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Don’t blame Germany for slow arms deliveries

More weapons? Credit: Getty.

February 8, 2023 - 4:00pm

When it was still unclear in late January whether or not Germany would send main battle tanks to Ukraine, the international news cycle was full of scorn and accusations that Berlin was sabotaging the defence efforts of Kiev’s armed forces. What made the situation particularly delicate was the complex legal situation: Germany has a specific law that requires the government’s consent for the re-export of military equipment, even if that equipment is in the possession of another country. In other words, the fact that Poland and Finland, for example, have over 400 Leopard tanks between them was meaningless until Germany granted permission to deliver them to Ukraine.

Naturally, this created a significant incentive for some European countries to vociferously demand the tank transfer, all the while knowing that as long as Germany remained hesitant they would not have to deliver a single model. Once chancellor Scholz approved the deal in late January, however, they were expected to do the same. To German surprise, instead of a swift agreement to deliver significant numbers of tanks, “those European partners who had previously been most vociferous in their demands for Leopard deliveries do not want to commit themselves,” according to the German weekly Der Spiegel. 

Two battalions with 88 Leopard 2, the most recent version of the Leopard tank series, are supposed to be made available for Ukraine but — according to the German government —  concrete commitments regarding the number of tanks to be delivered are only slowly forthcoming, with countries like the Netherlands still dragging their feet.

Amid ongoing negotiations over the most modern tanks, there is at least more movement when it comes to the delivery of older weapons systems that still need to be repaired and refurbished. Yet even in that case, the first deliveries should not be expected before the summer or autumn. 

The issue is that Europe is yet to put forward a coherent strategy on how to deal with the Russian question, and Olaf Scholz’s hopes that Russia can in some form be brought back into the international community — a view he expressed in December of last year — is probably shared more widely behind closed doors than in public communications. The prospects of a long war are increasingly problematic, especially with more and more voices across the Atlantic taking on a critical tone regarding Washington’s continued support for Ukraine. 

The RAND Corporation, a leading think tank in the US, recently issued a study that attracted widespread attention, arguing that the United States should avoid “a long war”. Given that the US and Great Britain are responsible for the majority of military support for Ukraine, a change of direction in either of those two countries would severely impede the defence capabilities of not only of Kiev, but of Europe as a whole. As an editorial by the New York Times recently remarked, ‘Europe has missed the opportunity to step up its own defense, and the war has reinforced Europe’s military dependence on the US’.

This tension became even more obvious during the recent incident with the Chinese spy balloon, which highlights that, in the larger geopolitical game, China is the top priority for US policymakers. Further, at some point resources for the European theatre will have to be reduced in order to rebuild US deterrence vis-Ă -vis Beijing.

In light of these developments, there are understandable fears that the slow delivery of high-end weapons systems could coincide with reduced support from Washington, which remains the most crucial element in any defence strategy for Ukraine. This creates a moral as well as a political dilemma, especially in Western European capitals, where there is a simultaneous desire to support Ukraine and conclude the war. The problem is that Ukrainian victory, or indeed Russian defeat, is tricky to define. 

Without a clear set of goals, however, another tank scenario is unfolding, this time around the question of fighter jets. Once again, Chancellor Scholz is leading with a staunch no, but the question remains: for how long can he hold his nerve?

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Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

From the tardiness of some countries one might think that they are hoping the Russians have overwhelmed Ukraine by the time they have their “comitment” ready to roll.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

From the tardiness of some countries one might think that they are hoping the Russians have overwhelmed Ukraine by the time they have their “comitment” ready to roll.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
1 year ago

Perhaps Germany and the other Europeans are starting to realise that the US might be a false friend and have no idea as to what to do about it. They have been sucked into the quagmire and might be a bit hesitant to go further in over their heads.The revelations regarding the destruction of the Nord-Stream gas pipelines must be making the Germans a bit nervous about their relationship with their US “friend”.
What sane country would want to end up as collateral damage to a process over which they have little influence? They are stranded in a minefield and need to take very careful steps to escape, if they can indeed escape.

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on Sy Hersh’s “revelation”. A couple of months back, the Russians were claiming the UK did it. They can’t both be correct.
I have no idea who is responsible; one can construct logical scenarios for all sorts of parties, all of whom have plausible motives. (Hey, maybe the Israelis did it, to encourage demand for their gas. See, wasn’t that easy?)

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on Sy Hersh’s “revelation”. A couple of months back, the Russians were claiming the UK did it. They can’t both be correct.
I have no idea who is responsible; one can construct logical scenarios for all sorts of parties, all of whom have plausible motives. (Hey, maybe the Israelis did it, to encourage demand for their gas. See, wasn’t that easy?)

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
1 year ago

Perhaps Germany and the other Europeans are starting to realise that the US might be a false friend and have no idea as to what to do about it. They have been sucked into the quagmire and might be a bit hesitant to go further in over their heads.The revelations regarding the destruction of the Nord-Stream gas pipelines must be making the Germans a bit nervous about their relationship with their US “friend”.
What sane country would want to end up as collateral damage to a process over which they have little influence? They are stranded in a minefield and need to take very careful steps to escape, if they can indeed escape.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

During WW2 very little resistance occurred in occupied countries before the end of 1942 and was largely started by Britain sending in SOE agents. Resistance picked up after the battle of Kursk and invasion of Italy in 1943. In 1941 much of America considered Japan a bigger threat than Germany.
The difference in mentality of Europeans between then and now is what ?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

During WW2 very little resistance occurred in occupied countries before the end of 1942 and was largely started by Britain sending in SOE agents. Resistance picked up after the battle of Kursk and invasion of Italy in 1943. In 1941 much of America considered Japan a bigger threat than Germany.
The difference in mentality of Europeans between then and now is what ?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Ask anyone in our military who has had experience of German ” armed forces”… Rommel would turn in his grave!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Ask anyone in our military who has had experience of German ” armed forces”… Rommel would turn in his grave!

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

Remember, those tracked coffins which blow the legs off young Russians, and in turn the Ukraine young men get burned alive in – well they many sound like terrible things to you – but they are bread and butter to the children of the arms manufacturers.ï»ż

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Arms manufacturers don’t start wars.
Certainly none of Putin’s oligarchs whispered in his ears to invade. They were making too much money on other criminal activities. This will just make all of them far poorer.
This is about Putin’s grand vision of Russia–and himself.
It will always be thus until Russia ceases to be a significant power.

M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

“Arms manufacturers don’t start wars”
Indeed, that’s what the American government is there for. After all, they don’t hire “retired” generals for nothing and the lobbying never stops…

M Lux
M Lux
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

“Arms manufacturers don’t start wars”
Indeed, that’s what the American government is there for. After all, they don’t hire “retired” generals for nothing and the lobbying never stops…

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Arms manufacturers don’t start wars.
Certainly none of Putin’s oligarchs whispered in his ears to invade. They were making too much money on other criminal activities. This will just make all of them far poorer.
This is about Putin’s grand vision of Russia–and himself.
It will always be thus until Russia ceases to be a significant power.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

Remember, those tracked coffins which blow the legs off young Russians, and in turn the Ukraine young men get burned alive in – well they many sound like terrible things to you – but they are bread and butter to the children of the arms manufacturers.ï»ż