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Germany Braces for Decades of Confrontation With Russia

WorldGermany Braces for Decades of Confrontation With Russia

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has begun warning Germans that they should prepare for decades of confrontation with Russia — and that they must speedily rebuild the country’s military in case Vladimir V. Putin does not plan to stop at the border with Ukraine.

Russia’s military, he has said in a series of recent interviews with German news media, is fully occupied with Ukraine. But if there is a truce, and Mr. Putin, Russia’s president, has a few years to reset, he thinks the Russian leader will consider testing NATO’s unity.

“Nobody knows how or whether this will last,” Mr. Pistorius said of the current war, arguing for a rapid buildup in the size of the German military and a restocking of its arsenal.

Mr. Pistorius’s public warnings reflect a significant shift at the top levels of leadership in a country that has shunned a strong military since the end of the Cold War. The alarm is growing louder, but the German public remains unconvinced that the security of Germany and Europe has been fundamentally threatened by a newly aggressive Russia.

The defense minister’s post in Germany is often a political dead end. But Mr. Pistorius’s status as one of the country’s most popular politicians has given him a freedom to speak that others — including his boss, Chancellor Olaf Scholz — do not enjoy.

As Mr. Scholz prepares to meet President Biden at the White House on Friday, many in the German government say that there is no going back to business as usual with Mr. Putin’s Russia, that they anticipate little progress this year in Ukraine and that they fear the consequences should Mr. Putin prevail there.

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