Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 20 November 2023

Zeitenwende: German Foreign Policy Change in the Wake of Russia's War Against Ukraine

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Abstract:  Russia’s war against Ukraine has severely damaged the European security architecture. This article examines the consequences of this rupture for German foreign and security policy. Just a few months before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Germany saw the transition to an unprecedented three-party coalition government of Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberals. In a special address to the Bundestag three days after the invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz described Russia’s war initiation as a historical Zeitenwende (“watershed”) that called into question long-held beliefs about European security. In the wake of this, Scholz proclaimed far-reaching changes, including the announcement that military expenditure would be drastically increased, additional military capabilities would be procured, and new deployments would be committed to NATO’s eastern flank. This article argues that the Zeitenwende amounts to an international orientation change in German foreign and security policy. Apart from identifying areas of significant change, the article also documents political contestation over the Zeitenwende’s nature and extent as well as gaps between proclaimed changes and actual implementation.

Keywords:  arms exports; defense procurement; foreign policy change; international security; party politics; political contestation; security policy

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   From Kabul to Kyiv: The Crisis of Liberal Interventionism and the Return of War (Forthcoming)


© Patrick A. Mello. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.