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Issue #76

Issue #76

Guten Morgen!

The Krautshell family is growing! This week we’re delighted to announce that starting today, Dr. Steven E. Sokol, President of the American Council on Germany, will contribute a (Guest) House’s View once a Month. Take a look below to read his take on Germany’s sudden shift in defense policy. Also, the war has put Germany’s energy policy on its head, the EU is preparing for the next pandemic with six billion euros, and Anna gives a glimpse into the solidarity taking place in Europe in her WOOM. We hope you enjoy this weekend’s Krautshell and have a great start to your weekend!



Anna                                Christian


Putin’s War from the Eastern Perspective

War is right on our doorstep, and no one is more aware of this than citizens of Eastern European countries. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on. First, former Estonian President Toomas Ilves lamented the West for not having taken the Russian threat seriously enough, exclaiming, “This past week marks the end of a 30-year-long error that we can all come together and sing kumbaya.”

Meanwhile, Poland seems to have turned its recent negative media reputation around in the timespan of one week. Poles, many of which are all too familiar with Russian aggression first-hand, have opened their homes to hundreds of thousands of fleeing Ukrainians (see WOOM below). Also, President Duda (right-wing populist party), in a move to call for national unity, vetoed a controversial education bill to avoid further internal divisions and allow the country to focus on national security. The Polish government has also played an instrumental role in sending weapons and supplies to Ukrainians in combat, which is where the Hungarian government has drawn the line. While President Viktor Orban’s government, which has maintained close ties to Russia over the years, joined other EU countries in condemning Putin’s invasion and imposing sanctions, delivery of weapons was not something they could get on board with. In fact, Hungary will not allow weapons destined to Ukraine to pass through its territory for fears about its own security.

Finally, lightning round time: Bulgaria, usually quite Russia-friendly, saw its defense minister fired for calling the war a “special military operation.” Serbia, who traditionally sees Russia as its “defender,” condemned the Russian attack in the UN resolution, but refused to support sanctions. And lastly, Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic and previous Kremlin ally, admitted he was wrong to defend Putin’s Russia over the past few weeks. I swear, I held my breath while writing all of that.


Can You Feel It? Can You Feel The Winds of Change?

The last days didn’t just mark a Zeitenwende (“turning point”) in Germany’s security policy (see Steven’s Guest House’s View below). We are also witnessing decisive times for Germany’s energy policy. We have officially decided that energy policy is part of our security policy, and it seems like “energy sovereignty” will become a buzzword for the 20s alongside “digital sovereignty”. A remarkable shift here can be seen with Federal Minister for Economics and Climate Protection Robert Habeck (Greens). The Vice-Chancellor and former head of the climate protection party “The Greens” officially announced there will be no more “restrictions of thought” (always good in a democracy). To moderate the ramifications of the German energy dependence on Russia (55% of gas imports, 50% of coal imports, but we can’t completely stop importing), Habeck announced the import of more liquified natural gas (LNG), increase storage from gas and coal energy, and even consider relying on coal reserve capacities. To put this into perspective: for the Greens this is the equivalent of Donald Trump swearing his allegiance to CNN.

Of course, Habeck didn’t change his ideology about saving the climate and sticking to the Paris Agreement. But he sees that we also need short-term measures to decrease our heavy dependency from Russia. However, Habeck makes clear that we should not mistake fossil energies as the solution to this problem. The only medium- to long-term solution for Germany can be to heavily expand its renewable energy capacities. Shifting the dependency by transitioning towards other exporters of fossil fuels isn’t solving any long-term energy sovereignty problem. Even our Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), who was always skeptical about the Greens’ ideas for the energy transition, gave a speech in the parliament last Sunday where he called renewable energy “freedom energy”. Time to make this work.


Rapid Health Responses and Power Struggles

For the greater public, a pandemic that shut down the entire world was shocking, but individuals at the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) pretty much reacted like this (for those of you who don’t want to click: basically, they were ready to go). BARDA, founded in 2006, is tasked with funding the development of vaccines and other types of medical countermeasures (MCMs) against a wide array of particularly dangerous health threats. Kind of like if you gave doomsday preppers an official government title.

Now, as a response to the pandemic, the EU has followed the US’s example and set up the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA). The agency, working under the Commission, has a budget of 1.3 billion euros for 2022, 300 million of which will go towards research and development (R&D) in innovative technologies against all kinds of emerging threats. Overall, the European budget has allocated six billion euros for HERA over five years. The idea is to work closely together with private industry to jointly develop medical response solutions, and help alleviate some of the financial burden and risk often associated with medical R&D. Now, that we have the business part out of the way, here’s a bit of internal gossip for you: the European Parliament (EP) is PISSED that HERA exists. Not because Parliamentarians don’t think it’s useful, but because the Commission established HERA without any involvement or go-ahead from the Parliament. Essentially, the Commission told the EP: “We’ll let you know how it’s going in 2025, but until then, stay out of it.” If you want to read the full parliamentary rant, take a look here.



by Dr. Steven E. Sokol, President, American Council on Germany

From Helmets to Hardware: Germany’s Major Policy Pivot                    

What just happened?

In the weeks leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s reliability as a partner was called into question – and the pledge of 5000 helmets to support Ukraine was met with ridicule. But, after Russia’s invasion last week, there has been a tectonic shift in Germany’s foreign and defense policy in the space of just a few days. First, Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted Nord Stream 2 (probably for good). Shortly thereafter, the German government announced that it would provide weapons to Ukraine. And last Sunday Chancellor Scholz spoke before a special session of the Bundestag and committed to delivering weapons to Ukraine, increasing Germany’s defense spending to 2 percent of GDP, procuring dual purpose aircraft and drones as part of a €100 billion investment in the Bundeswehr, and also reducing Germany’s dependence on Russian oil and gas.

After decades of refusing to export weapons to conflict zones, the German government has already sent 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to the Ukraine, with another 2,700 Strela anti-aircraft missiles on the way (as of Thursday, March 3rd). It has also authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers. These lethal weapons are to be delivered immediately – and Berlin’s reversal could mean a rapid increase in European military assistance for Ukraine, since large portions of the Continent’s weapons and ammunition are at least in part “made in Germany.”


Zeitenwende: Catalyst for Change

Let’s put this in perspective: In 29 minutes, the German Chancellor changed 50 years of German foreign policy and provided a new blueprint for German foreign and security policy. In one speech, he fundamentally shifted traditional positions that have shaped Germany foreign policy for decades. Moving away from the detente of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and Wandel durch Handel (or “change through trade”), Olaf Scholz is showing leadership and taking the country in a new direction.

The guidelines that shaped German foreign policy throughout the second half of the 20th century do not fit with the challenges of the 21st century – and more than 20 years into the new century the Chancellor recognized this. Vladimir Putin’s staged attack on Ukraine provided an external shock for Olaf Scholz to do what his predecessor(s) could – or would – not. This has huge implications for Germany’s role in Europe and on the world stage. “Putin’s war” also underscores that the cooperative order that existed in Europe has now been replaced by a confrontational order of systemic rivalry, once again pitting East against West.

The war in Ukraine was clearly a catalyst for Berlin’s policy shift. This will also require a massive change in Germany’s mindset – one that moves from pacifism to an understanding that military power is a tool to maintain peace. German politicians and the German public will need to understand that they live in a world of power politics. It will spark a debate about German defense spending, Germany’s energy mix, and Europe’s security order more broadly. This Zeitenwende – change of era – has just begun and will be a long-term process and transformation that plays out over the next decade, if not longer.


What challenges lie ahead? – The Guest House’s View

Chancellor Scholz’s speech has been met with amazing support and unity within his Social Democratic Party, among his government coalition partners the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats – and even former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), who are now in the opposition.

The question is what will happen when the acute crisis in Ukraine ends, allowing party differences to resurface in the coalition and resulting in the CDU assuming its opposition role. The same holds true for German public opinion. The most recent polls show that 78% of Germans support sending military arms to Ukraine as well as the increase in military spending – unthinkable just one week ago. But what happens when the sanctions imposed on Russia begin to impact the daily life of Germans with increased costs and potential energy shortages?

In the span of three weeks, the Chancellor has gone from “Where’s Olaf?” to showing he is in charge and that his government is ready to lead Germany and Europe. His challenge now will be to continue this leadership to prepare and educate the German public for what is to come in the months and years ahead. The Ukraine crisis was a wake-up call for much-needed change, but the implementation of this new vision will take years of sustained commitment and investment to the world order of 21st century.


  • Nuclear Fire: In the night leading into Friday, Ukrainian and Russian troops were fighting over control of an area that contains the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Saporischschja. The fighting led to the outbreak of a fire, which is now under control again. The reactors seem to still be in tact.
  • Make Peace, Not Parties: Cologne’s usual Carnival festivities on Rose Monday (February 28th) were put on hold, as the city organized a peace demonstration instead. People were still encouraged to wear their colorful costumes, and what a sight it was: over 250,000 people attended in support of the Ukraine.
  • Membership Hail Mary: After the Ukraine submitted an application to join the EU this week, Georgia and Moldova, two former Soviet republics, followed suit. Membership, which usually takes years to approve, is unlikely, but at least it’s worth a shot.


By Anna, Senior Consultant


Over a million people, mostly women and children and the elderly, are fleeing.

Mostly, because men are not allowed the leave the country anymore and have been called to arms to defend their country.

Here is just one of many instances where Europe and the world are showing a degree of unified solidarity I did not think was possible. While Poland leads the way with an unprecedented effort (almost two thirds of the refugees have crossed the Polish border, followed by Moldova and Hungary), many other countries are welcoming the refugees, offering shelter and care.

On a national level, those fleeing are being granted the right of residence without having to go through the asylum procedure and the right to resume work. Industry, like the German Rail, is offering free rides through Germany or donating considerable amounts of money. Also, municipalities and many organizations are preparing themselves for the influx, building shelters and collecting supplies.

And the people themselves. What started and is still going on, with showing solidarity in some of the biggest demonstrations we have seen in recent years, extends to concrete help in the face of refugees actually arriving. People are donating money, clothing, supplies and whatever else is needed. They are organizing buses, picking refugees up from the borders, and renting hotels to accommodate them. They are holding up signs at the main stations, offering free rooms and inviting families to their homes, and doing whatever they can to help.

Right now, I lack the imagination to consider how this conflict can be brought to a speedy end. But the actions of solidarity, compassion and charity, not only in military and economic terms, but human sympathy, give at least a glimpse of hope and something to be grateful for when bracing ourselves for the weeks ahead.