Paris is delivering reconnaissance tanks to Ukraine, Washington is considering sending infantry fighting vehicles. And Berlin? Comes under increasing pressure to provide heavy weapons. According to media reports, a "qualitatively new step" is being planned. The Foreign Minister also makes suggestions.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has indicated a change of course regarding the possible delivery of main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany and its allies should leave no doubt about their support for Kyiv and "see what we can do more, especially with military support," said Baerbock at a press conference with her British counterpart James Cleverly in London. She added: "This includes defensive weapons, but it also includes means, weapons that Ukraine needs to liberate occupied territory and thus the people who are suffering from Russian terror there," the Green politician continued. Despite inquiries from journalists, Baerbock did not make any concrete commitments for Kyiv.
The media had previously reported that the German government could change its position on the delivery of western-style tanks to Ukraine in the near future. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" from government circles report a "qualitatively new step". According to information from the "Süddeutsche" Berlin could pave the way for the delivery of "Marder" type armored personnel carriers. The "FAZ" writes about a joint step by Germany and the USA.
According to information from ntv, the decision should be preceded by a telephone call from Chancellor Olaf Scholz to American President Joe Biden. As reported by government circles, the conversation could still take place today. After that, the green light should be given for the delivery of German "Marder" tanks. It had previously been reported that Washington was looking into deploying the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.
On Wednesday, one of the central arguments with which the federal government had previously justified its negative attitude was swept off the table: French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would be sending AMX-10 RC reconnaissance tanks to Ukraine. So far, Chancellor Scholz and other prominent SPD representatives have always argued that other states are not supplying Western-style main battle tanks to the country attacked by Russia, and have ruled out German "going it alone". After Macron's most recent announcement and the reports about a possible Bradley delivery, politicians from the Greens, FDP and Union had reiterated their demands that Germany also provide Ukraine with combat and reconnaissance tanks.
Asked about a possible delivery of the modern "Leopard 2" battle tank, SPD leader Saskia Esken told ntv on Thursday: "The Chancellor is in close talks with special partners and friends, and that will continue to be the case. And then we will make decisions accordingly." This also fits the message of a "qualitatively new step".
The "Spiegel" reported on Thursday signs of a rethinking in the SPD: There is now the possibility "of coordinating the next level of support for Ukraine with western partners," SPD defense politician Andreas Schwarz told the Hamburg news magazine. He expects that the French announcement will now "bring more movement into the German discussion". SPD MP Adis Ahmetovic welcomed "the announcements by the United States and France that they want to deliver reconnaissance tanks to Ukraine, among other things." Ahmetovic told the "Spiegel": "Should there be tank deliveries from Germany, this will take place in cooperation and in consultation with our Euro- and transatlantic partners."
As recently as Tuesday, the SPD foreign policy expert Michael Müller ruled out "ill-considered solo efforts" on ARD and warned that "NATO would become a direct party to the war". In addition to arms deliveries, there must also be offers of talks in the direction of Russia. "It's unfortunate that the Greens and the FDP don't understand that." Müller's broadside shows how unnerved parts of the SPD are now reacting to demands from their coalition partners for the delivery of battle tanks. For months, the issue has been a burden on the traffic light coalition, which is not exactly poor in conflict issues. The Panzer dispute also splits the SPD itself. Younger social democrats like Ahmetovic, Schwarz and the European Committee chairman Michael Roth are faced with politicians like Müller, the party leftist Ralf Stegner or the Lower Saxony Bundestag veteran Bernd Westphal, who are looking for more diplomatic initiatives in the Dealing with Russia thump.
In fact, politicians from the Greens and FDP feel confirmed in their demands by the signals from Washington and Paris. "Supplying German battle tanks to Ukraine was a very good idea even before the French decision. But I have hope that the delivery of French reconnaissance tanks will also promote corresponding decisions by the federal government," said Sara Nanni, spokeswoman for defense policy for the Greens in the Bundestag , on Thursday to ntv.de. "The delivery of "Leopard 1" and "Mardern" must be implemented as soon as possible. Things that are lying around in the industry are of no use, neither for Ukraine nor for Germany."
Ukraine has been waging a reconquest campaign since the spring, when the Russian pincer attack on Kyiv was called off. "And since then the question has been how to do it. Main battle tanks are an important element," said Nanni. "Battle tanks don't just fall out of the sky, they have to be made available in the largest possible number by Ukraine's partners." The number of weapons available will decide the outcome of the war, said Nanni. "As bitter and brutal as it is, it is a battle of materials, which is why Ukraine is dependent on supplies from the European and US defense industries."
But not only the "Leopard 1" and "Marder" standing on the heap are up for debate. The main battle tank "Leopard 2" is considered a real game changer, a weapon decisive in the course of the war. The countries using the “Leopard 2” had offered Germany to initiate a joint delivery of this model to Ukraine, Marie-Agnes Strack Zimmermann told ntv on Wednesday. "But the Federal Republic would have to allow that because it's a German tank that's manufactured here. That hasn't happened to date." There are also enough vehicles from the "Marder" infantry fighting vehicle and enough suitable ammunition in Europe. A transfer to Ukraine is "not a problem at all," said the FDP politician and chair of the Defense Committee in the Bundestag.
Of all the partner countries with whom she spoke in Europe and America, "none would have a problem" if Germany delivered Western-style battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. De facto, Strack-Zimmermann accused the Chancellor of misrepresentation, because he has been denying the existence of such a consensus for months. According to the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), 13 European countries have a total of 2000 "Leopard 2". It is unclear how many of these are operational.
The ECFR already submitted a proposal in September on how at least 90 of these models, which are considered to be the most powerful tanks in the world, could be made available to Ukraine. It is extremely unlikely that Turkey, Switzerland or Hungary would hand over combat equipment. On the other hand, according to media reports, Finland, Denmark and Spain have at least signaled a willingness to talk. But nothing works without the consent of the manufacturing country Germany. Other European "Leopard 2" users are Greece, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.
France, on the other hand, does not use the "Leopard", but the French model Leclerc, of which no significant number could be given, reports the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung". Deploying the American Abrams tanks in the Ukraine is considered too expensive: the devices would have to be transported to Europe, need special fuel and are also considered less efficient in comparison to the "Leopard 2".
So the federal government - or rather Scholz and the SPD have - decisive influence on the further course of the war and on the offensive potential of the Ukrainian army. Neither their coalition partners nor the Union would refuse a delivery of "Marder", "Leopard" 1 or 2. A negative attitude is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, especially since an end to the war in Ukraine is not in sight given the current course of the front: Kyiv is determined not to negotiate with Russia as long as Moscow occupies such large areas of the country. They would inevitably become a bargaining chip in peace talks. So it's quite possible that the chancellor's office has taken the position of bringing about an end to the war instead, in that Russia suffers a complete military defeat as quickly as possible. And as is well known, this is not possible without modern battle tanks.