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Opinion Putin’s invasion has opened Germany’s eyes. Let’s hope Biden sees the need for big changes, too.

Olaf Scholz during a news conference at the Bundestag in Berlin on Feb. 27. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg News)

Germany shocked the world this weekend with its rapid repudiation of its core post-Cold War foreign policy principles. President Biden should take note.

One can hardly overstate the significance of the developments in Berlin. The German government’s sudden decision to help to rapidly rearm and supply Ukraine with lethal military aid, including assisting the European Union in financing provision of fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force, leaves no doubt how seriously it views Russia’s invasion.

The change in direction was certainly long overdue: Germany has underinvested in defense spending so much that its own inspector of the army said last week that “the army that I am allowed to lead is more or less standing bare.” Previous German chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel instead focused on integrating the German and Russian economies. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, now on hold, was only one part of the program that led to German reliance on Russian gas to heat its homes and Russian trade to fuel its industry. Offering carrots without sticks was clearly supposed to show Vladimir Putin that Russia had no need to adopt a threatening posture.

Russia’s invasion last week showed how naive that policy was, and it’s a credit to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he is now pursuing such a revolutionary corrective. In addition to help for Ukraine now, Germany will commit 100 billion euros (about $112 billion) to a special defense fund to rapidly rearm its depleted military, an amount roughly equal to 3 percent of gross domestic product. Scholz also announced that Germany would spend more than 2 percent of its GDP each year on defense starting in 2024, about a third more than previous levels. The Bundeswehr will soon be able to fully meet its NATO commitments.

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Scholz is also taking aim at Germany’s economic vulnerability. He aims to accelerate construction of two new liquefied natural gas terminals to increase LNG imports from the Middle East or United States and to build up reserves of coal and natural gas. Scholz’s economic minister even said Sunday that the country will consider extending the operation of nuclear plants scheduled to close this year.

This is welcome news and will likely be echoed by other European states in the coming months. But the place where I hope it reverberates most is in the United States. Biden can begin by injecting some of Scholz’s bold vision into Tuesday’s State of the Union message.

The United States remains the only democratic superpower. In addition to providing a counterweight to Russia, it has defense obligations in Asia to meet and faces a rising authoritarian power in China with territorial designs of its own. America’s “pivot to Asia” could only work if Europe and the Middle East were quiet enough to permit military units to be shifted safely. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that’s not going to happen.

Biden should follow Scholz’s lead and propose a similarly large increase for U.S. defense budgets. U.S. gross domestic product is roughly $23 trillion; a onetime 3 percent of GDP special defense appropriation would add about $700 billion. That would buy a lot of newer planes and ships and allow for the military modernization and expansion, especially of the Navy, that we need to meet our security needs.

Biden should also emulate Scholz’s other declarations. Increasing the regular defense budget by about one-third by 2024 would add $260 billion a year above the $778 billion authorized by Congress last year. A regular $1 trillion defense budget would exceed 4 percent of GDP, and with regular real increases thereafter should be a strong start to restoring the United States’ ability to fight two major wars simultaneously. Biden should also bite the bullet and expand American gas and oil production, in part to provide a secure source for Europe.

Some will say this is overkill, but I don’t think so. The United States is the backbone of military alliances around the globe and needs to be prepared to meet its commitments as they arise. NATO allies will insist on permanent U.S. troop deployments in nations bordering Russia now that Putin’s malign intentions are manifest. Japan’s former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has already called for the United States to eliminate its strategic ambiguity and unreservedly declare that it will defend Taiwan. A serious defense of Taiwan, however, would require dramatically greater military assets in the Western Pacific. That requires money and manpower; providing those takes presidential leadership.

Harry S. Truman became president thinking the end of World War II would allow him to concentrate on domestic concerns. Stalin’s brutal conquest of Eastern Europe forced him to instead become the man who created the modern American military and global alliance system. Biden wanted to be the next FDR. The world will rest more comfortably if he decides to become the next Truman instead.

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