Germany signals more support for Ukraine, falters on defense spending – POLITICO

BERLIN — The German parliament on Thursday ordered the government to step up military support for Ukraine and specifically warned China and Serbia about their support for Russia.

However, the vote was overshadowed by increasing disputes between the government and the opposition in recent days over whether Chancellor Olaf Scholz will stick to his recent promise that Germany will finally stick to the NATO goal of spending two percent of its economic output on defense after he has done so has failed to achieve this goal for many years.

The Bundestag approved a resolution on “full support for Ukraine” by 586 votes in favour, 100 against and seven abstentions. The motion calls on the government to improve “the supply of heavy weapons and complex systems” to Kyiv, for example through a tank swap scheme in which eastern NATO countries immediately send Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine and receive German tanks at a later date can as a substitute.

The government should also “check” whether Germany itself could transfer more weapons to Ukraine and help the Ukrainian army train on the weapons systems that have been delivered.

The Ukrainian government welcomed the vote as an important sign of support for Berlin, which Kyiv had previously accused of often being too reluctant to support the country. “This vote will go down in history as one of the last nails in the coffin [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s lobbying in Europe and as the return of German leadership,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on twitter.

Also the parliamentary text Calls for tightening economic and financial sanctions against Russia and aimed a warning shot at China, which has so far refrained from condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and is reportedly even considering military aid to Moscow.

Beijing must “give up its endorsement of the war and actively support efforts to reach a ceasefire,” the motion said, adding that “any efforts to undermine sanctions or even supply arms to Russia will result in economic and personal sanctions.” will”. Another warning was aimed at Serbia, an EU candidate country, which has failed to support EU sanctions against Russia: the text said the bloc should review payments to candidate countries that “undermine sanctions”.

Although the resolution is not binding, it can be read as a clear instruction to Scholz by the broad majority and the backing of the three governing parties SPD, Greens and FDP. The chancellor had long hesitated to supply Ukraine with heavier weapons, but bowed to pressure earlier this week and allowed German tank sales to Kyiv.

At a news conference in Tokyo during a visit to Japan on Thursday, Scholz said the resolution was “a very strong mandate” that supports the course his government is taking.

The main opposition group, the centre-right CDU/CSU, also backed the parliamentary text after a last-minute compromise in which the ruling coalition dropped a controversial paragraph the Conservatives feared had prevented them from taking over the government to urge a strengthening of defense spending commitments.

Despite the agreement reached on the Ukraine resolution, the dispute between the opposition and the government over defense spending is far from settled.

The CDU/CSU MP accuses Scholz of reversing a major commitment he made in his “historic” statement two months ago – aka “turning point” (Turning Point) – in which the Chancellor announced that his government would set up a €100 billion special fund to rapidly upgrade the armed forces and that Germany would stick to NATO’s defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP going forward.

The centre-right argues that the Scholz government is using a sleight of hand to forego the second point: While Germany will finance its defense spending in the coming years thanks to massive military investments – such as the procurement of American F-35 stealth fighter jets – via a With a one-off €100 billion fund, there is no guarantee that Germany will stick to the 2 percent target unless the regular defense budget is increased from the current €50 billion to around €75 billion. There is no indication that the government is willing to do this.

During a heated debate in the Bundestag on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock seemed to confirm the suspicion that the two percent target might not be the way Scholz formulated it in his speech in February. “Do we really want to invest 2 percent every year?” Baerbock asked lawmakers, arguing that defense spending could be higher some years due to investments like the purchase of the F-35 and eventually lower others.

The issue is politically sensitive for the federal government, because it needs the support of the CDU/CSU in order to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in the Bundestag to anchor the 100 billion euro special fund in the Basic Law – an important prerequisite for the federal government to be approved to borrow the money.

Baerbock urged the opposition not to thwart the government’s plans, arguing that “a lot of people and a lot of capitals in Europe, but also beyond, are looking at us”.

However, MEPs from the CDU and CSU have also raised other red flags, arguing that the government has still not presented a clear plan on how to effectively spend the €100 billion to help the German armed forces where it is needed most will.

“We have obvious doubts as to whether you really want to use this [€100 billion] to strengthen the armed forces [armed forces] … What you have proposed here in the Bundestag today is not acceptable to us in its current form,” said CDU member of the Bundestag Mathias Middelberg on Wednesday.

Another plea for more precise consideration of the optimal use of the 100 billion euros was raised earlier this week by Eva Högl, the parliamentary ombudswoman for the Bundeswehr and a Social Democrat.

“If this special fund is implemented … like the 50 billion euros in the current Bundeswehr budget, then an opportunity will be missed and the money will not reach the troops in the necessary way.” Germany signals more support for Ukraine, falters on defense spending - POLITICO

Fry Electronics Team

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