German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a 180 degree turn in security policy on Sunday. Even critics of increased arms spending stand by his side. The reality shock triggered by Russia is too great.
German social democracy, but above all the Greens, are currently experiencing a shock similar to that of the Union in 2010/2011. At that time, Chancellor Angela Merkel slaughtered two sacred cows of the Union parties with the abolition of conscription, but above all with the accelerated phase-out of nuclear power.
Also under the impression of external events – the nuclear accident in Fukushima at that time, the Russian attack on Ukraine now – Merkel’s successor Olaf Scholz also took flight to the front on Sunday and broke with important positions of his own party.
In fact, the massive 100 billion euro special fund for upgrading the Bundeswehr, the announcement that more than two percent of gross national product will be spent on the military, and the arms deliveries to Ukraine are a 180-degree turnaround.
It is remarkable that Scholz enjoys the backing of his party even without a prior broad debate – at least for the time being. Apparently the shaking of previous certainties by the Russian aggression was too great, too great the danger that the European Party SPD would isolate itself in Europe.
SPD party leader Saskia Esken was previously one of the harshest critics of NATO’s two percent target. In 2019, when the former Christian Democratic Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made a move in this direction, she even saw the end of the grand coalition with the Union approaching.
Now, however, she stands by Scholzen’s side. On Twitter, she announced on Sunday: “With our Bundeswehr, as a member of NATO and the EU, we will make our contribution to security in Europe.” You can rely on that – “today and in the future”. And the fact that the Federal Republic is now supplying weapons is a tragic necessity, but morally imperative.
Group leader Rolf Mützenich did not stand in the way of the new course either. However, the mastermind of the SPD’s peace policy wing did not greet him enthusiastically in his speech in the Bundestag. However, Mützenich contradicted interpretations that he had always spoken out against additional spending for the Bundeswehr. According to the sharp critic of the two percent target, what she needs should be hers. In the end, however, it was not just budgets that were decisive, but also the way in which funds were used in the army, he said in an interview on Sunday. Despite earlier opposition, he too supported the arms deliveries to the Ukrainian war zone.
Ralf Stegner, who until recently gave preference to peace policy over security policy, tweeted on Sunday that German soldiers should be properly equipped. The member of the Bundestag from the left wing of the party did not want to talk about rearmament.
Some Greens should feel reminded of 1999 on Sunday. At that time, culminating in the Bielefeld party congress, the intention of the red-green federal government to take part in the NATO operation against Yugoslavia brought the party to the brink of a split.
The about-face by the party leadership at the two percent target no longer has the explosive force that the first German war effort after 1945 had. But you don’t want to throw previous principles overboard completely. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock emphasized that the German arms deliveries to Ukraine were an exceptional situation. “We will continue to be cautious about arms exports and operations out of deep conviction.”
Parts of the party are nevertheless annoyed by the rapid change. Timon Dzienus, co-leader of the Green Party Youth, criticized the increase in arms spending “without any political or social debate”. This was also noticed by journalists like the head of the capital city office of “Spiegel”. When she asked on Twitter what the parliamentary group and base of the Greens said about the windfall for the German army, she was brusquely rebuked by the Green member of the Bundestag, Renate Künast. “Have you noticed what’s going on? the usual petty poking around is so out!»
Whether Chancellor Scholz can count on so much obedience in the traffic light groups in the long term will only become apparent when the Union, as announced by its group leader Friedrich Merz, sets the conditions for anchoring the Bundeswehr special fund in the Basic Law.