Why doesn’t Germany supply Ukraine with heavy weapons? | world | DW

The German government gave several reasons not to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons. Are these justifications correct?

Germany is simply following in the footsteps of its allies

This has been Chancellor Olaf Schultz’s motto since the outbreak of the war. He does everything in close coordination with NATO partners and the European Union, he says. At a press conference on Tuesday, he indicated that countries such as Canada, Britain and the United States would supply Germany with the same weapons.

But on Thursday, the United States announced a new $800 million (€740 million) military aid package for Ukraine, including heavy artillery. That’s more than $3 billion in aid since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

In contrast, according to the Federal Ministry of Economy, German spending on the military defense of Ukraine amounted to about 186 million euros as of the beginning of April. This was used mainly for the purchase of bazookas, anti-aircraft missiles, machine guns, ammunition and protective equipment – but there were no heavy weapons.

Double letter from Scholz

On the one hand, Schultz was sending a message to Russia, said Professor Carlo Masala, a defense and security expert at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. On the other hand, this is also a reference to the German people and Olaf Schulz’s party, the Social Democrats, who are intensively discussing this issue. “he is [Scholz, Anmerk. der Redaktion] It needs all the people who do not want to hand over heavy weapons because they believe that this will lead to an escalation of the conflict and make Germany a target of Russian activities. ”

While this is a legitimate concern, it is hard to reconcile with the news that several Western countries, including the United States, Britain and the Netherlands, have provided heavy weapons, Ukrainian MP Lesya Vasylenko recently tweeted.

The Czech Republic has also reportedly agreed to supply dozens of Soviet T-72 tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. The United States announced last week that it will soon send 11 Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers and 90 155 mm howitzers with 40,000 artillery shells, all considered heavy weapons. France announced on Friday that it will supply the Caesar howitzer (155mm caliber), a heavy artillery piece. The Netherlands also wants to deliver self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. This was announced by Defense Minister Kajsa Olungren on Friday in The Hague.

According to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, all tanks, armored vehicles, and all 100 mm artillery pieces are considered to be the heaviest weapons. Fighter aircraft and attack helicopters are also classified as heavy weapons.

The Bundeswehr has reached its limits

Germany said it was unable to provide more military aid to Ukraine because it would no longer be able to fulfill its obligations. “In order to ensure the operational capability of our military, we need weapons systems,” Deputy Inspector General Markus Lubenthal told ZDF. The Marder infantry fighting vehicle, for example, is required for national and NATO obligations.

Marten is a combat system that includes guided missiles, small arms and ammunition and requires extensive training. Although the training time can be shortened, “it still takes weeks and the equipment needs to be prepared,” Lowpenthal said. And he was responding to the statements of the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrei Melnik, who is one of the harshest critics of Berlin’s actions.

Just an excuse?

“The claim that the German army is not in a position to provide anything to Ukraine is incomprehensible,” Melnik said recently. The strength has about 400 martin. He added that about 100 of these will be used for training purposes and can therefore be handed over to Ukraine immediately.

Defense expert Masala believes the government is using the statement as an excuse. “If the defense of NATO territory depends, for example, on 20 German tanks, then we should not even try to defend NATO territory because that would be a disaster,” he said.

Can the Ukrainians use guns?

The government argues that Ukrainian soldiers can only use weapons familiar to them. This also includes the logistics of being able to carry out repairs with the right spare parts.

Masala thinks this is a valid concern. “What happens if there is a technical problem with the pricking?” However, it is believed that it makes sense to use it. “If you can use a marten for three weeks, that’s better than nothing,” he says. “If a marten breaks, that’s bad luck.” “In the meantime we can work on the logistical chain of delivery of spare parts. So again, it seems to me an excuse not to send it because it is a political decision not to send heavy tanks to Ukraine.”

Carlo Masala, Professor of International Politics

Even former NATO general Hans Lothar Domrose rejects the claim that extensive training is required to master Mardier combat vehicles. “We are talking about experienced Ukrainian commanders who have been in the field since 2014. They do not need to be taught how to use it. Those who have used the Soviet BMP-1 can get acquainted with the Marder in less than a week, do it and serve it.”

Berlin’s answer: more money

Schulz said Berlin is providing more than 1 billion euros to Ukraine to finance the purchase of military equipment from Germany. He cited anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft equipment and ammunition as examples, but did not mention the tanks and aircraft that Ukraine required.

Bild newspaper reported that German arms companies initially offered to supply heavy weapons such as Marders, Boxer armored vehicles, Leopard 2 tanks and self-propelled howitzers. However, according to the newspaper, it appears that she has since been removed from the list.

“There are some heavy weapons on the list, but certainly no tanks. So it seems that tanks are a red line for the German government at the moment. Of course, whether we can stick to that red line largely depends on how the war unfolds in the weeks,” Masala says. or the coming months.

Replenish other countries’ stocks

Criticism of German stall tactics seems to have had an effect. “There are no taboos for us when it comes to armored vehicles and other weapons that Ukraine needs,” Foreign Minister Annalina Berbuk told a news conference in Estonia on Thursday, referring to the possible delivery of the Mardier vehicles.

The way out for Germany seems to be a plan to provide the arms-supplying countries with new war equipment or funds. In other words, the countries that supply arms get compensation from Germany. As German stocks deplete, Eastern European countries that still possess Soviet-era weapons will supply these, as has already happened on several occasions, according to retired Colonel Wolfgang Richter, researcher at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik.

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht confirmed the planned exchange with NATO and the European Union on Thursday. We are talking about tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Lambrecht told private broadcaster RTL/n-tv that the federal government is in talks, and that’s happening very quickly right now.

Exchange the ring with Slovenia?

One option the government is working on is exchange with Slovenia. The NATO partner will send some of its Soviet-era T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine; To compensate, Germany will provide Slovenia with vaults from its own stockpile.

Another solution is reportedly being negotiated with the Netherlands. “The Netherlands will send the 2000 Panzerhaubitze, a modern German weapon, and we will [die Ukrainer] With ammunition and training, probably on German soil,” says Masala.

This approach can relieve some stress and distract criticism. However, as Masala pointed out, this situation would not last long. “Our partners in Eastern Europe are running out of old Soviet weapons. The Soviet tanks sent by Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia will be destroyed in this war,” he said. “Ukraine will also run out of these weapons. At some point, the question will arise again as to whether we should train Ukrainians and supply modern Western weapons systems.”

Adapted from English Stephanie Hubner.

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