War in Ukraine: Has the Bundeswehr grown on the Germans?

For a long time, many Germans were hardly interested in the Bundeswehr. That has changed since the Russian attack on Ukraine.

In the past, the Bundeswehr soldiers lacked three things in particular: a functioning one equipment, public appreciation and interest of the population in their army. The CDU politician Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took up the position of Defense Minister in 2019 with the aim of changing all of this. The CDU politician was not able to fundamentally improve the poor equipment during her almost two and a half years in office.

She did push through free train travel for the soldiers and again had a public oath made in front of the Reichstag to increase the visibility of the Bundeswehr. The troops came into public awareness during Kramp-Karrenbauer’s tenure, especially because of the right-wing activities in the special unit KSK and finally with the Head over heels deduction from Afghanistan.

Ukraine crisis – all the news about the conflict

This has changed since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24 fundamentally changed. Not only are the equipment gaps to be eliminated with a one-time renovation program worth 100 billion euros, the Bundeswehr is also at the center of the political debate – and enjoys great attention from the population.

Great interest in the Bundeswehr since the beginning of the war in Ukraine

The war ensured that many more people were concerned with the Bundeswehr and its mission, says the military commissioner Eva Högl (SPD) to our editors. “Now a lot of people in the country are realizing who didn’t care about the troops before, why we have a Bundeswehr, what we need it for, and that we have to do more for the Bundeswehr,” Högl is convinced. “When I was with the German soldiers on NATO’s eastern flank in Lithuania in the summer of 2021, the soldiers there had the feeling that they were completely under the radar of attention in Germany. That has now completely changed.”

The Federal Ministry of Defense can also report on this. That need for information in the population had already grown significantly before the start of the war. “At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the number of inquiries increased dramatically,” says a ministry spokeswoman for our editorial team. “Even today we are still seeing significantly more inquiries by e-mail, telephone but also by letter.” Interest in the ministry’s online services has also “increased by leaps and bounds since the Russian aggression against Ukraine and remained high in the months that followed Level”.

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In figures this means: The website of the ministry BMVg.de was accessed four times as often in February and March as in the same months of the previous year, in April the number of page views was still twice as high. Around 1.5 million more visitors accessed the Bundeswehr.de website in March than in March 2021. With almost 4.1 million page views the portal reached a record value.

Great interest in weapon systems on the net

“In April, traffic to the site continued to be above average, with nearly three million page views,” the spokeswoman said. Search queries often resulted according to certain weapon systems the Bundeswehr, also in connection with the arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Also in the social media The interest is enormous: Since the beginning of the war, the Bundeswehr and the ministry have reached three million people via Facebook – twice as many as in the same period last year. From the beginning of the war to May 1, the number of video views on the YouTube channel rose to around 25 million from around 17 million in the same period last year. Video playback time doubled to 1.2 million hours.

Also read: The Bundeswehr is to be modernized with 100 billion euros

In order to meet the great need for information about the war, the video talk format “Nachgefrage” (Requested) was launched on the Bundeswehr’s YouTube channel in March. One of the topics discussed there: “How big is the threat to the NATO Eastern Flank?” Per episode, up to 1.2 million viewers are reached along the way.

Reservists Association: Many new entrants since the beginning of the war

At the beginning of the war, this also increased “for a short time”. Interested in a career in the German Armed Forces, which also led to more appointments being made for initial consultations. “Both tendencies have meanwhile returned to normal,” reports the ministry spokeswoman. In addition, more reservists than usual reported.

Also the association of Bundeswehr reservists noticed increased interest from the media and the general public. Also: “During the period of the Ukraine conflict, we have a doubling of new registrations compared to previous years,” says a spokesman for the association. “For many new members, the reason given for joining the association was that they wanted to contribute to Germany’s security.”

The government’s promise to modernization of the troops With sums in the billions, interest from politicians and the public, appreciation for the soldiers and their mission – has the Bundeswehr grown dear to the hearts of the Germans? Those affected are not yet so sure.

The Bundeswehr has been saved for years

He is pleased about the increased interest in the Bundeswehr and the reserve, says the President of the Reservist Association, Patrick Sensburg, to our editors. “Also that security policy issues We expressly welcome the fact that discussions are more public and broader again.” In recent years, these have mostly been niche topics that have been dealt with almost exclusively by experts. However, he now hopes, emphasizes Sensburg, that the topic of security policy and the Bundeswehr will “not be exhausted again quickly”.

Even the military commissioner is not sure how long the attention will last. “Of course I hope that Russia doesn’t win the war, that Ukraine remains independent and can live in peace again,” says Högl. “But then we need another one great interest and appreciation for the German Armed Forces.”

This also applies to sustainable financing: “It must not happen to us again that the Bundeswehr broken saved will be like in previous years,” warns the SPD politician. “The expectations among the servicewomen and men are high that there will not only be talk, but that something will also happen.”

Ukraine war – background and explanations for the conflict

This article first appeared on waz.de

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