The German chancellor addressed parliament one year after promising to upgrade the country’s armed forces with a massive one-off fund. In the speech, he called on China to push for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday asked China not to support Russia with weapons in its war against Ukraine.
“My message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to push for the withdrawal of Russian troops,” Scholz said. “And do not supply weapons to the aggressor Russia.”
He delivered the comments in a speech to the German Parliament.
The special address came one year after he announced a “Zeitenwende” (in English, “turning of the times”) in the wake of Moscow’s assault on its neighbor.
At the time, Scholz pledged in a special session of the Bundestag to provide the German military with €100 billion ($106 billion) to fund much-needed upgrades.
In the summer of last year, the German Parliament approved the special fund for the Bundeswehr. Prior to that, the center-right opposition in the Bundestag joined forces with the ruling parties to change the constitution and allow the additional debt — an unprecedented occurrence in the history of the Federal Republic.
What did Scholz say in his speech?
Scholz started his speech by stressing the importance of ongoing support for Ukraine. Scholz made clear that there was no way for Ukraine to negotiate a peace deal with Russia because of the “gun to their head.”
The German Chancellor said: “There will be no peace deal without the involvement of the Ukrainian people.”
He also stressed that courage was needed to create peace and that it was crucial that “Putin’s imperialism must not be allowed to prevail.” For this, the international community had to take a clear stance. Scholz criticized China for not supporting Ukraine and for not sending a clearer message to Russia. He also warned China to not deliver weapons to Russia.
Scholz also announced he was traveling to Washington DC to strengthen cooperation with US President Joe Biden.
The German Chancellor said that Germany was training the biggest amount of Ukrainian soldiers and thanked the Bundeswehr for their services.
“The government I lead never takes decisions on arms deliveries lightly,” Scholz said. However, it was important that the German military would receive the priorly announced budget. “We are putting an end to the neglect of our armed forces,” he continued.
Scholz guaranteed his commitment to NATO’s two-percent target. This would generally require an increase in defense expenditure in the German government’s budget, Scholz said.
Germany was also preparing for cyberattacks and attacks on critical infrastructure while rethinking security, Scholz said.
The German Chancellor mentioned his government’s efforts to create greater independence from Russia by securing alternative gas supplies. “We made it through winter, even without Russian gas supplies,” Scholz said. Until 2030, Germany was aiming to produce 80% of its energy from renewable sources, he continued.
What has happened since the ‘Zeitenwende’ speech?
According to Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the Bundestag defense committee and a member of the governing coalition’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), the government achieved new orders of F-35 fighter jets and heavy transport helicopters from the United States and a new digitalization drive to modernize the forces.
For its part, the Defense Ministry says €30 billion of the €100 billion has already been earmarked for major purchases. There has been some criticism from European allies, and within Germany, that so many big orders have been placed in the United States, though ultimately most of the special fund is likely to stay in Germany, which has a strong weapons industry.
Many critics, however, say the government hasn’t delivered enough.
Boris Pistorius took office as Germany’s new defense minister in January after his predecessor, Christine Lambrecht resigned, in part because of a wave of discontent with her leadership that leaked from within the army ranks.
The new minister has been pushing for more money: He has suggested that the special fund was not enough to cover the military’s needs, and called for his ministry’s budget to be increased by an extra €10 billion.
los/nm (AFP, dpa)