NATO, Germany’s Role and the Russia-Ukraine War

FEATURED RESEARCH PAPER, 12 Feb 2024

Jenny Brömel | University for Peace (UN-Mandated) – TRANSCEND Media Service

A Political Historical Analysis

Short Summary

The first part of this essay deals with NATO and Germany as a member of NATO. The focus is on the history of Germany’s emergence after World War II, as the reunification of Germany in 1990 played a crucial role in the development of today’s NATO and the European security order. The second part takes a closer look at Russia’s and Ukraine’s relations with NATO, explaining here the problem of NATO’s eastward expansion, which Putin continues to cite as a problem and as a legitimization for his attack on Ukraine today. Finally, today’s NATO is examined in more detail, especially in the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as Germany’s wait-and-see role, which can be described as rather hesitant in NATO with regard to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Carlos Latuff – (Source: Vargas, 2015)

1. Introduction

“On 24 February 2022, Russia committed the ‘breach of civilisation’. It invaded its neighbouring country” (Schwung & Setzer, 2023). The attack was preceded by a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early hours of the morning in which he “recalls the invasion of Nazi Germany in 1941 {and openly threatens} any state that wants to interfere in the conflict with nuclear weapons” (Kleinezeitung.at, 2022; ZEIT ONLINE, dpa, cth, 2022). And although Putin, during an inaugural visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Moscow just a few days before, credibly stated that he did not want war (Ganslmeier, 2022; STERN/yks/dpa, 2022), he described the invasion of Russian troops on the evening of 24 February 2022 as a “necessary measure” (Kleinezeitung.at, 2022). The unimaginable seemed to become reality: “That contrary to all rules of international law, one country invades another in the middle of Europe” (von Lüpke, 2023).

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of starting a war that disturbed peace on the continent and called the invasion a “brutal act of war” (Tagesschau.Verteidigungspläne, 2022). The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Selenskyj, declares a state of war (Tagesschau.Kriegsbeginn, 2022). Chancellor Scholz calls the attack a breach of international law and a war of aggression, which marks “a turning point in the history of our continent” (Scholz, 2022). “With the invasion of Ukraine, Putin not only wants to wipe an independent country off the world map. He is shattering the European security order as it existed for almost half a century well before the Helsinki Final Act” (Bundesregierung.Unterstützung, 2023).

18 months have passed since the beginning of the war and Russia once again launches a heavy missile attack against Ukraine (Barth, 2023). Not only did this one set off air alarms throughout the country, but according to the military administration in Kiev, it was the “largest missile and drone strike on the city since the spring” (Barth, 2023). Once again, the question arises, how long might the war last, how long will Russia hold out? The intelligence services in Kiev believe that Russia can hold out this war of aggression for another year at most and are optimistic, especially since Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been increasingly successful for three months (Menzel, 2023). At the same time, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg warns in an interview with the German ‘Media Funke Gruppe’ that “most wars last longer than expected when they first begin …. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine” (Shulzhenko, 2023). And Lithuanian intelligence had also predicted in the spring of 2023 that Russia would be able to “wage war with the same intensity as today” for another two years based on available resources (Wetzel et al., 2023).

At their July 2023 NATO summit, NATO countries reaffirmed support for their members on Russia’s border with Belarus and Ukraine and announced they had drafted a defense plan against a possible Russian attack. “It is NATO’s first comprehensive defense plan since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact more than 30 years ago” (Riegert, 2023). And Germany again decides on heavy weapons deliveries to Ukraine, this time on the delivery of ‘Taurus’ cruise missiles (Tagesschau.Taurus, 2023). Chancellor Scholz’s main concern is to prevent a further escalation of the situation (Barfuss, 2023), especially since there is growing concern among the population that he will become a party to the conflict after all, even though Scholz gave assurances in March 2022: “We are not part of the military conflict that is taking place there and will not become one” (ZDF/dpa/AFP, 2022).

The purpose of this essay is to provide a brief overview of NATO and the history of the origins of the Federal Republic of Germany, which has long played a decisive role in the conflict between NATO and Russia. In the second part, NATO’s connections to Russia and Ukraine will be explained and, finally, today’s NATO and Germany’s role in NATO in the Russia-Ukraine war will be presented.

 

NATO-Germany Flags

2. NATO, Its Commitments and the Admission of Germany as a Member

“Security in our daily lives is key to our well-being. NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means” (NATO.int.info).

2.1 NATO – A Brief Overview 

NATO means North Atlantic Treaty Organization and stands for “joint cooperation with partners, also for lived multilateralism” (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022) and is an international organisation. It is described by the Federal Government of Germany as “the most important security alliance in the world” (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022) and as a “community of values of free democratic states” (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022). The U.S. Department of Defense sees it as an alliance of diplomacy suitable for confidence building and long-term conflict prevention (Defense.gov). And on NATO’s website, it describes itself as a political and military alliance that cooperates politically on security and defence issues and militarily promotes peaceful dispute resolution, but has the necessary military means at its disposal in the event of a crisis (NATO.int.info; Pötzsch, 2009). Founded in 1949 by the North Atlantic Treaty, “which sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in central and eastern Europe after World War II” (Haglund, 2023).

2.1.1 The NATO Treaty and the Assistance Clause of Art. 5

The North Atlantic Treaty contains various obligations, such as in Art.1 the commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes just mentioned, but is silent on many institutional issues, such as the structure, funding or legal personality and is an example of a rather thin constitution (Cogan et al., 2016, p.946) “This institutional vacuum was subsequently filled in by decisions of the North Atlantic Council and multilateral agreements, as it was clear that NATO would otherwise not be able to perform its functions” (Cogan et al., 2016, p.946). For its part, the organisation does not have sovereign rights. All states remain independent and retain their full sovereignty (Hanke, 2022). It was founded as a purely defensive alliance, which “only supports states against external attacks, but excludes in its statutes the possibility of acting militarily as a first party” (Hery-Moßmann, 2023).

The most important obligation (Cogan et al, 2016, p.946), the principle of collective defence (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022), is found in Article 5, according to which member states undertake “to consider an armed attack against one or more of them as an armed attack against them all and assist each other if this occurs” (Cogan et al, 2016, p.946). This assistance clause derives from the right to self-defense in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and includes any action that member states deem necessary (JuraForum.de-Redaktion, 2022), including the use of armed force (Varwick, 2015). “Each {member} country must fulfil its obligations to assist, but may also do so, for example, in the form of providing medics or other civilian measures” (Hery-Moßmann, 2023). Such an “alliance case must be decided unanimously politically” (Riegert, 2022).

 2.1.2 Membership and Financing

Since the admission of Finland in April 2023, the alliance has 31 member states (NATO.int.info). “Membership in an international organization is determined by its constitutive treaty or convention, which sets out the criteria for membership and the procedure that must be followed to obtain it” (Cogan et al., 2016, p.963). The preamble of the Treaty states that all member states, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, have undertaken “to unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security” (NATO.Treaty, 2019).

In NATO, politics ranks above the military (Krol, 2023) and the supreme political body is the North Atlantic Council (Pötzsch, 2009). Each member country has a seat on the Council (NATO.int.info) and the consensus principle applies, i.e. “all must agree” (Krol, 2023). Insofar as the “implementation of political decisions has military implications” (NATO.int.info), the various military bodies become active. In addition, NATO has a program called the ‘Membership Action Plan (MAP)’, which helps countries prepare for NATO membership through advice and practical application, but does not guarantee admission (Cogan et al., 2016, p.967; NATO.int.info ).

“Most of international organizations cover their expenses with contributions from their member states, which are legally obliged to pay some sort of such contribution or fee” (Faix, 2012, p.113). In NATO, each member state contributes to missions and operations, for example, in the form of providing combat aircraft or equipment and task forces, as well as the costs of running the Alliance (NATO.10things, 2023). In addition, countries provide funds to cover facilities costs, personnel costs and all related costs (NATO.10things, 2023). At the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO countries committed to investing more and better in their defence by spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024, and 20% of that on major equipment (NATO.10things, 2023). “If they fail to do so, Washington has threatened {2018} to withdraw its full commitment to the alliance” (Sanders IV, 2018), although termination of the treaty would be permissible under the conditions of Article 13 (NATO.Treaty, 2019).

2.2  Germany Becomes a NATO Member

“The alliance, founded at the time by the USA, Canada and ten European states, was originally only supposed to exist for 20 years. However, because of the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty was extended indefinitely in 1969 – and continues to the present day” (Hanke, 2022).

2.2.1 The Founding of Germany and NATO Membership 1955

On 08 May 1945, the Second World War in Europe ends with the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht (BpB.Besatzungsstatut, 2019). National Socialist Germany is divided into four occupation zones under the victorious powers, and tensions between the great powers of the USA and the then Soviet Union repeatedly arise in the aftermath. The ‘Cold War’ developed, which was to divide the world into a Western and Eastern bloc and also led to the division of Germany in 1949 (Benz, 2005; Loth, 2005).

The two new German states emerged: the German Democratic Republic (GDR – also called East Germany) (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015), which emerged from the Soviet occupation zone (Otto, 2021), and the Federal Republic of Germany, also called West Germany (NATO.Germany), on the territory of the Western Allies. The Allies retained sovereignty in foreign policy, which is why West Germany had only limited sovereignty. “In addition, Germany had been demilitarized in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement” (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). This period also saw “the first wave of regionalism” (Cogan et al., 2016, p.118) and the establishment of several regional … and security organizations such as NATO (Cogan et al., 2016, p.118). The aim of NATO in 1949 was to provide a “deterrent to the threat of Soviet expansion in Europe after World War II” (Mudge, 2023), while also serving as an “tool to prevent the resurgence of nationalist tendencies in Europe and to foster political integration on the continent” (Mudge, 2023).

In 1954, the then Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Konrad Adenauer, signed the Paris Treaties, which came into force on 05 May 1955, despite political protests. Occupation status was lifted on the premise of maintaining Allied emergency rights and the continued presence of military groups, paving the way for rearmament and admission to NATO. (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). Before joining NATO, however, West Germany had to declare “to renounce any forcible restoration of German unity and the construction of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons” (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015).

West Germany joins NATO on 06.05.1955 as the 15th member (BMVG.NATO). This was followed by the founding of the Bundeswehr, with all its units being placed under NATO command, and it was to comprise a maximum of 500,000 soldiers (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). In 1956, “the volunteer army became a conscript army, which grew to 495,000 men by the end of the Cold War” (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). The eight Eastern Bloc countries at the time, including the Soviet Union and East Germany (GDR), reacted to the admission of members with their own military alliance (NATO.Germany) and founded the Warsaw Pact on 14 May 1955. This was henceforth dominated by the Soviet Union and, according to Art. 5 of the Warsaw Pact, it was entitled to the ‘United Supreme Command’ (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015).

“For the next 40 years, West Germany was the front line of the Cold War in Europe – hosting NATO troops to deter aggression from the East, contributing one of the largest militaries in the Alliance” (NATO.Germany). “Officially, this ‘war’ was never declared, but that did not diminish its dangerousness: at times, the world moved close to the precipice of nuclear war” (Kampmann, 2020).

2.2.2  Reunification in 1990 and the Problem of NATO Accession

The founding of the GDR and Adenauer’s controversial decision to bind West Germany to NATO and the Allies made the dream of German reunification unattainable (NATO.Germany) and resulted in 1961 in “one of the cruellest acts in Cold War history” (NATO.Germany): the construction of the Berlin Wall, which was erected on the border of East Germany. It tore families and communities apart (NATO.Germany), made travel between the two countries impossible, at least for the people of the GDR, and also separated the city of Berlin into East and West. Moreover, troops of the Soviet Union were stationed in almost all Eastern Bloc countries (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015) and NATO saw more than ever the need for its part to station troops in West Germany and to move “its defences as far to the east in Europe as possible” (NATO.Germany), which in the following years would reach the Berlin Wall, the border with the Soviet Union.

“An era of multinational exercises and forward-deployed military commands ensued” (NATO.Germany), which was to last until the evening of 9 November 1989: the fall of the Berlin Wall. The re-emergence of the question of German unity “depended on whether the four victorious powers of World War II would agree on the alliance membership of the whole of Germany” (Lozo, 2021). At a meeting in January 1990, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, then chairman of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made it clear “that no one should expect a united Germany to join NATO” (Lozo, 2021). The German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and the United States Secretary of State, James Addison Baker III, also agreed in early February 1990 “that there is no intention of extending NATO’s defence area eastwards. This is true, by the way, not only with regard to the GDR […] but it is true in general” (Lozo, 2021).

“On 10 February 1990, Gorbachev received Chancellor Kohl and made the historic promise that the Germans themselves could decide whether they wanted to live in a state or not. He did not attach any conditions to this, but referred to the planned two-plus-four negotiations” (Lozo, 2021), which were to last until June 1990, with the result that “the united Germany would also be allowed to decide alone which alliance it wanted to belong to” (Lozo, 2021). The right to free choice of alliance was already guaranteed to all signatory states in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and West Germany also invoked this concession for the intended reunification of Germany. On 3 October 1990, Germany was reunified on the condition that “no Western troops other than those of the Bundeswehr should be stationed” (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022), which was regulated in the Two-plus-Four Treaty. The countries of the former GDR join the Federal Republic of Germany and become members of NATO (NATO.Germany).

 

3. NATO and Its Relations with Russia and Ukraine

“It all began with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The opening of the borders, first in Hungary, ushered in the end of the Soviet Union. The huge multi-ethnic state disintegrated into its component parts. On August 25, 1991, the process reached Ukraine. In Kiev, people celebrated the results of a referendum in which the population had voted for independence from Moscow by a clear majority of 90 percent. In December of the same year, Ukraine declared itself an independent state. Since then, the conflict with Russia has been simmering” (Dillmann, 2023).

3.1 NATO and the Relationship with Russia

“Beginning in 1989, the democratic upheavals in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall … led to the dissolution of the former ‘Eastern Bloc’ in Central and Eastern Europe, accelerating the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union” (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022). Finally, the Warsaw Pact dissolves in March 1991 (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022) and NATO reaffirms “its readiness for dialogue and emphasizes the inseparable link between the security of Eastern and Central European countries” at a summit in Rome in November 1991 (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022).

3.1.1 NATO’s Eastward Enlargement

“Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary decided to cooperate more closely against the background of the looming dissolution of the Warsaw Pact” (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022) and founded the Visegrád Group in February 1991. Already at that time, the representatives of the states were pushing for NATO accession due to “a lack of confidence in Russia’s lasting political reliability and democratic development” (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022). However, such an (Eastern) enlargement was controversial in the West (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022) and for a long time it was not a topic on the official agenda within NATO, as they were eager to maintain good diplomatic relations with all members of the former Eastern bloc (Arora, 2006, p.108.). Eventually, the Visegrád Group was invited to apply for membership in 1996 (Maitra, 2021, p.39).

In May 1997, the “NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed, in which both Russia and NATO committed themselves to working together for peace on the basis of democracy and cooperative security” (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022) and NATO renounced the stationing of nuclear weapons in newly admitted member countries (BpB.Osterweiterung, 2022). The NATO-Russia Council was created, with the goal of dialogue (NATO.Russia, 2023). The policy of military security in East-Central Europe became the policy of NATO enlargement (Maitra, 2021, p.39) and ultimately, at a summit in July 1997, “the course {was set} for the Alliance to move towards the 21st century” (Maitra, 2021, p.39). Russia would agree to admit the Visegrád Group into NATO, citing the guarantees of the NATO-Russia Act (Maitra, 2021, p.39). In 1999, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined NATO, followed by another eastward expansion in 2004 with the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia (NATO.int.info ).

 3.1.2 The Problem of the “Promise of Non-Enlargement”

When Putin justified the previous annexation of Crimea in 2014, he said the following: “Our colleagues in the West have repeatedly lied to us, made decisions behind our backs, presented us with a fait accompli. This is what happened with NATO’s eastward expansion and the expansion of military facilities on our borders” (Wagner, 2014). Moreover, with this statement Putin “alluded to the thesis of the West’s broken promise not to expand NATO to the east after the reunification of Germany” (Wagner, 2014).

In January 1990, for example, Genscher had ruled out an expansion of NATO territory to the east in his famous ‘Tutzing speech’ (Wagner, 2014), and Baker also made it clear at a meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow in February 1990 that in the event of reunification “NATO’s scope would not shift “one inch” to the east” (Lozo, 2021), “i.e., not even to the GDR” (Lozo, 2021). There was no written assurance. However, the idea of not including the territory of the former GDR in NATO seemed absurd to the then President of the United States, who saw the problem as one of defense. This would jeopardize NATO’s “guarantee of protection for the whole of Germany” (Wagner, 2014), since in the event of an attack the alliance case would not apply.

The ‘two-plus-four negotiations’ followed and Gorbachev finally agreed to Germany’s full membership in NATO in July 1990 (Wagner, 2014). “Both Genscher and Baker later never wanted their remarks of that time to be interpreted as a promise” (Wagner, 2014) and an article in Spiegel in 2009 (Klußmann et al., 2009) discusses that there were very different versions of the remarks, which are evaluated differently and interpreted as assurances by some observers (Wirtschaftsnachrichten, 2021).

3.2  NATO and the Relationship with Ukraine

“Relations between NATO and Ukraine date back to the early 1990s and have since developed into one of the most substantial of NATO’s partnerships” (NATO.Ukraine, 2023). For example, in 1994 Ukraine became a member of the ‘Partnership for Peace’ program, which allowed non-members to engage in military cooperation (NATO.Ukraine, 2023). In 1997, the NATO-Ukraine Commission was established by signing the ‘Charter on a Distinctive Partnership’ (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022). Even then, Ukraine had expressed interest in NATO membership (Bundesregierung.NATO, 2022), with the prospect of joining first raised at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest (Heyde, 2022). Putin criticized these plans, saying, “We consider the arrival of a military bloc on our borders, whose membership obligations include Article 5 {of the NATO Treaty}, a direct threat to the security of our country” (Heyde, 2022).

Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO-Ukraine relations have intensified with NATO providing funds for security apparatus reformation and training of Ukrainian forces. (Börner, 2022) In 2016, the so-called ‘Comprehensive Assistance Package’ was launched, which includes a capability development program and funds in the areas of cyber defense, logistics, and hybrid threat defense (Börner, 2022). In July 2023, at the NATO Summit, the newly formed NATO-Ukraine Council met for the first time with Ukrainian President Selenskyi in attendance, with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg again announcing that Ukraine would become a member of NATO, “only when and on what terms was still the question” (Riegert, 2023). And although Ukraine’s accession to NATO was never consummated (NATO.int.info) and Ukraine was never a member of NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) (NATO.MAP, 2022), NATO countries have been providing Ukraine with security systems and weapons supplies since the outbreak of war in February 2022 (NATO.Ukraine, 2023), albeit very hesitantly.

 

4. NATO in the 21st Century and Germany’s Role in the Russia-Ukraine War

“Today’s NATO does not have too much in common with the NATO that was intended to secure the political status quo in Europe as a purely defensive alliance during the time of the East-West conflict. Although a broader scope of responsibilities was already defined in the NATO Treaty of April 1949, the alliance was for decades a classic, one-dimensional defense alliance” (Varwick, 2015), focusing “more on military crisis management outside the alliance area after the end of the Warsaw Pact. The Ukraine crisis since 2014 is now forcing a reorientation” (Varwick, 2015).

4.1 NATO in the Russia-Ukraine War

Because of the annexation of Crimea and the Russia-Ukraine war, the NATO-Russia Council has been put on hold (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). From NATO’s future strategy published in 2021, the so-called ‘NATO 2030’, it appears that Russia is increasingly perceived as an adversary (Galileo.tv). “In December 2021, Russia approaches NATO with maximum demands, calling for a…halt to NATO’s eastward enlargement,…{the} withdrawal of the United States from Eastern Europe, and …{the} withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Europe” (Schmid, 2022). Russia, as already addressed in point 3.2, had criticized eastward enlargement “from the beginning as a threat to its own security interests” (BpB.NATO-Mitglied, 2015). And, as already addressed in the introduction, Putin had taken up the eastern enlargement again in his speech in February 2022, threatening to use nuclear weapons if he stood by Ukraine. In doing so, he had sent a clear signal to NATO (ZEIT.ONLINE/dpa/cth., 2022).

Since 2014, NATO has been continuously strengthening its forces on its eastern flank in response to the Crimean annexation (Deutschlandfunk.Ukraine-Konflikt, 2014) as part of its ‘NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP)’ (NATO.EFP) and had also been involved in airspace surveillance in the Baltics until the start of the war in 2022 (Galileo.tv). On February 24, 2022, the day of Russia’s attack, “NATO activated defense plans in the eastern area for the first time in its history” (Statista.de, 2022). “Thus, for the first time since 2005, the U.S. deployed more than 100,000 troops in Europe” (Statista.de, 2022). Thereby, the goal of the defense plans is to enable a rapid movement of troops – but not to Ukraine (Tagesschau.Verteidigungspläne, 2022).

4.2 The Hesitant Germany

In the coalition agreement of 2021, the German government recognizes NATO as an “indispensable foundation” (Bundesregierung, Koalitionsvertrag, p.144) of its security and commits itself “to strengthening the transatlantic alliance and sharing the burden fairly” (Bundesregierung, Koalitionsvertrag, p.144). In this context, Germany’s position in NATO differs from that of other countries, which goes back to Germany’s origins and was explained in point 2. Of particular note is that “all armed forces, except territorial defense … are subject to NATO’s integrated command structure” (Pötzsch, 2009) and Germany’s renunciation of the production and acquisition of nuclear weapons (Pötzsch, 2009). And although nuclear weapon freedom was also stated as a goal in the coalition agreement (Bundesregierung, Koalitionsvertrag, p.145), the German government (Roberts, 2021) is still committed to ‘nuclear sharing’, which is highly controversial within Germany in politics and society (Taßler & Stuchlik, 2020; Schuller, 2020; Schmidt, 2021). The concept dates back to the ‘Cold War’ era (Rink, 2015; Stuchlik, 2020) and gives Germany the right to access and drop U.S. nuclear bombs in case of defense (Galileo.tv ).

“Since January 1, 2023, Germany has been the lead nation for the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), the spearhead of the NATO Response Force (NRF) rapid reaction force” (Bundeswehr.de; NATO.NFS, 2022), which is on permanent alert and ready to deploy within 2-7 days to defend the alliance (Bundeswehr.de; Metzger, 2023). However, according to a recent piece by the news magazine ZDF, the Bundeswehr is having difficulty fulfilling its commitments to NATO for the VJTF (Metzger & Reichart, 2023) and admits to a “maintenance backlog of Leopard tanks” (Metzger, 2023), stating that this is now being resolved. And also the German company ‘Rheinmetall-AG’, which is responsible for the military equipment of the VJTF, writes on its website that “the Bundeswehr struggled with bottlenecks for some time – whether material or personnell shortages. As a framework of the nation of the VJTF leadership in 2023, this needs to change” (Rheinmetall.AG, 2020).

And also with regard to arms deliveries to Ukraine, the German government has repeatedly shown restraint for fear of provoking Russia (Küstner, 2022; Metzger & Schröer, 2023), especially since Chancellor Scholz had still emphasized at the beginning of the war that Germany would not become part of the military conflict (ZDF/dpa/AFP, 2022). Thus, in 2022, Germany had not delivered any weapons directly to Ukraine, but had handed over weapons no longer needed from Bundeswehr stocks to European NATO countries, which had been passed on to Ukraine with the permission of the German government on the basis of the “Einverbleibklausel” (Bundesregierung.Unterstützung, 2023). It was not until January 2023 that there was the first, long-discussed promise of a direct arms delivery of tanks and air defense systems (Welt.de, 2023) to Ukraine, which remains highly controversial in German politics and society to this day and was viewed by Russia as crossing a moral line “that the German government should not have crossed” (Metzger & Schröer, 2023), as well as “a further step towards conflict escalation in Ukraine” (Metzger & Schröer, 2023).

Since then, Germany has been supplying battle tanks, air defense systems, and ammunition, and has budgeted financial resources of 5.4 billion euros for 2023 (up from 2 billion euros in 2022), which will be used primarily as military support for Ukraine (Bundesregierung.Unterstützungsleistungen, 2023). This makes Germany the “second largest donor of military aid to Ukraine – after the USA” (Hauck, 2023). And yet, the German government is currently having a hard time deciding regarding the ‘Taurus’ cruise missiles requested by Ukraine in May (Hauck, 2023), because these have a range of 500 km and it “would {be} easily possible to attack targets deep in Russian territory” (Hauck, 2023). It is true that Great Britain and France had already delivered cruise missiles of the type ‘Storm Shadow’ and of the type ‘Scalp’ to Ukraine in May and July, which have a range of 250 km and due to this could definitely be used to reach Russian targets in areas close to the border. However, London and Paris have made it clear “that Ukraine should use the weapons only to defend its own territory” (Hauck, 2023). This is because such an attack on Russian soil could be seen by Putin as an entry into war (Tietz, 2023). And this is what Germany, as a member of NATO, wants to prevent at all costs, whereby the “idea of “caution” is certainly appropriate for Germany, especially with its past as a war maker” (ZDF.Taurus, 2023).

 

5. Conclusion

In 2014, Klaus Naumann, former chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, said in response to the buildup of military forces on its eastern flank: “This is not saber rattling … he cannot imagine a military response to possible Russian action in eastern Ukraine” (Meurer, 2014). And to date, such a NATO military response has failed to materialize in the (wartime) territory of Ukraine, although it is seen to be fulfilling its mission of a defense alliance by increasing forces on its eastern flank and activating its defense plans, especially since national defense has returned to the top of the priority list since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war (Riegert, 2023). And as long as Russia does not attack any of the countries on its eastern flank or possibly launch an attack against Germany because of the promised arms deliveries, it seems that NATO will remain in its defensive role.

As we have seen, the conflict between NATO and Russia is complex and does not begin with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The difficulty of this essay was the reappraisal and condensed presentation of the multidimensional conflict between NATO, Russia and Ukraine, in which Germany and its history after 1945 also playing a crucial role. And although Germany has tended to play a subordinate role in this conflict in recent years, the country is once again moving into the center of attention in 2023, especially with regard to its hesitant stance on arms deliveries.

Ukraine’s prospective accession to NATO is considered more than unlikely due to the Russia-Ukraine war, as no state “may be admitted that is in a conflict situation” (Heyde, 2022), with the NATO summit in July 2023 also affirming that no exact date for membership can be given currently (Riegert, 2023). And since it does not have the military means itself to wage war against the all-powerful Russia, it depends on the arms supplies of NATO countries. “The war in Ukraine, … , is constantly changing European politics” (Michta, 2023) and it appears that “Ukraine has become a pawn between Russia and NATO” (Heyde, 2022). And Germany is in the middle of it.

 

6. References

Arora, C. (2006). Germany’s civilian power diplomacy NATO expansion and the art of communicative action. Palgrave Macmillan.

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______________________________­­­­____

Department of International Law
University for Peace (Established by the UN General Assembly)
Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica

Jenny Brömel holds a Diploma in Law from Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany with a focus on Criminal Sciences. She recently obtained a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University for Peace (UN-Mandated), Costa Rica in association with UNITAR, Switzerland. Her master’s thesis focused on the issue of gender-based violence in the Orinoco mining arc and Venezuela’s responsibility. Jenny is also a trained intercultural mediator. Her research interests include geopolitics, international criminal law, conflict in general and conflict resolution.  Email: jbroemel@master.upeace.org

 

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2 Responses to “NATO, Germany’s Role and the Russia-Ukraine War”

  1. Jenny Brömel is right when she says “On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded its neighbouring country”, but in reality, what looks like and invasion is an escalation of the conflict “started” by Ukraine in 2014. If Ms Brömel is interested, I can send her a long analysis of the history of the area in the last 10 years.

    With regards to what Ms Brömel describes as “NATO military response has failed to materialize”, this is so because she probably thinks NATO is something ‘positive’, when in reality NATO are the most vicious members of the War Club United Nations, the largest and most dangerous mafia in the world.

    But, as all who read me know, I don’t blame a single politician. Only blame MILITARISM. The War industry cannot produce miracles (Peace). It produces wars. We don’t train soldiers to plant landmines, throw grenades, send missiles from tanks, we don’t train seamen to launch torpedoes, we don’t teach helicopter and air-fighter pilots to throw bombs, in order to create a warless world.

    Anybody who believes that Armed Forces and their artillery can produce Peace, probably believes that fish grow on trees and bananas in the ocean.

  2. anaisanesse says:

    Well, plenty of citations but a very warped view leaving out all the main points of NATO anti-peace, anti- cooperation actions. “Russia invading Ukraine” (unprovoked, we are always told!) and a mention of annexation of Crimea (which came AFTER the refusal of the new “government of Ukraine to continue the agreement about Russia’s Black Fleet in Sebastopol to 2042) never considers the 8 years of arming anti-Russian elements in Donbass after the Minsk agreement were circumvented by France and Germany. Pretending that somehow all the USA invasions of so many countries without justifications are normal and defensive when Russia gave clear red lines for its own protection is quite lacking in decency or sense. The whole continuation of NATO when its “enemy- the evil communism!!” was finished in 1990 was anti-peace, and lacked any attempt to understand Russia’s obvious fears of being attacked. The illegal sanctions and vilification of Russia ever since 2014 and the careful explanations to NATO and USA at the end of 2021 show that Russia was indeed correct to fear the NATO encroachment, which continues to cause havoc. Germany in its pandering to the USA is one of the worst offenders and is suffering for it.

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