Has Germany got past the turning point?
"We are experiencing a turning point. And that means that the world after this point will no longer be the same as the world before it." These words said by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz a year ago in the face of the war against Ukraine raised many expectations in Europe. Would Germany end its restraint in military matters, change its policy towards Russia and reposition itself as a leading Western power? Commentators remain sceptical.
He set the bar very high
The chancellor will have to make an effort to fulfil the expectations he created, Le Monde comments:
“Beyond the financial issues, important questions arise: How far does Germany intend to reorient its foreign policy? What role does it aspire to within Nato, especially in the defense of its eastern flank? What is its vision of European defense policy? On this last point, nothing can be done without perfect coordination with France. Yet the last few months have shown that there are many misunderstandings between Paris and Berlin. ... The German chancellor has set the bar very high. ... He now has to live up to the expectations he has raised.”
Scholz has not followed words with deeds
There is no evidence of Germany’s promised rearmament, The Economist criticises:
“There is little sign of a sustained surge in new military contracts or procurement. The speech also promised Germany would 'now, year after year', spend more than 2% of its GDP on defence, a non-binding target set by NATO back in 2006, but which Germany has never approached. Despite the promise, the target was missed in 2022 (it spent only about 1.5%), and will be again this year and probably next, too. ... The Zeitenwende must not be the turning point at which Germany fails to turn.”
The prelude to a turnaround
The turning point proclaimed by Scholz is not only a a national one, Handelsblatt notes:
“'The central question is: How can we as the EU exist as independent actors in an increasingly multipolar world?' Scholz wrote in the magazine Foreign Affairs. One answer is: Europe must become more powerful militarily - and for that it needs the leadership of its largest country. ... The chancellor wants his policies to be measured not by words but by deeds. This is a very welcome trait for a politician. After all, there are already plenty of politicians who are all bark and no bite. After a year of working at it, it can be said that Scholz has initiated the turnaround. But he has not yet turned the country around.”