Stand Up, Germany

Berlin needs to let Vladimir Putin know that it can resist his gas supplies and that it is willing to pay more for NATO’s military defense.

“Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came?” went a 1960s antiwar slogan. Stell Dir vor, es ist Krieg, und Keiner geht hin is the German version. It’s still popular in Germany, a country of peaceniks. Germans’ defeat in World War II and subsequent reeducation by the Allies stripped them of any enthusiasm for war or military things.

Fine by me. I grew up in Germany and found armies and military spending inherently suspicious: the less of them, the better. If no one funded militaries, there would be no war, right? This sentiment remains widely held in the country and is particularly strong in the Green Party, now a vital coalition member of the Social Democrat-led government. In January, Germany blocked NATO ally Estonia from exporting German-origin weapons to Ukraine. It offered to send 5,000 helmets instead.

Germany is the largest country entirely within Europe by population. It is a key NATO member. Except for a recent minor uptick, however, its military spending has been declining, from nearly 5 percent of GDP in the 1960s to about 1.5 percent now. Retired German generals Egon Ramms and Klaus Wittman recently offered the stark assessment that the Bundeswehr (the German military) is not capable of defending the nation.

Germany is a staunch ally of the United States but also has close economic ties to Russia, from which it currently imports more than 60 percent of its natural gas. Economic ties are a good motive for avoiding war, but that cuts both ways, as we’re finding out.

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