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Germany Comes to Grips With Its Hard-Power Role in Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ripped up the postwar political consensus and unsettled policymakers in Berlin.

A combat helmet of a soldier of the Bundeswehr’s Panzerbrigade 21 tank brigade on March 30 in Augustdorf, Germany.

A combat helmet of a soldier of the Bundeswehr’s Panzerbrigade 21 tank brigade on March 30 in Augustdorf, Germany.

Photographer: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The Soviet War Memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten has long been controversial, given the terrors inflicted on the civilian population at the end of World War II. Built to commemorate Red Army soldiers who died in the battle for the German capital in 1945, the artillery pieces and T-34 tanks now echo the horrors unleashed on Ukraine by Russian forces.

Fresh wreaths were placed on May 9 to mark the 77th anniversary of what Russians call Victory Day, but there was little sense of peace or dignity. The flags of both Russia and Ukraine were banned by Berlin authorities to avoid inciting either side, and red carnations strewn on the tank tracks felt like an act of rebellion.