1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Weimar Triangle starts preparing for a standoff with Russia

Henry-Laur Allik
June 27, 2024

Germany, France, and Poland are renewing the forgotten Weimar Triangle to bolster the EU's defense capabilities with plans to buy long-range missiles and hold military exercises together.

Donald Tusk, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron standing alongside each other
The so-called Weimar Triangle format is becoming more relevant againImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

The regional alliance of France, Germany and Poland created in 1991 called the "Weimar Triangle" has largely been put on ice in recent years.

However, Russia's invasion of Ukraine that markedly changed the foreign policies of Germany and France toward Russia, has made the format relevant again.

Relations were strained under Poland's previously nationalist government , which recently lost power in the country to a government more open to European cooperation.

Lukasz Jasinski, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, told DW that all these factors happening together have created a window of opportunity for the Weimar Triangle.

"This is a short moment when this cooperation is in the interest of three countries, when there is political will and there are perspectives and ideas bringing their cooperation on a very practical level," explained Jasinski, adding that the aim of the Weimar Triangle is to send a strong political message to Russia.

In March, Emmanuel MacronOlaf Scholz and Donald Tusk met in Berlin to renew the Weimar format and primarily discussed working together in supporting Ukraine.

On Monday in Paris, the defense ministers of the triangle announced more concrete steps to strengthen Europe's role in NATO as a plan B in a scenario where Americans would not come to the aid of Europe in case of an attack.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his Polish and French counterparts, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz and Sebastien Lecornu, announced plans to buy long-range missiles, setting up a mechanism to procure "deep precision strike weapons" such as cruise missiles together.

Cruise missile Taurus KEPD 350 on display
Europe lacks cruise missiles to deal with a possible attack from the eastImage: Schöning/IMAGO

Counterbalancing Russia

Carlo Masala, a professor of international politics at the Bundeswehr University Munich, told DW that regardless of who wins the US elections in November, Europe must take on more responsibility.

Masala explained that it is not necessarily about organizing the defense on the eastern flank of Europe, but more about building up capabilities, such as cruise missiles and air defense, as a counterbalance to Russia.

"If Russia would attack the Baltics and try to prevent other European countries from running to the defense of the Baltic, they will send the cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to European capitals. And we don't have the air defense to protect European cities," Masala said.

The precondition to stand up to Russia successfully is to have the right capabilities to strike back deep inside Russia's territory, Masala added.

"If you have to fight Russia, the first thing you have to do is to destroy stuff Russia needs to basically conduct a large-scale military operation and those facilities are deep inside Russia, and we can't reach them. So, long range is exactly the capability we need," he explained.

Cruise missiles fly low over the ground, making them harder to detect by radar. Europe's existing stocks of cruise missiles currently include relatively old and expensive systems such as Britain's Storm Shadow, France's Scalp and Germany's Taurus. These missiles that have a range of several hundred kilometers have seen a huge revival since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Show of military strength

One of the key takeaways from the latest Weimar Triangle meeting is that it resulted in plans to hold joint military exercises. And Poland will host them next year. The armed forces of the three states are to be deployed together in Poland on the eastern flank of NATO and the EU, practicing for a potential attack from Russia.

"The allies of the Weimar Triangle are becoming a reality," Kosiniak-Kamysz stated after their meeting. Pistorius added that the aim is to make the Weimar Triangle format more visible, not only in person, but also beyond that, through the armed forces.

Jasinski said that the Weimar initiative would not be able to create an alternative to NATO. "It's about military mobility to make the deployment of armed forces much quicker, some experts even use the cliche of a so-called military Schengen," Jasinski added.

The Weimar Triangle is not only looking through the prism of the number of tanks or weapons, but also at cyber attacks, Russian interference in democratic elections and disinformation, Jasinski said.


Defender Europe 2022 military exercise of NATO troops including French, American, and Polish troops.
The armed forces of the Weimar Triangle are to be deployed together in Poland next year.Image: KACPER PEMPEL/REUTERS

Possible weak points

There is, however, a distinct possibility that the Weimar Triangle cooperation may not be successful.

"One showstopper is going to be probably the 2027 election in France. I think all this will come to an end probably once Marine Le Pen is going to be elected the next French president," Masala said.

According to the Polish Institute of International Affair's Jasinski, the big question for the Weimar Triangle is how it can withstand the influence of populist policies in countries such as France and Germany.

"The Weimar Triangle is not a separate international organization which is very useful because thanks to this the format is very flexible. But on the other hand, the big question is how to make the Weimar Triangle, so to speak, populist-proof in the worst-case scenario," Jasinski said. 

Edited by: Rob Mudge

Scholz, Tusk, Macron hold talks on Ukraine