KIEL, Germany — German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck on Thursday resigned to support sending tanks to Ukraine, amid disagreements within Berlin’s ruling parties over how much they should get involved and concerns about becoming Russia’s next target .
“Everything that helps the Ukrainian army now must be delivered quickly,” Habeck, a member of the Greens, said just two days ago in response to Kiev’s demands for Germany to send tanks and artillery. But on Thursday at a local election rally in Kiel, northern Germany, he took a different stance towards POLITICO, more in line with his Social Democratic leader, Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
In particular, Habeck mentioned concerns among NATO allies that deliveries of modern tanks from Western manufacturers could prompt Russia to extend its war to Western countries.
“Heavy weapons are synonymous with tanks and all NATO countries have so far ruled that out in order not to become a target themselves,” said Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister, adding that it should be left to NATO to decide “whether or not we change this previously agreed line.”
Scholz was reluctant to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, arguing Germany should first find a common line with allies before agreeing to send tanks.
However, this position is not shared by all members of the governing coalition parties made up of Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a member of the Greens like Habeck, called this week for the delivery of “heavy weapons” to Ukraine and barely veiled criticism of Scholz: “Now is not the time for excuses; Now is the time for creativity and pragmatism.”
FDP leader Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the Bundestag’s defense committee, told POLITICO on Thursday that there was a lack of cross-departmental coordination when deciding on arms deliveries, and accused Scholz of failing to show what was necessary at senior level.
“The result is a choir whose members sing very well but have not yet found a common tone. The director’s baton is missing,” she said, adding, “I regret that because I personally hold the chancellor in high esteem… But he must now exercise his leadership role and his authority to issue directives – even if there may be other views within his own ranks.”
The chairman of the Bundestag’s Europe Committee, Greens MP Anton Hofreiter, said that Germany “must act much faster now” when deciding whether to send tanks to Ukraine. “We need a clear message from the Chancellery to all ministries that everything must be done now to speed up these deliveries.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday reiterated his call for Germany to supply Ukraine with tanks and other heavy weapons to help Kyiv repel an expected Russian offensive in the east of the country. Ukraine is paying the price for Scholz’s hesitation “with human lives”, Kuleba told German public broadcaster ARD.
Scholz defended his position in an interview with rbb radio On Wednesday he said his government had put Germany “on a decisive course” to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. “We deliver, we have delivered and we will deliver. And we coordinate closely with all our allies on what we are doing.”
Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, defended himself on Thursday against criticism from the Greens and FDP and at the same time indicated that tank deliveries to Ukraine could have consequences for Germany’s own security.
“It is wrong to demand unprecedented decisions without being responsible for them – especially since they could have far-reaching consequences for the security of our country and NATO,” said Mützenich.
Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP fired back Twitterwhich suggests that Mützenich did not understand the historical change in German foreign and security policy since the Russian invasion turning point (“Wendepunkt”), which Scholz announced at the end of February.
“He cannot accept that an old, rigid worldview has collapsed,” she wrote.
https://www.politico.eu/article/berlin-bickers-over-tanks-for-ukraine-amid-warnings-that-west-could-become-target/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication German Habeck warns that tank deliveries to Ukraine could turn West into Russian 'target' - POLITICO