the german dilemma of delivering tanks to kyiv

The German government is divided on the issue of delivering heavy weapons, such as tanks, to Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is more than reluctant to respond to increasingly pressing requests from kyiv, which he goes to great lengths to suggest that the outcome of the war depends above all on Berlin.

You a kind of Marioupol et from the Donbass region would depend “on the delivery of German weapons that we can get” but they do not arrive, lamented Oleksii Arestovitch, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, on Wednesday, April 13.

Lots of pressure on Berlin, while a victory in eastern Ukraine is described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new big goal after his failure in kyiv.

humiliated german president

Especially since Oleksii Arestovitch is not the only one pointing the finger at Germany. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did the same in an interview with the weekly Die Welt Am Sonntag on Sunday, April 10. “Germany is cold to us,” he added. And Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, does not miss the opportunity to ask Berlin for more weapons. even if it means coming into open conflict with Christine LambrechtGerman Defense Minister.

Ukraine also does not have a monopoly on criticism of Berlin. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski addressed German doubts, as did former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who considered that, as a “great democracy”, Germany should “lead by example”.

And then there was the humiliation of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president. The latter had announced his intention to go to kyiv before learning, on April 12, that the Ukrainian government had no intention of receiving him. This SPD chieftain is, in fact, held partly responsible by Ukrainians for Germany’s rather accommodative policy towards Russia, even after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 (he was Angela Merkel’s foreign minister twice).

But, above all, Volodymyr Zelensky does not want to settle for a coach whose power is above all symbolic. He hopes to meet Olaf Scholz. The German chancellor has not visited kyiv since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, unlike several other Western leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, who made the trip to the Ukrainian capital in February, or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last weekend. of week.

The Ukrainian president may have believed that his demands had been heard, as Berlin had made it known for the first time on Wednesday that the head of the German government would rush to kyiv. In the end nothing will happen… for now, the German Chancellery has decided. Therefore, Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Zelensky will not have the opportunity, in the immediate future, to discuss “practical decisions” regarding the “handover of heavy weapons”, as Oleksii Arestovitch hoped.

Because that’s what it’s about. kyiv is determined to put Berlin au pied de sa “turning point” – The “change of era” for Germany announced by Olaf Scholz after the start of the war in Ukraine, which meant a less pacifist position from Berlin and arms supplies. Except that since this speech described as historic, the German chancellor has been accused of procrastinating, either by handing over weapons or by establishing the most severe economic sanctions such as the embargo on Russian oil and gas. Olaf Scholz has always said that Germany “gave what he could and what was useful [à l’Ukraine]” in arms.

The Obsolete Weapons and Helmets Fiasco

Berlin has so far authorized 186 million euros in the delivery of military material, according to figures from the Ministry of Economy. But these shipments of equipment to Ukraine were more “tragi-comic” than really useful, stresses the daily Die Zeit.

First there was the fiasco of sending 5,000 military helmets, which had been decided before the start of the war. Ukraine did not want them at the time, but, moreover, “they arrived after the start of the invasion, when the situation on the ground had completely changed, which made these teams even less necessary,” the newspaper continues.

Defense Minister Christine Lamprecht then decided to send anti-tank weapons and air defense devices. But she opted for material that was partly too old to be useful. The government, in particular, handed over “Strela” anti-aircraft missiles, made in 1968, which are too old to be fired safely, according to a November 2021 German military report. They should even have been destroyed in 2014.

Volodymyr Zelensky hopes that Berlin will do better in the Battle of Donbass. He wants heavy weapons, which means, in particular, tanks. The face of the fighting in eastern Ukraine should, in fact, be very different from the failed campaign to take kyiv, explains the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Russian forces are expected to deploy fewer planes and more tanks and infantry to encircle Ukrainian forces there. “They will be high-intensity clashes for which the Ukrainians will need above all tanks to be able to hit hard and to be able to maneuver quickly,” the newspaper specifies.

The Greens and the FDP for sending tanks to Ukraine

This call for tanks brought the German government to the brink of an internal crisis. The Greens and the Liberals of the FDP – the two partners of the SPD within the ruling coalition – are in favor of this delivery of heavy weapons. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock even said that we had to act quickly.

In a low voice answered Olaf Scholz and Christine Lambrecht, both members of the SPD. The Minister of Defense stated that there were no tanks in reserve. Those who are already mobilized would have to be used, which “would endanger German national security”, according to Christine Lambrecht.

The German chancellor, for her part, would not want to be the first to send offensive weapons to Ukraine. Until now, the countries that supported kyiv were content to reinforce Ukraine’s defenses with anti-aircraft or anti-tank missiles. By sending tanks to Ukraine, Germany would take a much more active part in the conflict: “this would risk being perceived as an act of war by Russia which could lead the world.” in World War III”, Estimated General Erich Vad, who was Angela Merkel’s military adviser, questioned by Die Welt.

Olaf Scholz is thus trapped in his “Zeitenwende”. Logistical apologies from the Minister of Defense and warnings about the risk of escalation weigh little against the images of the horrors of the war in Ukraine. Most Germans are in favor of handing over heavy weapons to Ukraine, according to a survey by the German statistical institute Forsa published on Tuesday.

German arms manufacturers are also putting additional pressure on the government. The Rheinmetall group announced that it had about a hundred tanks that could be delivered quickly – in less than two months – to the Ukrainians. These are Marder motorized fighting vehicles, manufactured since the 1970s, and Leopard 1, heavy tanks whose production dates back to the 1950s.

This weapons manufacturer even specified that it was an easy-to-handle model. A way to remove the rug from another SPD argument, according to which it was perhaps unwise to send in tanks that Ukrainian soldiers could not use before they had been trained for months.

You New York Times it also questions the reality of the German commitment to do the most for Ukraine. With his planned trip to the Ukraine, Olaf Scholz was probably hoping to show that one of the most important foreign policy changes in Europe, the abandonment of pacifism above all in Germany, was not just empty words.

Despite these pressures from all sides, Olaf Scholz decided, in the end, not to go to kyiv. But while “Berlin seems to think it has time, Ukraine doesn’t”, remembered Dmytro Kuleba in early Aprilthe Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, his counterparts from NATO countries.

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