” a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense told me via email, “…it would take many years of preparation.”
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Even beyond concerns about the secrecy with which Scholz planned the reversal of German military policy, there are substantial doubts as to the German military establishment’s ability to spend the money effectively. “France’s defense budget is about the same size as ours,” Jessica Rosenthal told the Süddeutsche, “but our military can’t make do with the money. That leads me to the conclusion that we use the money inefficiently.” Similar complaints have begun to echo throughout the German media. “Israel manages with less than half” of Germany’s budget, the TAZ complained, “and no one thinks they’re poorly equipped.” Critics of the German military’s procurement system can point to a long history of scandals, including, for example, the 135 million Euros the military spent repairing the Gorch FockA sailing boat used for training and other purposes. “consultant affair” in which Germany’s defense establishment Earned millions to McKinsey consultants, leading to accusations of corruption and incompetence, as well as Ursula von der Leyen’s ResignationAs Secretary of Defense.
It seems clear that the German military will play an increased role—and demand increased funding—as the world struggles to grapple with the consequences of Putin’s bellicosity, but the German military has given outside observers little reason for confidence in its ability to manage large sums of money, and Scholz’s secrecy gives critics good reasons to doubt the transparency and democratic impulses of his government.