The federal government is keeping a low profile in the debate about the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine. The Union criticizes the cabinet as “headless”. The Luxembourg Foreign Minister jumps to Scholz’s side.
Several CDU politicians have sharply criticized the German government’s continued hesitation to deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. The government is lagging behind with the decisions “and is losing so much trust in our partners,” said defense politician Henning Otte of the German Press Agency. Instead of using strong leadership to persuade those states that had Leopard tanks to take coordinated action, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) only put the brakes “and isolates Germany”. There should be no further delay.
“If Scholz does not see himself in a position to make decisions and show leadership, a coalition committee must be convened so that clarification can finally be made,” Otte demanded. His party colleague Serap Güler, also a member of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, complained in the “Bild” newspaper that the government was still wasting valuable time. “If the SPD doesn’t want to keep making themselves look ridiculous, they should finally live up to their own claim to be the leading nation.”
The CDU foreign politician Katja Leikert told the newspaper that the cabinet seemed “headless” when it came to the question. “(Foreign Minister Annalena) Baerbock says hü in Paris, then hott in Brussels. (Economics Minister Robert) Habeck openly opposes the line of the Chancellery. (Defense Minister Boris) Pistorius wants to have a list made that has been around for a long time.”
The pressure from Ukraine and the western allies on Germany in the main battle tank debate is great. The federal government has so far decided to deliver the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, but a decision on the Leopard 2 battle tank is still pending.
“The enemy’s name is Putin”
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn defended Scholz. “The enemy is not Chancellor Scholz, the enemy is called Putin. And that’s what we should focus on,” Asselborn said on Monday evening on ZDF’s “heute-journal”. He pointed out that Scholz had not yet said no to the delivery of Leopard tanks that Kyiv had been demanding for months, but he had not said yes either. Incidentally, Germany is not as isolated on this issue in the EU as is sometimes portrayed in the German media. There are also other “large countries and border countries” that are reluctant to take this step.
Several EU countries had criticized the federal government on Monday at the meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, in some cases very clearly. Poland announced that it would ask Germany for approval for the delivery of German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine – but made it clear that if necessary it would also want to deliver Leopard 2 tanks in a small coalition without permission.
At the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Foreign Minister Baerbock avoided the question of whether the federal government would quickly approve an application for the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks from other countries. The day before, the Greens politician had said in an interview about the Polish plans: “We have not been asked and (…) if we were asked, we would not stand in the way of it.”
Asselborn expects Russia’s spring offensive
According to Ukraine, it needs “several hundred” battle tanks for the intended reconquest of the areas occupied by Russia. “Every tank that is capable of fighting must be on our front today,” wrote Presidential Office Chief Andriy Yermak on Monday on the Telegram news channel. Without a victory for Ukraine, with a return to the 1991 borders and punishment of Russia, there will be neither stable development nor a clear world order.
Luxembourg Minister Asselborn said he was expecting a large-scale spring offensive by Russia and was assuming “that the German Chancellor also has this in mind.” Then Europe and the West must be prepared to provide military equipment and tanks “so that Ukraine is not overrun” and hundreds of thousands of people do not die there. He said there was talk of about 300 tanks needed, if possible of one type. And if you look around, this is the leopard that is so massively present in Europe. There are 2000 Leopard tanks in Europe.
Ukraine has been repelling a Russian invasion for eleven months. Financially and in terms of armaments, Kyiv is almost completely dependent on the West. Most recently, Kyiv had received modernized Soviet-style tanks from the Czech Republic. Great Britain, Poland and Finland offered Kyiv Western tanks, including German-made Leopards.
Stoltenberg promotes arms deliveries
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized NATO’s unity in the main battle tank debate and once again called for more arms deliveries. Since the war began almost a year ago, there has been “an unprecedented level of support” in the alliance, including Germany, Stoltenberg said on Monday on the Welt TV station when asked whether the alliance was in a crucial phase of the war be divided. There is now a consultation process on what kind of equipment should be supplied to Ukraine. Sometimes it also takes some time to consult confidentially with the Allies. He welcomes all the announcements made by the Allies about battle tanks.
The US government has not revealed any tensions with Germany in the debate. Germany is a loyal and reliable partner, said US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday. The delivery of military equipment is a sovereign decision of each partner. And Germany has already provided a lot of help, Price said. However, he hinted that Germany’s position with regard to the Leopard tanks could possibly change soon. “When I read the headlines, I have the impression that we could hear more from our German partners in the coming hours or days,” Price said.
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