Vladimir Putin hoped to break up the European status quo with his attack on Ukraine. Increasingly, it appears that the chief consequence will be to reinforce it. President Biden may have gaffed his way across Europe last week, but Mr. Putin’s unhinged behavior has removed any doubts European policy makers may have had about the value of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Worse for Russia, Mr. Putin’s war is making Germany more powerful, more activist and more Atlanticist, a combination likely to support American power and undercut Russian influence in Europe for many years to come.
To describe Germany as a winner in Mr. Putin’s war against Ukraine would go too far. The war upended the assumptions on which German energy and security policy has long rested and forced Germany to make harsh decisions it preferred to avoid. Angela Merkel’s Germany dreamed that its companies could prosper indefinitely while a great green energy transition rippled painlessly through an ever-democratizing, ever-disarming world. Thanks to the war, German business is reassessing its relations with China as well as Russia. The military plans spending increases, and energy policy is shifting from “climate first” to “security first” to reduce dependence on Russian imports.
The consequences of these changes for Germany’s place in Europe and Europe’s role in the world will be profound. Assuming Berlin follows through with its pledge to raise defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, Germany is on course to become the military as well as economic powerhouse of the European Union. France will remain the only nuclear-armed EU member and will likely remain better placed to engage outside the EU than Germany, but Berlin’s growing conventional military power will inevitably tip the balance further toward Germany in the internal politics of the EU.
Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal