Soldiers drive the “Marder” infantry fighting vehicle of the German armed forces Bundeswehr during the information-education exercise “Ground combat exercises 2017” at the military training ground in Munster, northern Germany .
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Ukraine’s relations with Germany took a turn for the worse this week, when Kyiv questioned why Berlin had rejected promises to supply heavy weapons.
Tensions over Germany’s supply of Leopard tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine – or the lack of them – flared this week when Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba publicly asked why Berlin was objecting to a commitment to send these weapons to Ukraine. this weapon for Ukraine.
“Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs Leopards and Marders right now – to free the people and save them from genocide,” Kuleba said on Twitter, adding that “there is not a logical argument There’s no telling why these weapons can’t be delivered, only abstract fears and excuses.”
“What is Berlin afraid of but not Kyiv?” he added.
The Marder is a German infantry fighting vehicle designed for use with the Leopard battle tank in combat.
Kuleba’s comments come as Ukraine launches counter-attacks against Russian forces in both the south and northeast of the country. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the northeastern region of Kharkiv was hailed as an exceptional success, with Russian forces withdrawing from towns and villages in the area, almost entirely without occupying it.
A new Leopard 2 A7V heavy battle tank of the Bundeswehr 9th Armored Training Brigade stands during the visit of German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht to the training ground of the Bundeswehr Army on February 7, 2022 in Munster, Germany.
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Ukraine relies heavily on Western weapons systems to counter Russian forces. And its allies in the West, NATO members, have essentially sent Ukraine a large amount of military hardware separately.
In April, Germany promised to supply Leopard and Marder tanks to Ukraine. Instead of distributing them directly, it proposes a swap plan. The aim was that NATO members, such as Poland or Slovakia, could send Ukraine older Soviet-era tanks (like the Leopard 1), and Germany would then replenish its current equivalent arsenal. greater than his own (such as Leopard 2).
Germany justifies proposal to send older weapons by saying Ukraine’s forces are familiar with Soviet-era weapons, and they should only provide weapons they know how to use.
The only problem with this plan is that this arms exchange has largely failed to materialize and Germany is currently facing a backlash from critics, both at home and abroad – and especially from a frustrated Ukraine.
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, told CNBC on Wednesday that Kyiv did not understand Berlin’s reluctance to send them weapons that could prove decisive on the battlefield.
“It’s very difficult to read their minds, but Germany’s words, over the past seven months, in some cases, don’t match their actions. And this is disappointing because there was a time when they put it out. This commitment that they will supply Ukraine with these tanks is a moment of hope and promise that we look forward to,” he noted.
“If they fear some nuclear attack or some other attack on the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, which could lead to great tragedy, that’s another story but about the situation on the battlefield. , we don’t understand the logic behind it. It could also be some internal political game,” he noted.
Ukraine needs more weapons as war enters could not be a definitive period in which the balance shifts in Kyiv’s favor.
Russia is said to have been caught off guard by Ukraine’s latest counterattacks, having redeployed some of its most effective combat units to southern Ukraine after Kyiv signaled in the summer that it would open up. a counterattack to retake Kherson.
After what seemed like a brief period of awe-inspiring silence as Ukraine gained rapid victories and advances in the northeast, Russian forces have begun to respond to those victories, launched a series of ferocious attacks on energy infrastructure in the northeast, as well as missiles. hit the south.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Ukraine’s international allies to continue sending weapons to Ukraine, saying this is when the country needs them most to stay motivated.
And weapons like the German Leopard tank and the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, which Ukraine says could change the balance of the war decisively.
Among Ukraine’s NATO allies, Germany – the self-proclaimed “European leader” – has come under much criticism and even ridicule for its military support for Ukraine. Just before Russia launched the invasion on February 24, Germany’s offer to send thousands of helmets to Ukraine was met with ridicule.
Analysts say such criticism is not entirely deserved, however, it should be noted that after the US and UK, Germany is one of the largest arms donors to Ukraine.
Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans run an open source Dutch defense intelligence analysis website and keep track of the number of weapons Germany has delivered to Ukraine.
They note on their website thatTo date, these deliveries include several Gepard SPAAGs (self-propelled anti-aircraft guns), mobile air defense systems (called MANPADS, they are mobile surface-to-air missiles), artillery and anti-aircraft gas tanks, as well as hundreds of vehicles and millions of bullets. The German government has also published a list of military equipment it has sent to Ukraine, including 125 pairs of binoculars it has donated..
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz observes damage as he visits French President Emmanuel Macron, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16 2022.
Viacheslav Ratynskyi | Reuters
But when it comes to German tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, Germany has clearly faltered, no decision on the supply of such hardware, let alone delivery, has been made. despite specific Ukrainian requests from Kuleba and other officials since March. Analysts say Germany’s good intentions have not materialized.
“Germany has … tried to entice other countries to send their heavy weapons to Ukraine in a program known as ‘Ringtausch’ (‘exchange’). Under this policy, countries can get free German weapons in exchange for tanks and infantry fighting vehicles from Ukraine’s own stockpile,” Mitzer and Oliemans noted in an article in early September.
“Although initially a promising plan, the ‘Ringtausch’ program largely fell short of expectations as most countries expected their Soviet-era systems to be replaced by large numbers of larger than modern weapons systems than what Berlin is currently able (or willing) to offer,” they noted.
Pressure is mounting on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to make the decision about sending such weapons to Ukraine, but there seems to be reluctance at the top to make that decision. On Monday, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said sending more heavy weapons to Ukraine was “not so simple”.
“It’s not as simple as saying: I’m going to risk that we won’t be able to act, protect the country, by giving it all away. No, I’m not going to do that,” she said. “But we have other possibilities, from the industry, with our partners,” Deutsche Welle reported.
CNBC has reached out to the German Defense Ministry for further comment and response to Kuleba’s comments, but has not yet received a response.
However, Chancellor Scholz defended Germany’s record for arms deliveries on Wednesday, telling reporters that “it can be said that it is the weapons that Germany has now supplied to Ukraine that is the decisive factor.” to the development of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and they also made a difference” in the battle.
Germany’s reticence over certain arms deliveries has led some critics to look for ulterior motives for its reluctance, with some even suggesting that Germany doesn’t like the idea of German tanks. confront Russian tanks on the battlefield, as they did during the Second World War.
“We have no choice. It’s about our independence, about our future, about the fate of the entire Ukrainian people,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (pictured on June 16) ).
Ludovic Marin | Reuters
Rafael Loss, a defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told CNBC on Wednesday that the German government has offered multiple explanations for not sending weapons.
“The German government itself has been offering explanations as to why not to do so, basically, since Russia started the war against Ukraine and even before that. weapons are like a red line. something.”
“We see concern, mainly from the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Scholz) about the images that German Leopard tanks can produce confronting Russian tanks in Ukraine. reason to send raw materials. the material was made by the Soviet Union first. I think that’s a good argument. But it only lasts so long,” he said.
“At some point, Ukraine – and the countries that can support Ukraine with these types of systems – will run out of them and you won’t be able to replace them easily. So at some point in time. , you need to start thinking about Western supply chains based on the Western system of the West.”
The loss that characterizes Germany’s stance towards Ukraine is one of “huge” resistance to unilateral arms deliveries, and the country wants some kind of European union to send weapons and support together.
“Over the last six or four months we’ve seen great reluctance from both the Prime Minister and the Department of Defense to take the initiative, to be proactive, and they always refer to ‘not going it alone,'” Loss said, saying Germany seems to want the US to take the lead and let Berlin follow.
While pressure is growing on Berlin to act, Germany’s stance is unlikely to change anytime soon, according to Anna-Carina Hamker, a Europe researcher at political risk analysis firm Eurasia Group. is likely to change. She said in a note on Wednesday that Scholz’s government – a coalition of his Social Democrats, the Greens and pro-business Liberal Democrats, were nasty bedmates. at the best of times – will probably continue to fight over his Ukraine policy.
“Major adjustments to the government’s Ukraine policy are unlikely and the coalition will not significantly increase arms deliveries, despite Ukraine’s territorial gains in the past few days,” she said.
As a result, Ukraine has been bewildered and frustrated by Germany’s position, leading Kyiv to question Berlin’s commitment to assist the country as the fighting continues into the fall and possibly winter. unless there is a significant change from the Kremlin.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry official Yuri Sak summed up Kyiv’s frustration with Germany, noting that “one of the arguments is that they are afraid of further escalation – but that is an invalid argument because it resembles Like, what’s an escalation? It’s already bad enough.” “