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Germany to raise defense spending above 2% of GDP in response to Ukraine war


BERLIN :

Germany will boost military spending above 2% of GDP and create a strategic natural-gas reserve, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday, marking a significant shift in the country’s defense and energy policies in reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The measures, all of which had long been resisted by successive governments and will now be reflected in this year’s budget, underline how profoundly Russia’s attack on Ukraine is upending European politics after almost eight decades of nearly uninterrupted peace on the continent.

“We have to ask ourselves: What capacities does Putin’s Russia have? And which capacities do we need to counter his threats?” Mr. Scholz told parliament, gathered for an extraordinary session on Sunday. “It’s clear, we will need to invest a lot more in the security of our country to defend our freedom and our democracy.”

“Putin wants to establish a Russian empire…the question is…whether we can summon the strength to set boundaries to warmongers like Putin,” Mr. Scholz said.

For decades, Germany had managed to reconcile rising welfare expenditure with budget surpluses by constraining investment in defense and other areas, leading to what several high-ranking officers recently called a hollowing out of its armed forces.

Likewise, the country has resisted diversifying its energy resources, relying increasingly on cheap and plentiful Russian gas supplied in part through the controversial Nord Stream undersea pipeline running between the two countries. Germany now receives more than half of its gas from Russia.

Mr. Scholz said that he would immediately invest 100 billion euros, equivalent to $113 billion, in weaponry. Starting now, he added, Germany’s military spending would exceed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s spending target of 2% of GDP, a goal that none of his predecessors managed since the end of the Cold War and that Germany had pledged to reach by 2024 as part of its commitments to NATO.

He said the government would create strategic gas reserves and finance the building of two liquefied natural gas import terminals on the country’s northern coast.

Mr. Scholz also announced concrete arms-systems procurements including the decision to buy state-of-the-art drones from Israel and F-35 warplanes from the U.S., which he said would be used to amplify NATO’s nuclear deterrent against Russia.

Mr. Scholz’s emotional address, which broke with decades of policy decisions, drew heckling from some opposition politicians as well as thunderous applause from a majority of parliamentarians.

The day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Feb. 24, marked a turning point in history, Mr. Scholz said. “Russia’s President Putin has launched an offensive war with his invasion of Ukraine, and that means that the world will not be the same as before.”



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