BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The Ukraine war is permanently changing global security infrastructure.
The most obvious change is the awakening of the “sleeping giant,” Germany. After the Second World War, Germany transferred defense spending to industry and therefore turned into an economic giant. Now it is moving to a new security-oriented policy.
The Germans use the expression “zeitenwende” to describe this great change. It means “turning point.”
The exact starting point of this Zeitenwende was the speech of German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz before the German Parliament on February 26. In this speech, Scholtz announced that he had allocated an additional defense budget of 100 billion Euros in defense expenditures put into Germany’s budget.
That’s not all; In Scholtz’s speech, it was announced that the defense budget, which is currently 1.5 percent of Germany’s general budget, will be increased to over 2 percent annually. This shows that every year Germany will allocate an additional 50 billion Euros to defense.
This is a huge policy change for the German government, which in the first days of the Ukrainian war refused to send German-made weapons to this country, and announced that it would only “send helmets” to the Ukrainian people. This was the subject of much criticism and mockery.
BUT, WHERE TO SPEND?
The question of how the additional defense budget of 100 billion Euros will be spent will be an indicator of where Germany hopes to stand in world geopolitics. Which weapon systems will Germany buy? Will the new systems be offensive or defensive? In this respect, there is a serious difference between buying new warships that will strengthen the German navy or new warplanes that will strengthen the aircraft fleet, and establishing a “defense missile umbrella” that will protect the country against a possible missile attack.
The first – but not yet fully confirmed – indicators show that the German government has started negotiations with Israel to buy defense missiles. However, information has also been leaked indicating that Berlin may spend the additional budget to participate in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, which it was not previously involved in.
What Germany will do is not only about the European continent or NATO, but the whole world.
IS THERE ZEITENWENDE IN RELATIONS WITH TURKEY?
It is inevitable that this transformation of Germany in the field of defense will also affect its relations with Turkey.
The end of the Merkel era and the new coalition coming to power brings with it elements that will ease Germany’s hand in foreign policy and provide flexibility to the new government.
For example, it would have been politically more difficult for Merkel to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that will carry natural gas from Russia to Germany – she signed off on it at almost every stage. However, the new government decided to do this in one fell swoop, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Chancellor Scholtz’s decisions, which will change Germany’s stance in world security policies, should also be read from this perspective. These are the first signs that we will be see a Germany that holds a world-oriented security policy, not a Europe-oriented one.
It is inevitable that this situation will have consequences for Turkey, which the West generally prefers to evaluate within the scope of security. During the Merkel era, the paradigm of the refugee and financial relationship between Germany and Turkey had already begun to change.
The most concrete example of this is that the situation in Ukraine, not the situation of Syrian refugees, was the main agenda item during German Chancellor Scholtz’s visit to Ankara. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that Europeans now have a “Millions of Ukrainians who took refuge in Europe” card that they can use against Turkey’s demands for recompense for Syrians.
EU MEMBERSHIP NOW AT TOP OF AGENDA IN ANKARA
The end of the Merkel era and the coming to power of the Scholtz-led coalition may also directly affect Turkey’s EU membership process.
Although Merkel never directly opposed Turkey’s EU membership process in accordance with the principles of pacta sund servanda and ahde fidelity, the policies followed by Germany and France have made excluded Turkey from the alliance while maintaining a partnership with the strategically located country. The Christian Democrats, Merkel’s party, were public about their view that a muslim country could not be part of the European geography.
However, the Social democratic/green/ liberal coalition in Germany does not hold this view. Both the social democrats and the greens approach Turkey’s membership not on the basis of cultural differences, but on democratic and human values. Liberals focus more on the economy.
This means that the ball is in Ankara’s court for EU membership.
If Turkey can make serious progress on issues such as democracy and human rights, on which it has been backsliding for a long time, it may actually be possible to reopen the path to EU membership.
Moreover, in the climate of security created by the Ukraine war, it would be much easier for Turkey, which has turned its orientation towards democracy, to integrate with the West.
However, it is obvious that for this to happen, a very serious mentality change is required in Ankara.