BERLIN ( Associated Press) — Germany has become one of Ukraine’s major arms suppliers in the 11 months since the start of the Russian invasion, but its Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also earned a reputation for fumbling with every new move, drawing flak among allies. breeds impatience. ,
Berlin’s apparent reluctance, of late, towards shipping Leopard 2 tanks that Kyiv has long been demanding is rooted in the post-WWII political culture of military caution, as well as current concerns. growth.
On Friday, Germany moved one step closer to a decision on whether to supply the main battle tanks by ordering a review of its Leopard stockpile in preparation for a possible authorization.
But still no commitment. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius rejected suggestions that Germany was blocking the proposal, but said that “we have to weigh up all the pros and cons before we decide on things like this.”
This is a pattern that has been repeated over the months. Scholz initially refrained from promising new shipments of heavy equipment, but eventually agreed.
Germany said in early January it would send 40 Marder armored personnel carriers to Ukraine in a joint announcement with the United States, which committed 50 Bradley armored vehicles.
The decision came after months of calls for Berlin and increased pressure to go a step further with Leopard.
“There is a discrepancy between the actual magnitude of the commitment and the delivery of the arms – it is the second largest supplier in Europe – and the hesitation with which this has been done,” said Thomas Klein-Brockhoff, a Berlin-based analyst with think tank United States. Tanks of America German Marshall Fund.
An unshakably confident, stubborn and unwilling politician to give in to the demands of public opinion, Scholz stuck to his point of view. He has said that Germany will not act alone on weapons decisions and pointed to the need to prevent NATO from becoming a direct party to a war with Russia.
Last week, as the pressure mounted, he said he would not make major security decisions on “warmongering statements”. And he insisted that the majority in his country supported his government’s “calm, well-thought-out and careful” decision-making.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Scholz listed some of the equipment sent by Berlin to Ukraine, declaring it “a turning point in German foreign and security policy.”
And this is true, at least to some extent. Germany refused to provide lethal weapons before the invasion began, a reflection of a political culture rooted in memories of its own record of aggression during the 20th century, including the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Klein-Brockhoff said, “No German chancellor from any party wants to be seen pushing a military agenda – those who try all other options before resorting to it.” “And so internally it is seen as a positive thing that a German chancellor is not taking initiative on this, that he is cautious, that he opposes, that he has tried all other options.”
Scholz is facing calls from the centre-right opposition and some members of his tripartite governing coalition to be more active in military aid; But not so much from his centre-left Social Democratic party, which for decades has been guided by the legacy of the Cold War approach pioneered by Willy Brandt in the early 1970s.
Klein-Brockhoff said, “The president decided early on that he didn’t want to give military aid to Ukraine,” although “he wanted to be a good ally, be part of the coalition and be in the group.”
But this caution “drives the allies mad” and raises questions about whether they can trust Berlin, Klein-Brockhoff acknowledged.
Berlin remained cautious about Leopard tanks even after Britain announced last week that it would supply Kyiv with its own Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
Indecision is not a particular concern of Berlin and Kyiv: other countries would need Germany’s permission to send German-built tanks into stock. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that Warsaw could consider providing them even without such authorization.
British historian Timothy Garten Ash wrote in The Guardian and other newspapers this week that “to be fair, the German government’s position on military support for Ukraine has come a long way since the eve of the Russian invasion. “
However, he argued that the tank issue has become a litmus test of German courage to resist “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s nuclear blackmail, overcome its internal cocktail of fear and suspicion. And an independent and protect sovereign Ukraine”, and indicated that Scholz should lead the “European Leopard plan”.
Whether this will happen remains to be seen. The Scholz government has emphasized close coordination with Washington, a possible reflection, of the fact that Germany, unlike Britain and France, relies on a US nuclear deterrent.
The foreign minister’s spokesman, Stephan Hebestreit, on Friday denied reports that Germany insisted it would only hand over the Leopards if the United States did the same with the Abrams. Furthermore, he rejected the idea that Berlin was lagging behind and insisted that it was taking the right approach.
“These are not easy decisions and should be carefully weighed,” he said. “And it’s about being sustainable, that everyone can follow and support them (…) and maintaining a close coalition is part of the leadership role.”