German Easter peace marchers agonise over sending weapons to Ukraine

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By Rhal Ssan
Germans gather in Berlin for traditional Easter peace marches
Germans gather in Berlin for traditional Easter peace marches   -   Copyright  euronews   -  

Every Easter, peace marches are held across Germany, calling for general and nuclear disarmament. But this year, the picture is a bit different, with the war in Ukraine.

Many are calling for Germany to send more arms to Ukraine. The nation has previously shied away from sending arms to active conflict zones. While the rallies were packed with pacifists, some were willing to advocate this measure too.

"With a heavy heart, I think that now, we probably have to supply weapons," said Martina, who was at one of the pro-Ukrainian rallies on Sunday. "I am actually absolutely against it - sending weapons, and I think they should all be destroyed, except in the current situation."

However, some have worried that the message of disarmament may be inappropriate at a time when Ukrainians are defending their homeland against Russian aggression.

Germany's vice-chancellor and economy minister, Robert Habeck, was keen to stress that peace marches should focus against Russia, and not Ukrainians' defence of their homeland.

"The Easter marches are meaningful and good if they call for peace, and the call for peace can only be directed against Putin," he said. "In this regard, we must be very careful that we do not call on Ukraine to stop fighting. Then I would say, if one did... then I would no longer be with them, with the Easter marches. If they say, Putin, you are an aggressor, stop the war, withdraw the troops and stop the killing and murdering, then the Easter marches have their purpose."

Due to the war in Ukraine, Germany has significantly shifted its military and foreign policies. It has said it will increase its military spending to two percent of GDP, in line with the target for NATO members.

However, Chancellor Olaf Sholz is still shying away from sending heavy equipment, such as tanks to Ukraine. There is also Germany's resistance to commit to a full embargo on Russian oil and gas imports, as they are seen as being too damaging to the domestic economy.

Caught between its historical antipathy to war, and increasing calls to act as a military as well as an economic leader, Germany is increasingly entering a new era of how it sees its role in the world.