Analysing international policy processes and Lithuania’s role in them
Events Feb 22, 2023

Discussion “What does Zeitenwende mean for NATO’s Eastern Flank?”

The Eastern Europe Studies Centre, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, hosted the discussion “What does Zeitenwende mean for NATO’s Eastern Flank?”, which mainly focused on the changes in Germany’s foreign and security policy since 24 February 2022. The event was attended by Nico Lange, Senior Fellow at the Munich Security Conference, and Margarita Šešelgytė, Director at the VU TSPMI.

As Nico Lange pointed out at the beginning of the discussion, he was really surprised by some of the discussions at the Munich Security Conference. “Some politicians are still unclear about the themes shaping the battlefield in Ukraine. Ukrainians understand this too. We [Germany] have decided to supply arms to Ukraine during the invasion. In February 2022, Olaf Scholz gave a speech that is now considered historic. It defined the position of an isolated Germany and marked the turning point for the political situation to return to German hands. So, what Olaf Scholz said was a moving speech, a historic turning point in German politics,” Mr. Lange stated.

On the situation in Ukraine, Mr. Lange wondered why there is still no rush to provide military support to a country suffering from aggression. “Why are we still operating in this reactive mode? We do very little, then we wait to see what Russia will do and then we do something more. But unfortunately, we just react. Ukraine needs a mechanized force to break through in the south. They also need air support to move Russians out of the country. Therefore, we must not wait to see what Russia does, we must take over the timeline and schedule and act first. I hope that moving forward to the Vilnius Summit, which will be one of the most significant events, we must proceed with these discussions.

Mr. Lange also pointed out that Russia is perceived as a threat in Germany, and that Russian cyber-attacks occur almost every day. “When it comes to the overall population, my impression is that much has changed over the last years. However, there is a question if the policy makers are using this as a momentum for a change, or are they only increasing the fear. There is no clear leadership, that is using this momentum. Germany has a cultural peculiarity, that many people don’t understand that one has to fight for its freedom. It’s not a collective experience, it’s not comprehensive that people must die for their freedom. During our history, many times we were just given our freedom. However, there is a big issue,” Mr. Lange noted.

He pointed out that, in Germany, there are more people in favour of supporting Ukraine in the face of war than against it: “Those who are opposed are a complete minority. Media makes them seem like a big deal. However, they are the minority. A large part of these people are the same people, who went against vaccines. But over 85 % of Germans are still vaccinated.”