Inertia and Reactiveness in Germany's Russia Policy

From the 2021 Federal Election to the Invasion of Ukraine in 2022

in German Politics and Society
Jonas J. Driedger Researcher, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

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Despite signs that Russia was preparing an invasion of Ukraine, the newly elected German government stayed with pre-existing approaches that involved engagement and the threat of limited sanctions. However, in February 2022, just before the invasion began, Germany blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system, announced weapon deliveries to Ukraine, and massively increased defense spending. This article shows that inertia and reactiveness heavily influenced the timing, nature, and extent of this massive shift in Germany's Russia policy. German leaders continued the existing policy in part because it had been formed by still influential figures and was in line with societal views. However, at the dawn of the invasion, the failure of previous policies had become undeniable, pressure from Ukraine and nato allies peaked, and societal views finally shifted. Reacting to this untenable situation, key figures in the German elite pushed through a series of measures that nato allies and Ukraine had long demanded.

Contributor Notes

Jonas J. Driedger is a Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (prif-hsfk). Previously, he was a daad Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (sais), Johns Hopkins University. Before joining sais, he was an Officer for Security Policy at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics. From 2018 to 2019, he was a Visiting Scholar and Alfa Fellow at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He earned his PhD from the European University Institute in 2020 and in that year was a Research Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (aicgs) in Washington, dc.

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