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Scholz allows Ukraine to use German weapons against Russia

Scholz allows Ukraine to use German weapons against Russia

In recent days, the debate about the use of Western weapons against targets in Russia has gained momentum. Most recently, the USA gave the go-ahead. Now Germany is following suit.

Change of course in German Ukraine policy: The country attacked by Russia is now allowed to fire weapons supplied by Germany against military targets in Russia. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit made the decision by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) public on Friday morning, a few hours after a similar announcement by the USA. Both Germany and the USA justified the step with the recent Russian offensive against the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv.

“In recent weeks, Russia has prepared, coordinated and carried out attacks, particularly in the Kharkiv area, from positions in the immediately adjacent Russian border area,” explained Hebestreit. They are both convinced that Ukraine has the right under international law to defend itself against these attacks.

“It can also use the weapons supplied for this purpose in accordance with its international legal obligations – including those supplied by us,” he added. These include, for example, the 2000 self-propelled howitzer, Mars II rocket launchers and the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system. With Patriots, Ukraine could theoretically also shoot down Russian aircraft that attack targets in the Kharkiv region with missiles or glide bombs from Russian airspace.

USA also allows use of weapons with restrictions

By authorizing the use of their weapons against targets in Russia, Chancellor Scholz and US President Joe Biden are making another change of course in their Ukraine policy. In contrast to other NATO states, they have in the past linked the transfer of certain weapons systems to Ukraine to strict conditions for their use. The background to this is the fear that the conflict with Russia could escalate further and that NATO could become a party to the war.

According to military officials, the specific conditions included, among other things, that Ukraine is not allowed to shoot down Russian fighter jets in Russian airspace with Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems in order to prevent them from firing missiles or glide bombs at Ukraine. It initially remained unclear to what extent the conditions have now been lifted.

A US government representative stressed on Thursday evening that the US authorization only applies to counterattacks in defense of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian military should be able to take action against Russian forces “that attack them or are preparing to attack them.” Apart from that, however, the use of US weapons on targets in Russia remains prohibited. When asked whether it would be conceivable to use German weapons on Russian territory on other fronts in the future, a German government spokesman said it was difficult to speculate on this at the moment.

Shortly before the announcements, intensive consultations between the USA, France, Great Britain and Germany took place on Wednesday and Thursday at the level of the national security advisors. French President Emmanuel Macron had already publicly called for a change of course at a meeting with Scholz on Monday. Great Britain has always been considered to be not very squeamish when it comes to the use of Western weapons against targets in Russia.

Tensions in the federal government

In Germany, according to government sources, Chancellor Scholz in particular has so far insisted on not relaxing restrictions too quickly. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), on the other hand, signaled their openness to lifting restrictions some time ago.

Scholz had recently prepared a possible change of course. During his appearance with Macron, he hinted that he did not see any problems, at least legally. Ukraine is allowed to defend itself under international law – and the use of weapons supplied from Germany must also be within the framework of international law. According to experts, international law allows attacked states to attack aggressors on their own territory in order to defend themselves.

At the same time, Scholz spoke on Thursday evening at a public meeting in Erfurt about agreements that had been reached with Ukraine on the use of weapons. The federal government has not revealed the content of this confidential agreement.

It remained unclear on Friday whether Scholz actually wanted to keep the release secret and only communicated it because the USA had done so the evening before. Or whether he deliberately wanted to position Germany in the shadow of the USA again. The Chancellor had already used such a tactic when it came to the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine. He let the major partner USA set the pace – probably also so that Germany would not be seen in Russia as a driver of international support for Ukraine.

Scholz’s greatest fear is that Germany could be drawn into the war. He repeatedly stresses that Germany will not be directly involved. That is why he said no to the delivery of long-range Taurus cruise missiles – which, according to Defense Minister Pistorius, still applies. And that is why he has a very clear stance not to send German soldiers to Ukraine. A government spokesman stressed directly on Friday that nothing had changed: “It was always clear that by providing Ukraine with weapons, we would not become part of it or a party to the war.”

Will Scholz’s “course of prudence” continue?

Scholz and his SPD are relying heavily on the self-described “course of prudence” in the Ukraine war in this year’s election campaigns – in the European elections and the state elections in the east – and certainly also in the 2025 federal election campaign. The message: This chancellor and his party are not taking any risks that the war will escalate to our homeland. But does this narrative still hold water in light of the latest weapons decision? BSW party founder Sahra Wagenknecht has already warned in the “Augsburger Allgemeine” that Scholz is bringing Germany “frighteningly close to a third world war”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in particular has been putting pressure on Scholz and Biden in recent days. He welcomed the news on Friday and made it clear again that he does not fear irresponsible risks of escalation or even retaliatory strikes against NATO states.

In response to questions from journalists on Friday in Prague, he said that the Russian president had threatened consequences at the beginning of the invasion if other countries supported Ukraine, and that this continued with all concrete arms deliveries. Ultimately, it was only Russia that was escalating further – most recently by opening a new front in the Kharkiv region.

Note: This text has been updated with reactions.

Source: Stern

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