In the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden Administration was talking tough and pledging a unified front with Europe to try and deter Putin. Most North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries supported the Administration’s efforts. All save one. Germany was relatively quiet throughout the crisis.
Germany refused to send weapons to Ukraine, and its other efforts lagged so far behind the other member countries of NATO that it was forced to defend itself in the court of public opinion. It was mocked when it did try to lend a hand by donating 5,000 helmets in January. The invasion kicked off February 24th, and the helmets still had not been delivered. Helping Ukraine is not high on the list for Germany.
Finally, the Germans made good on their promise but with a catch.
It is not like the soldiers of Ukraine do not have a few other things on their mind than trying to meet the Germans at the border between the hours of 1 to 5 like the cable guy. Why does recalcitrance help?
From a strategic perspective, although Germany is one of the largest economies of the European Union, it has been ignoring its military. It has not historically paid its two percent GDP allotment to keep its armed forces up-to-date as its NATO membership requires. Indeed, the head of Germany’s army recently admitted they were not ready for war. A stark admission in this time of crisis.
The other problem for the Germans is they have shifted their energy policy to unreliable renewables. They now must import at least 20 percent of their energy needs from Russia. It helps to explain their hesitation to oppose Putin to this point actively.
International pressure seems to be moving them more toward Ukraine. To the surprise of many, they announced the cessation of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and switched their stance on offensive weapons immediately after the blowback from the helmet offers.
The only question now is: Is it too little, too late? Time will tell but look on the bright side. At least Ukraine has some shiny new helmets while it waits.