German Defense Chief Says Public Must Get Used To Possibility Of ‘War In Europe’

German Defense Chief Says Public Must Get Used To Possibility Of ‘War In Europe’
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Starting last month, top Ukrainian officials began pushing an alarmist narrative that “world war 3 has already begun” – as the head Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Aleksey Danilov had claimed in early September. The words were spoken after it became clear that Ukraine’s military was losing, and now Time magazine has confirmed the military doesn’t have the manpower to fight off the Russians. Naturally, Kiev must find new ways to draw in more direct support of key European powers.

“If somebody thinks that World War III hasn’t started then it’s a huge mistake. It has already begun. It had been underway in a hybrid period for some time and has now entered an active phase,” Danilov said before the Kiev Security Forum at the time (early Sept). More than a month later, some European leaders have begun to echo the same warning.

Significantly, this week Germany Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a media interview that German residents must start getting used to the idea of the specter of war in Europe

“We have to get used to the idea that there may be a threat of war in Europe,” he said in the national broadcast interview. “Germany must be able to defend itself. We must be prepared for war.”

He was responding to questions related to Germany being slow to rearmament itself in the wake of the Russian war in Ukraine, and now with the prospect of the Gaza-Israel conflict spilling over into broader Mideast regional war:

He believes that the conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s war against Ukraine shall have consequences for German society. In particular, Germany must be able to defend itself, and this applies to both the Bundeswehr and society.

“We have to become capable of fighting,” Pistorius said.

“Unfortunately, everything that has been spoiled for 30 years cannot be fixed in 19 months,” Pistorius admitted in the fresh remarks. But he still pushed back against the critics:

Pistorius rejected accusations that the federal government was too slow to react to the so-called turning point. He stressed that not only had a €100 billion special fund for the Bundeswehr been set up, but that state bodies had also been changed.

Germany has meanwhile been among those western powers which see conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe as related, with Russia being a prime bad actor exacerbating tensions (the Kremlin has in turn said the same thing about the West, and the US in particular). 

On Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg claimed that President Vladimir Putin is taking joy in the crisis in the Middle East. “We can see that the Russian president is certainly happy, given the situation in the Middle East. That is why we are looking at Ukraine even more closely than we have done in the past,” she said.

Zelensky too has expressed increased concern that world powers have taken their eye off the ball as they focus on events in Gaza. But Defense Minister Pistorius has along with Baerbock sought to assure the Ukrainians that Berlin will not lessen its support to Kiev based on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Meanwhile, Germany’s new ‘turn’ toward rebuilding its military could helping drive new populist politicians’ efforts at curtailing this new expanse of Berlin’s reviving military-industrial complex

Wagenknecht’s politics clearly resonate with the German public. A recent survey of German voters found that 14% would vote for a Wagenknecht party, putting it just one point behind the governing Social Democrats (SPD) and two points ahead of the Green party. It speaks to the breadth of Wagenknecht’s coalition that, if initial polls are to be believed, she would take votes not only from her own former political home, but also from the centre-right CDU, the left-leaning Greens and the pro-business FDP. Most of all, though, Wagenknecht is trying to appeal to a section of AfD voters. Much of the party’s success in recent elections, she claims, comes from Germans who “don’t vote for the AfD because they’re rightwing. They vote for the AfD because they’re angry.” Wagenknecht’s attempts to siphon off the AfD’s protest voters currently seems like the only viable plan to mitigate the far-right party’s electoral success.

Far left and far right movements in Germany, and broadly in Europe remain distrustful of increased military spending, especially accompanied by politicians’ pleas for society to “prepare for war” – while silencing voices which seek ceasefire and a diplomatic offramp. 

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