Germany announces increased defense spending amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

BERLIN — In an extraordinary address to a special session of parliament on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a significant increase in military spending, reversing the country’s longstanding policy that has favored deterrence over conflict.

Mr Scholz announced a one-time increase of 100 billion euros ($113 billion) for defense spending and pledged to spend more than 2% of Germany’s economic output each year on defence. He also proposed to enshrine this threshold in the country’s constitution, ensuring that future governments respect it.

The moves were part of a stunning – and sudden – reversal of decades of German foreign policy that has come as European nations unite to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr Scholz described the Russian military action as having “created a new reality” which “demands a clear response”.

Over the past 24 hours, Germany’s foreign and military policy has undergone startling changes. The government announced on Saturday that it would send 1,000 shoulder-launched anti-tank rockets and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine, setting aside a long-standing government policy of not sending weapons into conflict zones. . Germany also announced that it had allowed the Dutch government to send 400 German-made anti-tank weapons to Ukraine and the Estonian government to send nine Cold War-era howitzers, transfers it had blocked for a while. months.

The German government also said it would work with allies to cut off major Russian banks from the money transfer network known as SWIFT, and announced it would close German airspace to Russian civilian aircraft.

Just weeks ago, the German government was pilloried for what critics called its lukewarm response to Russian troop reinforcements, after announcing it would send Ukraine 5,000 helmets and a hospital for campaign to help the country defend itself.

Mr. Scholz also sharpened his rhetoric against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who he said on Sunday “launched a war of aggression in cold blood. For one reason only: Ukrainian freedom defies its own oppressive regime.

Maintaining defense funding at 2% of gross domestic product is a target set for NATO member states that Germany has failed to meet since the end of the Cold War. To reduce reliance on Russia for energy, Scholz also announced the construction of two liquefied natural gas terminals in Germany, following his government’s decision last week to shut down the pipeline. Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2.

Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin whose demands for German weapons have fallen on deaf ears for months, watched the speech from the visitors’ balcony and received a one-minute standing ovation from the legislators from all parties. In another show of unity in the normally restive German parliament, even most far-right lawmakers, who usually vociferously oppose government speeches, applauded parts of Mr Scholz’s remarks.

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