As Russian soldiers massed on Ukraine's borders shortly before Vladimir Putin launched his ruinous war last year, Germany answered Kyiv's pleas for military aid by offering to send 5,000 helmets, a gesture Ukrainian officials widely derided. "What kind of support will Germany send next?" asked Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko. "Pillows?"
A month later, after tens of thousands of Russian troops invaded Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told his stunned compatriots that Berlin's decades-long thinking about national security, defense and foreign policy had to be reassessed. The country, he said, needed to support Ukraine and also to embark on a "major national undertaking" to rebuild its military. Keeping "warmongers like Putin in check," he said, "requires strength of our own."