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Can Germany be a great military power again?

Can Germany be a great military power again? When Russia ann
exed Crimea in 2014, German military planners began to consider the sudden possibility of a large land war in Europe — one that would require German soldiers to defend European territory. Those fears have grown more acute, resulting, last year, in the announcement of plans for the largest jump in German military spending since World War II. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, skepticism of the merits of militarystrength had enabled a long post-Cold War process of disarmament in Germany. Now, German leaders are vowing to transform the country into a military power capable of taking responsibility for Europe’s security. But German society, in which the country’s Nazi past looms large, remains hesitant. The fact that German soldiers have repeatedly been implicated in high-profile cases of right-wing extremism has not helped ease this discomfort. Russian propagandists were clearly trying to hit a nerve when they responded to Germany’s current plans by suggesting that the country was returning to Nazism. Every recent U.S. administration tried, and mostly failed, to get the Germans and other European allies to strengthen their militaries and meet the NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, a goal Germany has long undershot.

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