Underlining that Vladimir Putin’s Russia now poses the “biggest threat” to NATO, Scholz said Europe has to be prepared to face up to the challenge.
“We are making it convincingly clear: Germany is ready to take on leading responsibility for the security of our continent,” he said at an army congress.
“As the most populous country with the greatest economic power and as a country in the middle of the continent, our army must become the cornerstone of conventional defence in Europe, the best equipped force in Europe.”
Scholz said the German army had for too long taken on other roles like “drilling wells, ensuring humanitarian help, stemming floods, also helping with vaccinations during the pandemic”.
“But that is not your core mission,” he said. “The core task of the Bundeswehr is the defence of freedom in Europe.”
Haunted by two world wars, Germany has always trod lightly and quietly on the world stage when it came to conflicts and military matters.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Scholz’s government to tear up long held defence and foreign policies.
Days after Russia soldiers marched into Ukraine, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($113-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.
The financial bazooka for the Bundeswehr has since been written into the German constitution.
Europe’s biggest economy will also bring military spending to two percent of gross domestic product after years of underinvestment that has irked NATO partners.