BERLIN, KOMPAS.com – Germany’s refusal to send weapons to Ukraine angered some allies. But the reason why Europe’s most powerful nation took that decision can be seen going back to its complex history.
There is a large grassy plain to the east of Berlin where the land tells gruesome stories.
When farmers plow, their blades can interfere with human bones, weapons; fragments of one of the most brutal battles of World War II.
Read also: Biden to Putin: Invasion of Ukraine will only make Russia suffer
The horrors of the world war
In the spring of 1945, Hitler hid in a bunker in Berlin, his troops retreating. Soviet troops advanced from the east across the plains, and near them on a hill called the Seelow Heights, the Nazis took a defensive position.
The chaotic bloodshed still broke out. The Soviets eventually won, hastening the end of the war, but it is estimated that up to thirty thousand of their soldiers died.
The memorial at Seelow serves as a reminder of how deeply ingrained the history of this country is in the minds of many Germans. An annual survey reveals that most Germans believe that diplomatic negotiations are the best way to resolve conflicts.
The horrors of the twentieth century still influence German foreign policy today. This is one of the reasons why Germany refuses to send weapons to Ukraine.
Read also: US Secretary of State warns Russia not to attack Ukraine
German political curse
German troops rarely participated in anything other than peacekeeping missions. There are indeed a few exceptions – and they are controversial – including the Balkans in the ’90s and, more recently, Afghanistan.
Ironically, Germany is also one of the world’s largest arms exporters (although its output is dwarfed by the US and Russia). Although the country has tight control over where weapons are shipped, even if Angela Merkel’s government is sometimes accused of not complying with the rules.
“Germany has a long-standing policy of restraint in all kinds of military conflicts and arms exports are seen as triggering conflict rather than reducing conflict,” said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff of the German Marshall Fund. BBC.
“This old policy says that Germany does not export weapons to conflict zones.”
Germany abandoned that principle, to arm the Peshmerga fighting ISIS in northern Iraq. But the situation in Ukraine is different, he said. The reason is historical – the Nazis killed millions in Ukraine and Russia.
“To export weapons to the blood land that Germany helped create, to supply one part of the bloody territory (Ukraine) with weapons … against another bloody land (Russia) … is the bane of German political debate.”
Also read: Majority of Americans Say Sending US Troops to Ukraine is a Bad Idea
German new government exam
Amid the tensions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under pressure from his international allies to shift his country to a new, more aggressive position.
His government came to power late last year promising a values-based foreign policy and even tighter restrictions on arms exports.
Instead of sending weapons to Kiev, Chancellor Scholz paid for a field hospital, offered to treat wounded soldiers in Germany and sent five thousand helmets to Ukraine.
Scholz’s foreign minister, Green politician Annalena Baerbock, stressed that Germany was a financial donor to Ukraine and believed it was more effective than sending arms.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to believe that such arms exports could reverse the military imbalance. The best protection is to prevent further aggression.”
The strongest weapon, according to him, is to unite as a member of NATO, as the countries of the European Union, as the G7, and explain that any new aggression will have big consequences.
Read also: Russia accuses the US of provoking the Ukraine conflict to get hotter
Chancellor Scholz favored the dialogue-based approach of his predecessor. She may not have Angela Merkel’s influence with President Putin. However, thanks to their history, Germany’s relations with Russia are unlike that of many other Western countries.
Over the course of his development Scholz has indicated that, if Russia invaded Ukraine, all options would be on the table, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
This is a sore topic for his administration, which says Nord Stream 2 is a private economic project. But its partner, the FDP, said it was political and the Greens would be very happy to let it go.
But, with his calm manner of speaking, not going any further, some people wondered whether history would judge him as shrewd or weak and indecisive.
“It is wise to have a certain degree of strategic ambiguity so that Putin cannot begin to calculate the price to pay if he does this or that,” said Nils Schmidt, foreign affairs spokesman for the chancellor of social democrats. “That’s why it’s so important to have all of these (sanctions) options on the table.”
Also read: Blinken: US Ready to Serve Diplomacy or Russian Aggression on Ukraine
Get updates news of choice and breaking news every day from Kompas.com. Let’s join the Telegram group “Kompas.com News Update”, how to click the link https://t.me/kompascomupdate, then join. You must first install the Telegram application on your cellphone.