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Pressure mounts on Germany’s Scholz to send heavy weapons to Ukraine – POLITICO

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under mounting pressure at home and abroad to supply heavy arms to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion enters a new and potentially crucial phase.

Western allies and members of Scholz’s governing coalition have increasingly bluntly criticized the Social Democrat chancellor, urging him to send tanks, artillery and other materiel to the Ukrainian armed forces.

“Germans today must firmly support Ukraine if we are to believe that they have learned the lessons from their own history,” said Donald Tusk, former President of the European Council and ex-Prime Minister of Poland, who now leads the centre-right coalition of the European People’s Party, explained On Wednesday.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas posted a chart on Twitter this week showing support for Ukraine from a number of countries, taking into account their economic performance. Your own country was at the top, Germany at the bottom.

“Our actions speak louder than words. #ArmUkraineNow,” Kallas tweeted.

Scholz has insisted that Germany support Ukraine with various weapons and has presented a list of weapons that the German defense industry could supply to Kyiv. He also pledged to help NATO partners sending tanks or artillery to Ukraine by providing training or ammunition or replacing equipment they sent.

He has so far ruled out a delivery of German tanks such as the Leopard or Marder to the Ukraine. German officials have said Berlin would be unable to meet its own NATO obligations if it supplied these tanks from its own forces. They have also argued that it would take months to train Ukrainian forces to use the tanks while they are already familiar with Soviet equipment such as T-72 tanks that the Eastern European NATO countries still have in stock.

Berlin has also indicated that the delivery of modern German tanks would be seen by Russia as an escalation of Western involvement in the conflict and could trigger a military response from Moscow.

Lars Klingbeil, Co-Chairman of the Scholz Social Democrats (SPD), defended the Chancellor’s cautious approach on Thursday. “It is right that in this current situation we have a chancellor who leads prudently, who thinks things through from the end, who coordinates with international partners,” he said told ZDF television.

When criticized that Scholz did not communicate clearly, Klingbeil said: “There are no simple answers to complex situations.”

But both the Greens and the FDP, the SPD’s partner in the governing coalition, have called on Scholz to speak out and get involved.

“The chancellor is missing a historic opportunity,” said the FDP member of the Bundestag Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chairwoman of the Bundestag’s defense committee. “All I’m asking for is guidance and a clear approach. We must not waste any time when it comes to Ukraine. It just baffles me why the communication and actions are so unclear.”

clarity in question

Scholz came under particular criticism for a lack of clarity in a news conference he gave following a video conference call by world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Tuesday.

During this press conference, he also argued that Germany’s contributions are in line with those of other Western countries.

“Look around at what others closely associated with us are doing,” he said. “All of our deliveries fit into what our closest allies and friends have set in motion on their side.”

However, this justification rings increasingly hollow, since it wasn’t just the United States that started it deliver heavier weapons such as howitzers, helicopters and M113 armored personnel carriers, but also European partners weigh in with such material.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Tuesday that the Netherlands will “send heavier material to Ukraine, including armored vehicles.”

“Together with allies, we are considering the delivery of additional heavy material,” he added.

Belgium is reportedly considering Delivery of M109 howitzers to Kyiv. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have already sent Soviet-era tanks or anti-aircraft batteries to Ukraine.

“Our NATO and EU partners are a bit confused,” said Claudia Major, head of international security at the think tank German Society for International Politics and Security.

Part of the controversy concerns a weapons “list” that Scholz mentioned in his press conference. The chancellor said his government had “asked the German defense industry to tell us what material they can supply in the near future,” and that Ukraine could make its own “choice” of weapons from that list, which Berlin would then fund and supply .

However, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk said none of the key weapons Kyiv had requested to repel the new Russian offensive in the east, like tanks, were on that list. Also the German daily newspaper Bild reported On Wednesday evening he got his hands on a list of weapons from the German armaments industry and a second list that Scholz gave to the Ukrainians – from which almost all heavy weapons had been cut out.

“The result: the possible armaments exports of the German armaments industry to Ukraine … shrank from 48 to 24 pages,” wrote Bild.

German officials argue the list focuses on weapons that could be delivered in the short term, while it would take defense contractors months to deliver tanks.

They say it’s quicker and more efficient to supply Ukraine with Soviet tanks, which their forces are already familiar with.

“We must not allow Putin to win this war of aggression. That is why it is so important to clearly support Ukraine. But we are reaching our limits because I must and will continue to ensure the defense of the country and the alliance,” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a press conference on Thursday.

“And that’s why it’s now important that we go other ways that quickly lead to support for Ukraine, and that’s why it’s important that our Eastern European partners, the states that still have weapons from the Soviet era, hand them over as as far as possible and we then provide that support with replenishment.”

However, such arguments have had limited appeal among Ukrainian officials. For one, Soviet-era tanks like the T-72 have one much higher risk of explosion in combat killing their crew than western tanks like the German Leopard.

Military expert Major said that the federal government urgently needs to develop a strategy to better support Ukraine in the future, given that the war is expected to last longer.

“We have to look a few months ahead and ask ourselves: what are the possibilities, what can the industry deliver when and how can we organize the appropriate training for these devices in good time?”

Laurenz Gehrke contributed reporting from Berlin.

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