Post-Cold War Germany steadily reduced the size of its army from around 500,000 troops at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000. Its military spending has for decades been notoriously cautious – until Berlin’s approach abruptly changed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Days after the start of the full-scale war, Mr Scholz announced a €100billion ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding – none of which is directly linked to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine.
He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence as well as boosting its high-readiness forces from the current 40,000 to more than 300,000 troops.
This followed years of criticism from close allies that the Bundeswehr was falling short of contributing enough to the Alliance.
In an interview on public television ARD after the G7 group of the world’s richest nations met in Bavaria, the Chancellor said Germany, alongside the United Stared, made “certainly the largest contribution” to the North Atlantic Alliance.
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He said: “The largest conventional army in Europe within the framework of NATO is being built, and this is important for the defence capacity of NATO as a whole.”
The G7 summit saw Mr Scholz discuss the Ukraine crisis — among other key issues — with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the US and also the European Union from Sunday to Tuesday.
The Social Democratic leader, hosting the summit, stressed the need for G7 economies to “stand together and support the Ukrainians in defending their country”.
He admitted that “all G7 countries are concerned about the crises we are currently facing” but, in a more hopeful tone, added: “I am very, very, very confident that we will succeed in sending a very clear signal of unity and decisive action from this summit.”
From the Alps, Mr Scholz and his counterparts travelled to Madrid, where a NATO summit is taking place from Tuesday to Thursday.
As he arrived for the second day of talks on Wednesday, the Chancellor told reporters allies will continue to supply Kyiv with arms in the war against Moscow for as long as necessary.
He said: “It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself – by providing financial means, humanitarian aid but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs.
“The message is: We will continue to do so — and to do this intensively — for as long as it is necessary to enable Ukraine to defend itself.”
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His remarks followed a shipment of self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine earlier this month in the first delivery of heavy weapons by Berlin since the start of the conflict four months ago.
The German government vowed to supply the war-torn nation with seven self-propelled howitzers back in May, adding to five such artillery systems the Netherlands had already promised.
Although the shipment falls short of fulfilling Ukraine’s needs — Kyiv has previously said it needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones to repel Russian troops — Germany’s contribution was received with praise.
The Panzerhaubitze 2000, one of the most powerful artillery weapons in German Army inventories, can hit targets at a distance of 40 kilometres (25 miles).
Other countries that have supplied Ukraine with self-propelled and towed howitzers include the United Kingdom, US, France, Norway and Poland.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told NATO leaders that Ukraine needs modern weapons and more financial aid in its fight.
Speaking via video link, he said: “We need to break the Russian artillery advantage… We need much more modern systems, modern artillery.”
Mr Zelensky added that financial support was “no less important than aid with weapons”.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega