Is Vladimir Putin starting to pay a strategic price for his aggression in Ukraine? Germany, Europe’s leading power, which until recently has been fairly even-handed vis-à-vis Russia, is realigning its defense posture to take account of Russian aggression. Defense Minister Ursula van der Leyen, widely thought of as Chancellor Merkel’s heir apparent, has announced a strategy shift that will be detailed more fully in a “white book” to be released next year. Reuters reports:
Germany’s new policy must take account of the Kremlin’s attempt “to establish geo-strategic power politics and military force as a form of asserting their interests”, said von der Leyen.“The Kremlin’s new policy began long before the crisis in Ukraine and will occupy us for a very very long time to come,” she added.The new strategy would mean the German army would in future focus not only on missions far afield, for example in Afghanistan, but also become more involved in strengthening NATO’s defenses. Germany is already helping to boost NATO’s presence in eastern Europe.
In the short term, this is not likely to do much to deter Putin. Germany’s military is much weaker than it should be, given the heft it wields in other arenas, though Ms. van der Leyen has been struggling to persuade her parliamentary colleagues to improve it.But Germany is only growing in strategic importance within Europe; as goes Berlin so increasingly go NATO and the EU. If Germany is earnest about refocusing on defending Eastern Europe, that is a serious setback for Russia in the medium to long term.