Ukraine criticizes Germany for failing to send arms

Soldiers drive a Mardier infantry fighting vehicle of the Bundeswehr during the “Land Operations Exercise 2017” educational training exercise at the military training ground in Münster, northern Germany.

Afp contributor | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s relations with Germany soured this week, with Kyiv questioning why Berlin had reneged on its promise to provide heavy weapons.

Tensions over Germany’s provision of Leopard tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine – or the lack thereof – came to a head this week when Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba publicly asked why Berlin had reneged on its pledge to send these weapons to Ukraine.

“Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs the leopards and now Marders – to liberate people and save them from genocide,” Kuleba said on Twitter, adding that “there is not a single rational argument as to why these weapons were not provided, only abstract fears and excuses.”

What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not? he added.

Marder is a German infantry fighting vehicle designed to be used alongside Leopard tanks in combat.

Kuleba’s comments came as Ukraine launched counter-attacks against Russian forces in both the south and northeast of the country. The Ukrainian counterattack in the northeastern Kharkiv region was hailed as a particular success, as Russian forces withdrew from towns and villages throughout the region, ending almost their entire occupation.

A new Leopard 2 A7V heavy battle tank, Bundeswehr’s 9th Panzer Training Brigade, stands during German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht’s visit to the German Army’s training ground on February 7, 2022 in Münster, Germany.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine relies to a large extent on Western weapons systems to fight Russian forces. Its allies in the West, mainly NATO members, have individually sent to Ukraine a wide range of military equipment.

In April, Germany promised to deliver Leopard and Marders tanks to Ukraine. Instead of handing it over directly, she proposed a swap plan. NATO members, Poland or Slovakia for example, were intended to send old Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine (such as the Leopard 1), and then Germany would replenish its stockpile with its more modern equivalent weapons (such as the Leopard 2).

Germany justified its proposal to send old weapons by saying: Ukrainian forces have been used to making Soviet-era weapons, and that they should only supply weapons they know how to use.

The only problem with the plan is that this arms exchange has largely failed and Germany is now facing a backlash from critics, both inside and outside Germany — not least, from a frustrated Ukraine.

One argument is that they fear further escalation – but that’s an invalid argument because it’s like, escalation to what? It’s bad enough.

yuri sak

Ukrainian Defense Ministry official

Yury Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told CNBC on Wednesday that Kyiv does not understand Berlin’s reluctance to send weapons that could be decisive on the battlefield.

“Their thoughts are hard to read, but Germany’s words, over the past seven months on a number of occasions, have not been matched by their actions. That is disappointing because there was a moment in time when they made this commitment that they would. To supply Ukraine with these tanks, it was a moment of hope and promise. We were looking forward to it.”

“If they are afraid of some nuclear strike or some other attack on the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, which could lead to a great tragedy, that’s another story but in terms of the situation on the battlefield, we don’t understand the logic behind that, and it may be some internal political games Moreover “.

Kyiv wants weapons and Germany has them

Ukraine’s need for more weapons comes as the war enters What could be the final stage in which the scales shift in Kyiv’s favour.

Russia has been seen by surprise by Ukraine’s recent counterattack, having redeployed some of its most effective combat units to southern Ukraine after Kyiv indicated over the summer that it would launch a counterattack to retake Kherson.

After what seemed like a brief period of startling silence, with Ukraine’s rapid victories and advance in the northeast, Russian forces began responding to those victories, launching a series of massive attacks on the northeast’s energy infrastructure, as well as missiles. strikes on the south.

View Ukraine.  Zelensky says the country is trending

All the while, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Ukraine’s international allies to continue sending arms to Ukraine, saying this is the time they most need to maintain the momentum.

Ukraine says weapons such as German Leopard tanks and Mardier infantry fighting vehicles could permanently change the balance of war.

Among Ukraine’s NATO allies, Germany – the self-proclaimed “leader of Europe” – has attracted criticism and even ridicule for its military aid to Ukraine. Just before Russia began its invasion on February 24, Germany’s offer to send thousands of helmets to Ukraine was laughed at.

Analysts say the criticism is not entirely deserved, however, noting that after the United States and the United Kingdom, Germany has been one of Ukraine’s largest arms donors.

Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans run a Dutch open-source defense intelligence analysis website and keep a record of weapons supplied by Germany to Ukraine.

Note on their site thatTo date, these shipments include a number of Gepard SPAAGs (self-propelled anti-aircraft guns), portable air defense systems (known as MANPADS, portable surface-to-air missiles), howitzers, anti-tank weapons, hundreds of mechanisms and millions of rounds of ammunition. The German government has also published a list of the military equipment it has sent to Ukraine, down to the 125 pairs of binoculars it has donated..

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz watches the damage while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as Russia’s offensive on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 16, 2022.

Vyacheslav Ratynsky | Reuters

But when it comes to German tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, Germany is outwardly slowing down, with no decision on the supply of such equipment, not to mention deliveries. Despite specific Ukrainian requests from Kuleba and other officials since March. Analysts say Germany’s good intentions have not paid off.

“Germany tried … to entice other countries to send their heavy weapons to Ukraine in a program known as “Ringtausch” (“exchange”). Under this policy, countries could receive German weapons for free in exchange for the delivery of tanks and weapons. BMP from their own stockpile to Ukraine Metzer and Ullmann It was noted in an article in early September.

Although initially a promising scheme, the Ringtausch program has largely failed to meet expectations as most countries expect to replace Soviet-era systems with greater numbers of modern weapons systems than Berlin is currently able (or willing) to offer.

What does Germany say?

Pressure is mounting on German Chancellor Olaf Schulz to decide whether to send such weapons to Ukraine, but there seems to be a reluctance to take this decision. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Monday that sending more heavy weapons to Ukraine was “not so simple”.

“It is not so simple to just say: I will risk that we will not be able to act, to defend the country, by giving up everything. No, I will not,” she said. “But we have other possibilities, from industry, with our partners,” Deutsche Welle reported.

CNBC contacted the German Ministry of Defense for further comments, and to respond to Koleba’s comments, and has yet to receive a response.

Chancellor Schulz defended Germany’s record regarding arms deliveries on Wednesday, however, telling reporters that “it can be said that the weapons that Germany has now provided to Ukraine are crucial to the development of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and that it did so by teams “in the battle.

Germany’s reservations about certain arms shipments prompted some critics to seek ulterior motives for their reluctance, with some even suggesting that Germany did not like the idea of ​​German tanks confronting Russian tanks on the battlefield, as they did in World War II.

“We have no alternative. It’s about our independence, our future, and the fate of the entire Ukrainian people,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured here on June 16).

Ludovic Marin | Reuters

Rafael Loos, a defense expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told CNBC on Wednesday that the German government offered different explanations for not sending the weapons.

“The German government itself has given explanations for why this has not been done, basically, since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine and even before that. We have heard concerns about the possibility of escalation, and that Russia may see the transfer of such weapons as a kind of red line.”

“We see concerns, mostly from the SPD (Schulz’s Social Democratic Party) about the images that German Leopard tanks might produce with Russian tanks in Ukraine. We have also heard in previous arguments about the tight schedule as the reason for sending Soviet materiel first. I think this is a legitimate argument. But it held out for a long time,” he said.

“At some point, Ukraine is going to run out — and the countries that will be able to support Ukraine with these kinds of systems — and you can’t easily replace it. So at some point, you have to start thinking about Western supply chains based on Western Western systems.”

The loss described Germany’s position towards Ukraine as one of “tremendous” resistance to unilateral arms sending, and that it favored a kind of European alliance that jointly sent arms and aid.

“Over the past six or four months, we’ve seen a huge reluctance both from the Chancellery and the Department of Defense to take the initiative, to take the initiative and they have always indicated ‘not to go it alone,'” Loos said. He added that Germany seemed to want the United States to take the lead and Berlin to follow suit.

Ukraine left waiting

While pressure is mounting on Berlin to act, Germany’s position is unlikely to change anytime soon, or likely to change at all, according to Anna Karina Hammer, Europe researcher at political risk analysis firm Eurasia Group. She said in a note on Wednesday that Schulze’s government — a coalition of his Social Democrats, the pro-business Greens and Liberal Democrats, and comrades uncomfortable at the best of times — is likely to continue to struggle over its Ukraine policy.

“Significant adjustments to the government’s policy toward Ukraine are unlikely, and the coalition will not significantly accelerate arms shipments, despite the territorial gains Ukraine has made over the past few days,” she said in a note.

As such, it left Ukraine angry and disappointed with Germany’s position, leaving Kyiv to question Berlin’s commitment to its support as the war dragged on into the fall and most likely winter, unless there was a drastic change of course from the Kremlin.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry official Yuri Sak summed up Kyiv’s frustration with Germany, noting, “One of the arguments is that they fear further escalation — but this is an incorrect argument because it’s like, escalation to what? It’s bad enough as it is.”

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