BERLIN: Germany will strengthen its military to make it the backbone of deterrence and collective defence in Europe, its defence minister pledged on Thursday as Berlin issued new defence policy guidelines for the first time in over a decade.
The 19-page document details what the "Zeitenwende" - the major shift of policy German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 - means for the workings of the Bundeswehr.
As a first step to bring the military back up to scratch after decades of attrition following the Cold War, Germany last year set up a 100 billion-euro special fund to purchase modern weapons and pledged to reach NATO's target of spending at least 2% of the national GDP on defence from 2024.
"With the Zeitenwende, Germany becomes a grown up country in terms of security policy," Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said as he presented the guidelines, the first since 2011 when Berlin suspended conscription.
He called the document Berlin's response to a new reality as Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 had brought back war to Europe and raised the level of threat, thereby fundamentally changing the role of Germany and the Bundeswehr.
"As the most populous and an economically strong country at the heart of Europe, Germany must be the backbone of deterrence and collective defence in Europe," Pistorius said.
German forces needed to be refocused on their core mission -the credible defence of Germany and its allies - and be "ready to fight a war", he said.
Pistorius conceded that the turnaround would take time and the Bundeswehr would still be forced to prioritise for the foreseeable future after "decades of neglect" in which necessary military structures and capabilities had been given up.
But he cited Berlin's pledge to permanently deploy a combat brigade to Lithuania, a first for Germany, as a beacon of the Zeitenwende project and proof that his country was stepping up to its new role.
Just like Germany, as a frontline country in the Cold War, had benefited from the deployment of allied troops, Germany's partners now expected Berlin to live up to its responsibility and exercise leadership, Pistorius wrote in an editorial for the daily Tagesspiegel.