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How to Understand Germany’s Policy Toward Ukraine
The new leadership role Germany is creating for itself in Europe is rooted in complications and contradictions that go back centuries.
“ONE HAS TO KNOW THE WHOLE of Germany, a single piece is dangerous. It is the tale of a tree whose leaves and fruit cancel each other out.” These words of advice come from the poet Heinrich Heine, a satirist who exposed and mocked his country’s many defects. And although Heine lived in the first half of the nineteenth century, before Germany was a unified state, his observation about the contradictions in the German character still has a ring of truth. One need only think of a few stereotypes. The Germans have great respect for order and rules but they refuse to set a speed limit on their freeways. They are reserved and unemotional but enjoy sentimental music with sappy lyrics. They’ve produced some of the wittiest writers and aphorists in world literature but lack a sense of humor.
For much of history, the Germans had a reputation as a war-like people. Two thousand years ago, Tacitus described them as having “fierce blue eyes, red hair, huge frames, fit only for a sudden exertion.” Today their reputation is inverted. The Germans are perceived as inclined toward pacifism. Their military is underfunded. They consistently fail to meet their obligations to NATO. They had to have their arms twisted to send tanks to Ukraine. Germany, some critics say, is “NATO’s problem child,” a country that finds that “on defense, growing up is hard to do.”
Such stereotypes, which mislead even when they contain elements of truth, are frequently at play in discussions of Germany. This has been apparent in much of the commentary on Germany’s so-called Zeitenwende, and more broadly, in perceptions of German policy toward the war in Ukraine.
Often Germany’s conduct is explained by reference to its history—specifically, the Nazi past. According to critics, the Germans have overlearned certain historical lessons and are simply afraid to exercise power in Europe. Without a doubt, Germans are conscious of their history, but that history runs back much further than Nazism. It has been shaped by Germany’s location in Mitteleuropa. The distinctive dynamics and problems inherent to Central Europe have affected German fortunes and defined Germany’s interests up to the present day.
For centuries, European history has been shaped by what we might call the “German question”: How to give the German people political representation, and whether to organize them into a nation-state. The question has never admitted of a single or definitive answer, but it constitutes a recurring dynamic of German history. The best way to understand Germany’s international conduct is as an ongoing effort to balance the permanent challenges inherent in the German question. This applies even to German policy toward the war in Ukraine. To see how clear thinking about the German question can help us to better understand Germany’s role in the Ukraine crisis today, let’s begin with a brief sketch of modern German history.
The Birth of the German Question
THE GERMAN QUESTION first comes into focus around the time of the Thirty Years’ War, which began as a dispute between Protestants and Catholics within the Holy Roman Empire—a hard-to-describe political entity with the German people spread throughout—but expanded to include almost the whole of Europe. The war might have been less devastating for Germany had the Holy Roman Empire possessed a less convoluted political structure. The 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war, is also generally credited as marking the start of the era of nation-states—although not in Germany itself.
Two decades later, a legal philosopher named Samuel von Pufendorf published a tract called The Present State of Germany (1667). According to Pufendorf, the empire’s form of government matched nothing described by political philosophy. It was “a mis-shapen Monster.” The empire was ruled by an emperor whose powers were constrained by a Diet, which nevertheless did not hold the sovereign powers of a parliament. Meanwhile, within the empire, various principalities, kingdoms, and duchies functioned like autonomous mini-monarchies. The problem, in short, was that the empire lacked a supreme and unified sovereign. Without a sovereign, the Germans were forever vulnerable to foreign attack.
From a different perspective, however, the things that rendered the empire a political “monstrosity” in Pufendorf’s eyes probably contributed to Germany’s enormous cultural achievement. The empire’s decentralized patchwork of competing sovereignties generated competition in ways that allowed for innovation and freedom. The Protestant Reformation could start in Germany because the elector of Saxony wanted to protect the reputation of his university and its star professor, Martin Luther. The kings of Prussia transformed Berlin into a great city of science and culture to rival Vienna. The little city of Weimar became a center of European culture thanks to the patronage of its duke and his adviser, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The people who gave the world Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven; Goethe and Schiller; Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel; Johannes Kepler and Alexander von Humboldt had never needed a supreme and unified sovereign. In the vision of Goethe—at least as attributed to him by Thomas Mann—the German character was “world-receiving” and “world-giving.” Germany’s destiny was not to be confused with the “pig-headed craving to be a unique nation, this national narcissism that wants to make its own stupidity a pattern and power over the rest of the world!” What, after all, does sovereignty have to do with the noblest strivings of the human spirit?
Yet the miseries a people must suffer when they lack a sovereign were becoming increasingly apparent. Napoleon demolished the Holy Roman Empire and replaced it with client states. “If the concept of Germany didn’t exist,” Napoleon remarked wryly, “we would need to invent it for our own purposes.” By this he didn’t mean Germany as we think of it today, but a confederation of weak German states incapable of assuming an independent role in European politics.
Yet every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. Even while the French occupied Berlin, the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte delivered a series of Addresses to the German Nation that marked the birth of German nationalism.
Fichte explained that Germany’s subjugation was part of a larger historical development. Modern Europe had separated into states, each of which sought to expand while preventing others from doing the same through a balance of power. “If Christian Europe had remained one, as it ought to be and as it originally was, there would never have been any occasion to think of [a balance of power].” A balance of power, Fichte believed, would never bring peace to Europe. The way to bring peace was through German unification. A united Germany would act as a buffer between the great powers to the East and the West, and it would maintain “everything in equilibrium by the mere fact of its natural existence.”
On this point Fichte was profound and prescient: The origins of the German question lay in the rise of nation-states, and its solution was impossible without resolving the conflict of power with power in Europe.
The First Answer to the German Question
THE COURSE OF HISTORY is shaped by a combination of freedom, necessity, and chance. Human decisions impact events, but they are also anticipated and refashioned by external forces in ways that have about them the character of necessity. The result is what no one intended. These truths are well illustrated by the story of German unification.
In 1848 a wave of liberal revolutions swept through Europe. Among the Germans a National Assembly was convened in Frankfurt, tasked with writing a constitution that would unify Germany with the consent of its princes and kings.
But before they could write a constitution, the Frankfurt Assembly needed to decide where Germany was. The most powerful German state, Habsburg Austria, also ruled over Hungary as well as portions of Poland, Italy, and Croatia. To create a “large German” nation-state the Habsburgs would need to relinquish their non-German holdings. But as a rule, empires don’t volunteer to dissolve themselves. The alternative was a “small German” state, which excluded Austria and was led by Prussia. The National Assembly opted for the “small German” solution and in spring 1849 sent a delegation to Berlin to offer the Prussian king the title of German emperor. The king refused, so the assembly was kaput—and German liberalism was dead.
Had the Habsburgs been willing to let go of their empire, they might have presided over a huge German nation-state, anchored in Vienna, with tremendous resources. World War I would never have happened, and the twentieth century would have unfolded much differently. On the other hand, had the king of Prussia accepted the title of emperor, the German nation-state would at least have been born of liberalism.
Yet both choices required breaking radically from the past, and radical breaks depend on great acts of freedom. Usually in history they are achieved through violent revolutions. After the French Revolution and the age of Napoleon, no one in Germany wanted that, not even the liberals.
And so German unity was born neither through an act of deliberate national self-determination nor through the spasm and chaos of revolution but through blood and iron. This was the singular achievement of Otto von Bismarck, an enormous figure full of contradictions that mirror the dilemmas of German history. By means of three short wars, the Prussian minister-president united Germany in 1871 along the lines of the “small German” solution that had been proposed a generation earlier, with Prussia in the leading role; Bismarck became the new country’s first chancellor. The millions of Germans living under Habsburg rule would carry on separately as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire—until the time of Hitler’s Anschluss and annexation of the Sudetenland.
The unification of Germany sent shockwaves throughout Europe. Speaking to the British House of Commons, Benjamin Disraeli called it “a greater political event than the French Revolution . . . The balance of power has been entirely destroyed.” France was diminished; its old foreign policy premised on German weakness no longer viable. French weaknesses emboldened Russia to expand its influence in the Balkans.
The Germans viewed Bismarck’s achievement with admiration and awe. Only a few disgruntled conservatives with nostalgia for the Holy Roman Empire saw things differently. One of those was Constantin Frantz, a former Prussian diplomat and political philosopher. Frantz believed that Bismarck’s “small Germany” confronted geopolitical challenges grave enough to threaten its existence. “The game is only half over,” he wrote. “Germany’s future will only be secured if we have successfully withstood the united power of France and Russia. The test of strength cannot be avoided, and it may come like a thief in the night.”
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According to Frantz, Bismarck’s state did violence to Germany’s true nature. “The German nation,” Frantz said,
is not like other nations, which are somewhat closed in on themselves. Rather, just as the territory ruled by the Germans consists of different nationalities, so should the German nation be a people of peoples [“Volk von Völkern”], and thus to a certain extent represent humanity, for they have a calling to general mediation.
A better solution—and one more in accord with the inner logic of German history, Frantz believed—would be to embed the Germans in a multinational federation of states.
The Failure of the First Answer to the German Question
FEW TOPICS IN HISTORY have been more heavily debated than the causes of World War I. Rather than rehearsing those arguments, let’s zip through the facts sufficiently just to see that one of the deeper causes for the war arose from the breakdown of Bismarck’s solution to the German question. Similarly, the failure of the Paris peace settlements had much to do with the way they ignored the German question.
On June 28, 1914, Serbian nationalists, possibly with the support of the Serbian government, assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo. Austria responded with a 48-hour ultimatum that included a demand to be allowed to conduct its own full investigation into the circumstances behind the murder. Serbia accepted all the terms of the Austrian ultimatum but this one, and Austria declared war. Because Austria was allied with Germany, the Russians, in support of the Serbs, mobilized their army along the German border. Germany responded with a one-day ultimatum demanding that Russia rescind its mobilization. When Russia did not respond, Germany declared war. Because Russia was allied with France, the Germans anticipated two fronts. In order to attack France, German troops invaded Belgium on August 4. Their violation of Belgian neutrality outraged the British, who issued a nine-hour ultimatum demanding Germany withdraw its troops. The deadline passed; Britain entered the war on the side of France.
From today’s vantage, we can see how, as historian Christopher Clark put it, Europe’s statesmen sleepwalked into war, “blind to the horror they were about to bring into the world.” But the same could also be said of what followed the November 1918 armistice. The victorious Allies ascribed sole guilt for the war to Germany, overlooking the ways in which Europe’s international system had made war likely. They constructed a post-war order that exacerbated, rather than mitigated, the geopolitical problems arising from the German question. Before Bismarck, Europe’s solution to the German question had been to divide the Germans and keep them weak. The Paris peace settlements did just that. Germany and Austria’s borders were redrawn. Austria was reduced to a barely viable rump state, yet prevented from uniting with Germany. Large Austrian German minorities were placed in newly constructed neighboring states.
Both Germany and Austria suffered numerous trials and tribulations in the years that followed. Often overlooked, however, is the extent to which those problems were compounded by the unsatisfactory resolution of the German question. As Golo Mann noted in his classic survey of German history, Bismarck’s nation-state had always been a compromise. It achieved unity along “small German” lines that never embraced all of the German people—yet that could be justified by the continued existence of Habsburg Austria. When the peace settlements brought the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the compromise was no longer acceptable. Millions of Germans lived in newly created states that were hostile to them. The old vision of “large Germany” breathed with new life and assumed revolutionary dimensions. The path to German unity meant overthrowing the newly constructed liberal order of Europe. Nazi Germany was born.
The German Question, Revisited
ALTHOUGH THE COLD WAR was defined by the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, it began with decisive measures intended to solve the German question once and for all. Germany was deprived of more territory, and to prevent future irredentism, millions of Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe through forced population transfers that today would constitute a war crime. Germany itself was split into two states, neither of which enjoyed full sovereignty. In 1949 NATO was created, according to its first general secretary, to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
Whatever its disadvantages, the Cold War kept Germany weak, and the rest of Europe liked it that way. Thirty-three years after German reunification, this is easy to forget. Indeed, we forget how improbable reunification actually was.
Margaret Thatcher opposed it from the start. At a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, she once asked to go off the record to tell him that, “Britain and Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany. The words written in the NATO communiqué may sound different, but disregard them. We do not want the unification of Germany.” Italy’s prime minister remarked, “We love Germany so much that we would prefer to have two of them.” The Dutch had reservations. The French were on the fence.
Without strong support from the United States, German reunification would not have happened. President George H.W. Bush supported it on the condition that Germany remain in NATO. But this had to be agreed to by the Russians. Secretary of State James Baker tried to convince the Soviet leadership that a neutral Germany actually posed a greater threat to Russia than one aligned with the West. Removed from the protective shield of NATO, Baker told them, Germany would need to acquire its own nuclear weapons and might again become militaristic. Mikhail Gorbachev agreed that the best way to handle reunification was “to ensure that Germany is contained within European structures,” but he was not prepared to agree to NATO expansion.
The breakthrough came in July 1990. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a small German delegation visited Gorbachev at his home in the Caucasus. When the two met, Kohl reminded Gorbachev that they belonged to a generation too young to share in the guilt of World War II, but old enough to remember its horrors. Sharing a saying of Bismarck, “One can do nothing on one’s own, but must wait to hear the step of God and then jump to grasp the hem of his mantle,” Kohl suggested the two of them had a chance to seize the moment of history. The words impressed Gorbachev, who recalled his own experience of the war, and added that events were unfolding to bring Russia and Germany closer together. By the time the negotiations were over, Gorbachev had agreed both to reunification and Germany’s membership in NATO. In exchange, he received practically nothing.
The loss of East Germany represented a reversal of fortune for the Soviet Union of a kind countries usually suffer in war, not in peace. Why would Gorbachev agree to it, especially without extracting major concessions in return?
In his memoirs, Kohl attributes significance to a conversation he had with Gorbachev a year earlier in Germany, overlooking the Rhine. Turning to Gorbachev, Kohl said:
You see this river passing by. It symbolizes history; it is not static. You can dam this river; it’s technically possible. But then it will overflow its banks and find another way to the sea. So it is with German unity. You can seek to prevent it from happening and maybe we won’t live to see it. But as sure as the Rhine flows to the sea, German unity will come—and so too will the unity of Europe. . . . Should we accomplish this in our generation or wait for it later—with all the problems that will bring?
Gorbachev’s reforms had set in motion a series of events beyond his control. He might resist, but at what cost? Gorbachev dreamed of peace and fraternity; he wanted to overcome the division of Europe, and he knew he had a weak hand. Thus, in a profound exercise of freedom, Gorbachev let his empire go.
The German Question and European Integration
UNLIKE IN 1871, German unification in 1990 was accomplished with the support and acceptance of the international community. It not only brought an end to the Cold War, but also laid the foundations for a new European order.
An important feature of that order has been a German commitment to self-limitation. The French supported unification on condition that Kohl deepen the process of European integration and accelerate movement toward a common currency. The reunification of Germany gave birth to the European Union, which, among other things, serves to embed and restrain Germany’s inherent power in a structure resembling a European federation.
One is not wrong to discern in this arrangement distant echoes of Frantz, Fichte, and the Holy Roman Empire, although the parallels should not be overdrawn. Frantz and Fichte imagined a Mitteleuropa dominated by Germany and separating Russia from France. The actual solution to the German question placed Germany in a union anchored to the West. The democratic ideals of the European Union come from France, Britain, and the United States. But in its openness to nationalities, its multilingualism, its commitment to the dream of unity, and in its ability to function without resolving the question of sovereignty, the European Union draws on traditions that reach back in German history well past 1871.
The new European order was also built on a commitment from Germany to limit its military strength. This was intended primarily, but not exclusively, to reassure the Russians. When negotiating reunification, Germany agreed to reduce the size of its military and committed to staying in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In a spirit of rapprochement, the Germans committed themselves to a Russia policy after reunification that was inspired by West Germany’s Ostpolitik of the Communist era. Ostpolitik had aimed to soften East Germany’s Communist regime through a strategy called Wandel durch Handel (“change through trade”). Throughout the Cold War, the West German government transferred untold billions of deutschmarks into East Germany. Over time, this created a relation of economic dependence. Helmut Kohl leveraged that dependence in 1989 to pressure the East German government into making radical reforms. The more the regime tried to reform, the closer it moved to collapse, until the only viable solution to East Germany’s problems was reunification.
And Ostpolitik was also important in securing Russian consent to reunification. As part of the deal over reunification, Germany agreed to give the cash-strapped Russians twelve billion deutschmarks outright, plus three billion extra as a loan. A more successful historical example of “change through trade” has never been seen.
Without Ostpolitik, the collapse of communism in Europe would have happened differently. But in the Merkel era, Ostpolitik came in for a lot of criticism, much of it justified. Although economic engagement with authoritarian regimes can produce positive change, the success of the strategy depends on the relation of power. During the Cold War, Ostpolitik encouraged Communist regimes to rely on the West. After the Cold War, Ostpolitik led to West European dependence on Russian energy. Rather than liberalizing Russia, it abetted authoritarianism within the EU. The Germans failed to appreciate this, but they were hardly alone in underestimating Vladimir Putin. Every American president before Joe Biden did the same.
The War in Ukraine and the End of the 1990 Settlement
IF GORBACHEV HAD BEEN PERSUADED that history is like a river whose course cannot be stopped, Vladimir Putin appears to think of history as a stage on which to perform great deeds. Convinced that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a mistake, Putin imagined he might undo Gorbachev’s free act with one of his own—and plunged his own country and Ukraine into tragedy.
In late February 2022, three days after Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine, the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered his Zeitenwende speech to the Bundestag. Scholz recognized clearly that the invasion posed an existential threat not only to Ukraine, but to the entire European order. He announced sweeping changes to German policy in response. Among other things, Germany would supply arms to Ukraine, increase its own defense budget, and eliminate dependence on Russian energy.
One might say that Scholz, in charting this new course, was only committing his country to do things that critics had been urging for a good while. Critics expressed doubts that Germany, with its strong tradition of pacifism, was really committed to the Zeitenwende. According to Politico’s chief European correspondent, “the best way to describe Scholz’s much-ballyhooed slogan is with a blunt Americanism: bullshit.”
Yet to this one might reply that no country can turn on a dime. Even the French Revolution needed several years. In only a year and half, Germany has undergone remarkable changes. Previous German policy had been never to deliver arms into a conflict zone. Today it is the third-largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and Britain, although, admittedly, it is not delivering arms as quickly as it has promised. Next year Germany expects to increase its contributions to NATO by over 20 percent, although it will still fall short of NATO’s threshold of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Germany also plans to deploy 4,000 troops permanently in Lithuania. It has dramatically reduced its dependence on Russian gas.
Critics of the Zeitenwende may be overlooking its true depths. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has overturned the European settlement of 1990, the bedrock of which was German reunification. The end of the old settlement is likely to reopen the German question and require Germany to renegotiate its place in Europe. Already we see signs that this is happening.
To quote Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, “Germany is assuming responsibility in foreign affairs.” The era of self-limitation is over. Germany will provide political leadership in the world and advance its values and interests.
That no one appears bothered by this is among the more obvious ironies of history. To most people, the readiest examples of German leadership in foreign affairs are Bismarck and Hitler. Germany is now charting a course for which there is no real historical precedent.
Some of those countries criticizing Germany today for a lack of leadership in Ukraine might not be happy with Germany’s newfound place in the world once the war is over. They may find they also resent a Germany comfortable about flexing its political muscles.
Germany’s Dilemma in Ukraine
AFTER THE ZEITENWENDE, Germany must learn how to provide leadership without weakening the project of European integration on which its vital interests depend. The fact that Europe is in flux probably lends a degree of tentativeness to German decision-making. The Germans must try to anticipate the way in which decisions made today will play out in the future, knowing that the future contains widely divergent scenarios.
One scenario the Germans might worry about could unfold like this. The war in Ukraine slides into a frozen conflict. Germany, having adopted a more muscular foreign policy, finds itself in a standoff with Russia. In America, Donald Trump is re-elected president and pulls the United States out of NATO. Putin begins threatening Germany with nuclear strikes. Although other nuclear powers—France and the United Kingdom—remain in NATO and have Germany’s back, pressure grows within Germany to become a nuclear power, the first step toward which is withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That action in turn creates similar pressure in other European countries. Nuclear weapons proliferate throughout Europe.
Let me emphasize that I am intentionally describing what I know is an extreme scenario. But it is no more farfetched than was the prospect of German reunification in 1988. Even as a thought experiment, it makes clear how thoroughly European security depends on the United States, as well as the deep stake Germany has in preserving the transatlantic relationship. But no one in Europe who looks at America’s dysfunctional domestic politics feels confident that the transatlantic relationship will remain strong through successive U.S. administrations.
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Scholz has adopted a policy of linking German positions on Ukraine to those of the United States, perhaps worrying that there could be unintended negative consequences for the European ecosystem under a different kind of U.S. administration if Germany should get in front of America. Some thinking of this sort was probably behind the melodrama last January over whether to deliver German tanks to Ukraine. Despite the heated commentary, a close observer could tell that the real question was never whether Germany would agree to tank transfers, but under what conditions.
Like the Biden administration, the Germans worry about escalation. Scholz is willing to say that Ukraine must not lose the war, but avoids saying Ukraine must win. Critics take this word game as evidence that Scholz is not fully committed to Ukrainian victory. Yet neither Germany’s foreign minister nor its defense minister engages in similar parsing, and Scholz himself has repeatedly said that Europe must support Ukraine for “as long as necessary.”
The explanation for Scholz’s semantic gymnastics lies elsewhere—in a perception that the war in Ukraine presents a dilemma. On the one hand, Putin’s aggression constitutes an enormous crime and a threat to Europe that must not be allowed to stand. On the other hand, stopping Putin carries a risk of destabilizing Russia in a way that could set in motion a sequence of uncontrollable events which, in the worst-case scenario, ends with nuclear weapons. This, too, must be avoided. Pursuing the first objective works against the second, whereas pursuing the second objective undermines the first.
Critics of Scholz and the Biden administration respond to this dilemma by dismissing the risks of escalation. They note that Putin has so far not vastly escalated in response to increasing Western engagement in Ukraine. And they point out that using nuclear weapons would serve no good military objective while provoking a response from NATO.
But the fear of escalation has never rested on the assumption that it would constitute a rational choice. The fear is that things might spin out of control, and that some foolish actor, feeling trapped or desperate, might act in ways to create a greater European crisis.
Scholz also provokes critics by refusing to say that Russia must lose, saying instead that Russia must not succeed. More hawkish voices on Ukraine have argued that a total defeat of Russia would permanently end its imperial ambitions. They say anything less than total defeat will mean dealing with Russia again later on.
Yet the Germans know better than most that nations vanquished in war rarely learn the lesson the victors intend for them. Regardless of how the war ends, Russia will continue to pose a challenge for Europe.
An Eye on Tomorrow
EVERY WAR ARISES FROM A BREAKDOWN in the prevailing political order. The work of establishing peace requires identifying the causes for the breakdown and constructing arrangements that correct for past weaknesses without creating new ones. The breakdown of the post–Cold War European order originates in various forms of neglect. The guardians of the liberal order, believing in its inevitability, underestimated its vulnerabilities and overlooked the dangers posed by transformations in Putin’s Russia. After Ukraine, Europe’s new order will need to include a collective posture of deterrence toward Russia, and that posture may need to be sustained for decades.
The Germans understand this, but they worry about constructing a post-war order that permanently excludes the possibility of integrating Russia with Europe. The Baltic Sea now belongs to NATO, and depending on what happens in Ukraine, the Black Sea may come to belong to NATO as well. Russia has never been more isolated from Europe. Still, it remains a nuclear superpower. And it’s an enormous country with tremendous natural resources and a people who possess a great culture and history. Europe will never be able fully to enjoy peace and security unless it can work out a stable and non-adversarial relationship with Russia. That day may rest in the distant future—but until it arrives, the problem will always remain on the horizon of German thinking.
We live in dangerous times, perhaps more dangerous than we know. To recognize this does not make one a coward any more than attending to the complexity of events makes one a fool. The right response to the dangers posed by Russia is a combination of courage and caution. If the Germans strike the balance differently than others would like, that hardly demonstrates that they are uncommitted to Ukrainian victory or unserious about the Zeitenwende. They may instead be approaching the challenges with that quiet and steadfast resoluteness of will that Kant believed was the heart of virtue.