Has the war in Ukraine reached a turning point with the announcement that the west will deliver “Leopard2” main battle tanks to Ukraine, after such a long time of hesitation from Germany to send them and authorise their re-export from partner countries?
First of all, there is the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people, inspired by a President who is not afraid to point out that his country is a bulwark against despotism and imperialism. And who doesn’t shy away from telling western statesmen what weapons his country needs to win the war, whatever that means. Will Zelenskyy be able to convince NATO to be as hawkish as he would like it to be to crush the Russian military machine deployed against his country?
Secondly, the war in Ukraine is not only a war between Russia and Ukraine, but also a war over the geostrategic interests of the United States to achieve supremacy over Russia and prepare to resist China’s policy of enlarging its sphere of influence.
Thirdly, there is Europe, which, contrary to expectations, has united behind Ukraine. Immediately after the Russian invasion, the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow and began supplying arms to strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces.
Fourthly, there is Germany, the economic giant at the heart of Europe with no ambition to play a leading military role. However, the invasion of Ukraine has triggered a real paradigm shift in Germany. Chancellor Scholz spoke of a historical turning point (“Zeitenwende”) just a few days after the Russian invasion and announced a special fund of
€100bn for the neglected German armed forces. And then came a true psychological breakthrough given Germany’s past: the German Parliament lifted the ban on the export of military equipment to crisis areas. But the population is still influenced by the deeply held belief that “nobody should blame Germans for being responsible for another war”.
The other belief, “never alone”, voiced by Chancellor Scholz in the debate about the delivery of tanks, has the same roots, the weight of history, but also reveals a lack of confidence in Germany’s own sovereignty and the fear of being responsible for a possible escalation. And in any decision, the logic of “only together with allies and not without America” prevails.
These ties to America as Germany’s nuclear protective power has nothing to do with Germany’s neglect or even betrayal of a common European defence, as its European partners often accuse it of, when they complain of Germany’s lack of geopolitical and geostrategic thinking. That isn’t reason enough for blame: after the liberation from the Nazi regime, Germany was divided into two. Neither state was soverein and western Germany’ forces were completely involved in forward defence. There was no need for strategic thinking contrary to the US, France and Great Britain with their maritime vocation and their geopolitical past.
Finally, there is the question of how the war in Ukraine will end. First of all, it will be necessary to define what is meant by “Ukraine must not lose” or “Ukraine must win the war”. Who will decide? Which format for negotiations could be created? Another version of the Budapest Memorandum with Great Britain, Russia and the US? Certainly not! A new format under the aegis of China?
Whatever the format of negotiations will be, it is crucial to keep in mind that whatever peace deal is eventually struck, it must not contain the seeds of the next war.