Before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, one might have thought that Germany had become alienated from its army.

For years, many ridiculed the Bundeswehr for its deficits, laughed at helicopters that didn't take off and assault rifles that didn't fire properly.

They talked about scandals in special forces and hardly about how many soldiers it takes to defend the country.

Few assumed that Germany could be attacked.

Oliver Georgi

Editor in the politics of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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After February 24, 2022, it seemed as if everything was suddenly different.

Now the Germans knew what an army was for.

Now every available tank was at stake, and there was serious discussion about reintroducing conscription.

You needed someone to defend Germany in an emergency.

The only question is: is that so?

Did the Germans really change their minds overnight?

Experts say no.

The relationship between the Germans and the Bundeswehr has not fundamentally changed.

It's been pretty good for a long time.

The military historian Sönke Neitzel from the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr in Potsdam says: "We often have the perception that the Germans have a very broken relationship with the Bundeswehr and that it does not enjoy high prestige because we are a people of pacifists because of our history are.” Surveys conducted by the Center since 1996 show that the troops have been consistently accepted and popular with Germans for a very long time.

High acceptance values ​​for years

Once a year, the researchers ask citizens how they feel about the Bundeswehr, deployments at home and abroad or Germany's involvement in alliances.

The result is clear: as early as 2021, the year before the Russian war of aggression, 83 percent of those surveyed had a positive attitude towards the Bundeswehr;

a peak reached only in 2007 and 2009 in the past two decades.

Since the year 2000, the value has fluctuated steadily around eighty percent.

Even global crises like September 11, 2001 or the annexation of Crimea in 2014 changed little.

Acceptance of the Bundeswehr rose briefly, then fell back to the high level of previous years.

It is also interesting that there are hardly any differences in terms of age, origin and level of education.

The Bundeswehr is recognized by almost all of them.

Tendentially slightly more for men than for women and slightly more for graduates than for workers.

It also enjoys higher acceptance among slightly older people and slightly higher among conservatives than among leftists.

Overall, however, the Germans have had a high opinion of their army for years.

There is no evidence for the thesis of years of "friendly disinterest" towards the Bundeswehr, which has now ended abruptly with the Russian war of aggression.

As early as 2013, the researchers in Potsdam wrote that there was “a remarkable gap” between the reputation of the Bundeswehr on a personal level and the perceived public image.

Neitzel believes that this disproportion is a media phenomenon.

It was caused in particular by foreign missions such as in Afghanistan.

They have shaped the image of the troops in recent years, but say little about how much support the soldiers actually enjoy among the population.