The term “Zeitenwende” was used by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in response to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. The word translates to “turning point” or “crossroads” and refers to Germany’s need to rearm itself in the face of new threats to European security.

One year after Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a rousing speech to the Bundestag in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as he visits the White House on Mar. 3, 2023, it is necessary to evaluate the progress of Germany’s proclaimed “turning point” in defense spending. Scholz had made it clear that due to Putin’s aggression, Europe had entered a new era of war, and nations like Germany, which had cut down their defense budgets for years, needed to rearm.

The first step is for Germany to continue increasing its defense spending. While it has made some progress on this front, it still needs to catch up to other European countries like France and the United Kingdom. This is partly due to a reluctance on the part of the German public to increase military spending, but it is also because Germany has been slow to modernize its armed forces.

The outcomes of the energy diversification initiatives by Germany are still being determined. However, the International Energy Agency forecasts a reduction of around 57% in the European Union’s imports of natural gas from Russia from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, the EU imported nearly one-quarter of its petroleum oil from Russia; however, EU imports of Russian seaborne oil are currently prohibited.

If Germany is to play a leading role in European security, it needs to have a modern and well-equipped military. This will require significant investment, but it is essential if Germany wants to be considered a defender of European values.

In contrast to other nations, Germany’s rearmament plan has yet to be implemented, despite Finance Minister Scholz’s commitment to reach NATO’s 2% spending goal on defense and allocating €100 billion (US $106 billion) for the Bundeswehr. Berlin later announced that it would not meet this goal until 2025, and not a single cent has been spent from the special fund yet.

German Bundestag
The Norman Foster redesigned German Bundestag Reichstag German national parliament Berlin, Germany (Source: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons)

The German government has been unable to act on its promises due to the complex bureaucratic system of weapon procurement, the frequent shifts in coalition politics, and the contentious dynamic between the authorities in Berlin and defense firms.

In addition to increasing its defense spending, Germany needs to do more to diversify its energy sources away from Russia. This is an area where Germany has already made some progress, but more work still needs to be done.