Germany’s Tank Battle Angers Allies

1/23/23 

A tank commander looks through binoculars on a Leopard 2A6 main battle tank of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, during the NATO Iron Wolf military exercises on Oct. 27, 2022 in Pabrade, Lithuania.SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

Friday’s NATO meeting at Germany’s Ramstein military base was one of the most eagerly awaited international meetings since the war in Ukraine began. International pressure had been building on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government to allow allies to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks into the fight against Russia for weeks—ever since Poland declared it would send some with or without German permission.

Despite the West’s baited breath, the decision announced by Germany’s newly appointed defense minister was—drumroll please—more indecision. The United States, European allies, and most of all Ukraine were left furious.

This decision not to decide came after Scholz’s government had been tying itself in knots over every aspect of weapons deliveries to Ukraine. Berlin originally stated that it wouldn’t deliver any “heavy weapons” to Ukraine at all. It then relented, sending artillery that Kyiv says has been invaluable on the battlefield. The Germans then claimed there was a NATO agreement not to deliver Western-made tanks. No such agreement exists, and it was later reported that Germany was actually blocking Spain from sending their Leopard 2s.

Scholz then said he didn’t want Germany to go it alone—perhaps understandable given divided German public opinion—but when Britain decided to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks, his bluff was called. The Chancellory changed its tune once again, demanding a token number of Abrams tanks from the U.S. be deployed, later backtracking on that, too. It seems the only person who understands Olaf Scholz’s decision-making is Olaf Scholz.

What started as grumbling inside Germany’s three-party ruling coalition is turning into a war of words. The fact is that Germany has provided billions of euros in both military and humanitarian aid, but Berlin has consistently alienated allies with poor communication.

The chair of the Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmerman—a politician from the center-right FDP whose tongue is even more formidable than her name—put it simply after the Ramstein summit: “Germany has sadly failed… The communication is just miserable.”

While in Paris, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a member of the Green Party, announced on French television that Germany wouldn’t block any request to send Leopard tanks—that it would #FreeTheLeopards, as pro-Ukrainian activists have dubbed their demand.

But, constitutionally, the power to authorize the delivery of weaponry lies with the chancellor alone. What Baerbock was really doing was throwing the gauntlet down and challenging Scholz.

The same day, the co-leader of Baerbock’s Green Party said that he didn’t understand why tanks weren’t being sent when armored personnel carriers and artillery already had been.

When Scholz announced a Zeitenwende—a change of epoch—just days after Russia’s attack on Ukraine began, many thought that he was sincere in wanting to overhaul decades of German negligence on European security that had left the military underfunded and the country reliant on Russia for energy. He was widely applauded.

Since then, it has seemed like many of the old guard in his Social Democratic Party have clung to the idea that, though Russia can’t be allowed to win this war, Ukraine shouldn’t win either.

This contrasts greatly with Germany’s neighbors to the east, particularly Poland and the Baltic nations, which have staunchly supported Ukraine, informed partly by their centuries of experience with Russian occupation. Protests have been held outside German embassies in Latvia and Lithuania and by Ukrainian refugees and supporters outside the Chancellory building in Berlin.

The words from the Polish government have been perhaps the starkest: “We will not stand by idly and watch Ukraine bleed to death. If we don’t get German agreement on the Leopards, we will build a “smaller coalition” of countries ready to donate some of their modern tanks to a fighting Ukraine” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Twitter.

German officials are usually quick to dismiss the Law and Justice-led Polish government, which has clashed with the European Union over the rule of law and abortion rights, and which frequently attacks Berlin to drum up domestic support. But right now, the Poles have taken the lead on an issue that is frustrating Kyiv, Germany’s allies, and yes, many Germans too.

It’s time for Scholz to make up his mind, and to start communicating properly with the German people, as well as his allies abroad.

James Jackson is a Berlin-based journalist and commentator covering Germany and Central Eastern Europe. He is a former staff journalist at Deutsche Welle, writes for The BBC, Time Magazine and Times of London among others.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

3 comments

  1. Germany is not a reliable NATO partner. It should be clear by now, and thus, it should be thrown out of the organization, along with Hungary. Such trash countries only weaken the alliance.

    • Nato ain’t fit for purpose. It’s just a Marxist wank tank.
      A new bloc consisting exclusively of an anti-Russia coalition must be formed.

  2. NATO was born the a poison: that of having NO way to eject either dictatorial regimes, which ALWAYS manipulate for the leading cabal.
    It is RIDICULOUS to term a defense organization in an erroneous political manner, however.

    The problem of ejection of Erdogan and Orban – for their nations originally elected them, , is Manyfold – all interrelated::

    1. military technology leaks to inimical nations (or similar competing international treaty organizations). As readers have found, military tactical, operational, and strategic training, theory, practice is dependent upon effectively using unique tech, as well as preventing inimical forces from developing effective countering tac/op/strategies.

    2. Personnel controlling the information- largely military, tend to support their nation, even when it is turned, for example, into a puppet state by any election or other ascension of its administration. The USA , as one example among numerous, had had a president focused upon diplomacy, followed by an openly traitorous Russian Puppet. until late January 2021. The US Security and Intelligence agencies , fortunately having professionals , though appointees and elected individuals with FAR LESS ethic, loyalty to the supposedly representative democracy, were the SOLE protectors of the complex institutions whose integrity is essential to security.

    As far as other examples of national turns into puppet states or inimical coalitions, look at the internal changes in South Africa over the last decades , directly into the hands of Kremlin, due to rancor over racist dominance occurring between the 1600s to later 1900s. Humans have this vulnerability, of resentment long after situations and individuals have dissolved back into the earth- witness violent religions, and demented holding of individual attitudes as if they were useful. Hungary, and interesting illustration, heir to LONG-past regimes and border changes, remains swayed by rhetorical appeals to “Hungarian-speakers over the Carpathians. Once part of other coalitions and empires, Orban uses that past to continue a kind of popular delusion of “Ubermenschen” / “Victims”, due to their speaking Hungarian.

    CSTO experienced far more gradations of defection than has NATO. While I view and monitor these defection symptoms with pleasure, as the Russian Federation’s ruling controllers have retained violent enmity, enough for there to have been extreme danger of nuclear destruction, those indicators of dissolution , along with the disregard for life occurring in what appears to be the entire Russian culture, constitute a decay so swift tht daily its’ ability to harm is reduced.

    3. In addition to tech and military vulnerability, there exists Intelligence Agency cooperative loss, entailing loss of vast networks of human intelligence, the signals intelligence from the multiply-sourced monitoring arrays as well as Measurement and Signature evidence from which inference can be made (Turkey is technologically advanced, though its political/economic accession to the EU stalled in 1999 due to Erdogan’s problematic personal goals. I omit much on this in this comment), Imagery Intel – Turkey’s drone industry , depending on sat transmission (geospatial Intelligence) is high in quality.
    OSINT, with which most are familiar includes complex algorithms which would assist the inimical RusFed.

    4. I omit Cyber attacks and CyberInt , as everyone is by now familiar with the hacking, suborning, seduction, and the common netting through corruption used in intel war.
    Daily, US Cybercommand puts out so many discovered Cyberattack information to subscribing tech platforms , businesses, and IT staff . . .it’s comprehensive enough that it clogs the inbox. . .

    4. Nations themselves entail relationships with other nations. Where Turkey goes, so might a substantial subpopulation of Turkic peoples who have been actively recruited to Erdogan’s “Pan-Turkic “visions.

    In this comment, you’ve seen the extreme practical difficulties with ejecting NON-allied Erdogan administration , perhaps a benign, if hugely choking tumor in NATO, that might turn malignant whether or not efforts are made to overcome his arrogant intransigence toward more natural prospective members.
    (he perceives himself as losing power, and like other pathological personalities equates ANY loss as existential loss.
    Explore your own perceptions in matters concerning yourself, and you will discover where on the Psychopathic scale you presently reside. This is a necessary and sufficient , and accurate factor of personality. When you see it exhibited, the subject’s behavior becomes predictable)

    i’ve also alluded to the constant danger of internal US defection.

    Several present Congressmembers have rather openly CHOSEN to defect at least TOWARD Russia, a nation which HAS attacked the USA, if only so far through insufficiently regulated “social” internet sites.
    Due to overly combative and reduced cognitive abilities (I may get to this in comment) Congresspersons both on far right and “progressive” platforms HAVE BECOME “Useful Idiots”
    That has vastly multiplied the effectiveness of GRU/FSB/SVR attack projects using both energetic Disinformation and more subtle mixes of overemphasizing of disagreements that in ordinary mature adult interaction would be debatable, negotiable internal social discourse.

    There ARE so many weaponizable aspects of NORMAL human desires and interactions, that a comment can only note:

    “Refugees” tend to disperse toward areas that may not be in their best interests to emigrate. Human delusions of Paradisiacal living have CONSTANTLY caused destruction of the places BY significant immigration.
    Even the false propaganda of Russia itself caused some Ukraine refugees to believe they could pass through into other “Edens” , and have been caught up, now even subject to become forcibly conscripted cannon fodder like the violent felons Russia has backed with “no -retreat” liquidation option, causing more violent and persistent war than could ever have occurred were Russia not engaging in complete Disinformation in its continuing goal of eradicating AL dissent, and of an entire population (Ukrainians have been target of genocide not merely since the Holodomor, but since Stalin’s mid-1920s accession).

    As Mexico, for all its corrupt cartel economics, has recently stated, Russians seeking entry into the USA have vastly increased. EU has has closed its borders to them, understanding clearly how disruptive and malevolent are those who emigrate , retaining their cultural mores incompatible with the actuality of the Paradises they seek to enter and create
    (however illusory. Georgia is now having some sociopolitical problems these years due to too-close ties of populations with Russia)

What is your opinion?