Foreign Policy Research Institute

+38 (044) 287 52 58

Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

Steinmeier’s enlightenment

Photo: President of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chernihiv region
Source: Ukrinform

The question of rebuilding Ukraine arose in the early stages of the Russian full-scale invasion, when it became clear that Russia would not achieve the goal of a "successful" blitzkrieg with the capture of Kyiv. This idea received its continuation and conceptualization. Several forums on the reconstruction of Ukraine have already been held, in particular in The Hague, Lugano and Berlin. In contrast to the issue of arms assistance, which is coordinated within the specially created coalition "Rammstein", in the issue of economic assistance and reconstruction, systematic coordination has not yet taken place. Ideas are still being heard, individual initiatives are being proposed and implemented by individual partners: the USA, Great Britain, within the EU and the G7. Now Germany has taken the initiative at the Berlin forum which was announced in the summer.

After the full-scale invasion, Germany faced devastating criticism for its passive and aloof policy from Ukraine and other partners, especially Poland. In response, Germany even published a list of all aid provided to demonstrate the extent of its involvement. Despite the criticism, in economic terms, the state is indeed one of the leaders in aid to Ukraine. Nevertheless, the country is the leader of the European Union, and therefore Berlin is expected to take even more decisive steps in the matter of aid and countering Russian aggression. German politicians are beginning to realize this and, as President Steinmeier noted in his recent speech, "Germans will have to get used to the fact that a country like Germany will be criticized... We are one of the largest states in Europe. Therefore, we are expected to lead in the interests of Europe."

It is worth noting that criticism of Germany is more than justified. The country's government provided aid with a long delay at a time when Ukraine most needed military aid. Yes, the bureaucratic mechanism in such a stable democracy as Germany can delay processes, however, this has not become a problem for countries such as Great Britain or the USA. Germany is one of the largest financial donors to Ukraine, and economic aid is a direction where the German government and society do not need to overcome the sentiments associated with the provision of weapons. Here, it is easier for Germany to show leadership, which is needed not only by Ukraine, but also by the EU leader, because Berlin's position affects the perception of the country by its allies.

At the forum in Berlin, Olaf Scholz ambitiously stated that Ukraine needs a new Marshall Plan. At the same time, the chancellor links the reconstruction of Ukraine with Ukraine's potential membership in the EU, which is an important signal for Ukraine. First of all, the position of the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the reconstruction of Ukraine, the readiness of the state to actively participate in this proces, is fixed. Secondly, Berlin has again confirmed the change in its position regarding future EU membership. Previously, the state was considered a supporter of the accession of the Balkan countries and a skeptic of Ukrainian European integration.

At the forum in Berlin, a fundamental decision was made to create a Financial Coordination Platform. According to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, this is actually a financial analogue of the security Rammstein. The platform will operate in the format of meetings of representatives of Ukraine, the EU, G7 countries and international financial organizations. Currently, the G7 is chaired by Germany.

In addition to economic support, Germany intends to continue and, quite possibly, increase its military aid. As of October 25, Germany's military aid amounted to 1.48 billion euros. At a conference in Berlin, Olaf Scholz emphasized Germany's desire to continue supplying Ukraine with weapons, including air defense systems, as long as they are needed. "The best reconstruction is the one that shouldn't happen at all, because Ukrainian cities and power plants are protected from Russian bombs, drones and missiles." The first such system, Iris-T already protects the sky over Kyiv. The efficiency of this installation is really high, Iris-T, according to Denys Shmyhal, shoots down 9 out of 10 missiles. In the future, Ukraine will receive 3 more such complexes. However, Germany still does not supply Leopard tanks and Marder BMPs to Ukraine. After all, in the future, within a few months, Vladimir Putin will mobilize several hundreds of thousands of Russian military personnel. Indeed, newly formed units will have relatively low morale and training. However, the number is a factor that already restrains the offensive actions of the Defense Forces of Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine's partners, especially a country like Germany, need to finally change their approach to the Russian-Ukrainian war and not to wait for the situation at the front to deteriorate, but to supply the latest weapons today.

It is worth noting several positive aspects that embody optimism regarding further German-Ukrainian cooperation. First, German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht demand from Finance Minister Christian Lindner to provide more money for military support to Ukraine for 2023: 2.2 billion euros, instead of the planned 697 million. Second, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who previously advocated peace on Russian terms, in his address to the nation acknowledged the mistakes of the past and tried to prepare German society for serious changes in the policy of Germany.

He noted that difficult years are coming, an era is beginning for Germany, in which Germans must bravely face the headwinds. Steinmeier's rhetoric has evolved. The German president is no longer talking about pacifying the aggressor, because even Russia's liberal partners, after all the crimes of the Russian army and the destruction of the Ukrainian energy system, began to understand that it is impossible to come to an agreement with Putin. "We must learn to resolve conflicts, both internal and external. We need the will to assert ourselves, as well as the strength to accept sacrifices at times. What we need is not a mindset of war, but resilience and a spirit of resistance. This includes, first of all, a strong and well-equipped armed forces, the Bundeswehr... I assure our partners that Germany is aware of its responsibility in NATO and in the EU... German society needs a strong Bundeswehr - but the Bundeswehr also needs a society that supports it!” - the President of Germany said.

Frank Walter Steinmeier calls for German leadership, moves away from the neoliberal paradigm and looks at international relations from the perspective of realism. He directly speaks about the confrontation with the Russian Federation, a country that until now had a positive image among certain layer of the population: "When we look at today's Russia, there is no place for old dreams. Now our countries are opposing each other... What Russia is doing is an attack on everything that we Germans stand for. The one who shrugs his shoulders and asks, "What does this war have to do with us Germans?" - has neither a sense of responsibility nor a sense of history. Therefore, we support Ukraine and will do so as long as necessary."

Such processes, the change in the rhetoric of German high-ranking officials are definitely favorable developments for Ukraine. They testify to changes in the perception of the elites of the Federal Republic of Germany of the processes taking place on the continent in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war. This creates confidence in the continuation of cooperation between Ukraine and Germany in the context of military and economic support. Walter Steinmeier's speech, which took place after a trip to Ukraine and several hours in a shelter in Chernihiv Oblast, is a signal to the German people that should influence the worldview of Germans in the face of drastic changes on the European continent and in the world as a whole. It is likely that it will also affect Steinmeier's fellow party member, the current chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Thus, at an important moment of the Russian-Ukrainian war before the beginning of winter, a consensus is being formed in Germany regarding further support for Ukraine, however, the question of increasing military aid and the transfer of equipment necessary for the liberation of the entire territory of Ukraine remains.

1. The Federal Government, Military support for Ukraine,
2. "Для Німеччини це нова епоха": історична промова Штайнмаєра про війну та зміну ставлення до РФ, 28.10.2022,