Klingbeil criticizes “cross shots” by coalition partners

In the dispute over the delivery of battle tanks to the Ukraine, SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil has criticized “cross-shots” by politicians from the FDP and the Greens and suggested that the party leaders of the coalition partners intervene. “I know what I would do as party leader if my party kept throwing cross shots like this,” Klingbeil said at a press conference in Berlin on Monday. “I would talk to the right people about that. That doesn’t reflect well on your own party leadership when there are always people on the go.”

In the past few days, the dispute in the coalition over the delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks had escalated. The FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chairwoman of the Defense Committee in the Bundestag, described the Chancellor’s communication on the tank issue as a “disaster”.

The chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (Greens), told the newspapers of the Funke media group that the federal government was making a “significant mistake” with its hesitation and was losing trust. “That needs to be corrected quickly now.”

At the Ukraine conference in Ramstein on Friday, Germany had not yet decided to supply main battle tanks to Ukraine for defense against Russia, despite considerable pressure from its allies. The federal government has not yet issued any delivery permits to other countries for the tanks produced in Germany.

EU increases pressure on Scholz

In the European Union, too, pressure is growing on Germany to supply Leopard main battle tanks Ukraine to deliver. The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday on the fringes of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels that he was in favor of the delivery. “We are here to discuss it,” he said before a video call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. However, the decision lies with Berlin.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said on Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) weighs “a great responsibility to really take a step”. Before the expected Russian spring offensive, the Europeans would have to make sure “that the given material will be available (…) so that the Ukraine can defend itself”.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said: “Germany is the engine of Europe, the largest partner country, and that means a special responsibility.”

Poland wants to deliver

Poland wants to apply to Germany for permission to supply Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. “We will apply for this permit,” said Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday in front of journalists. He answered the question of whether Warsaw has already asked the federal government for such a permit or is planning to do so.

At the same time, he confirmed that he wanted to act even without a yes from Berlin. The permission is “secondary,” said Morawiecki. “Even if we don’t get such a permit in the end, we will still give our tanks to Ukraine – within a small coalition of countries, even if Germany is not part of that coalition.”

Like Finland, Poland also wants to hand over its own Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Since they come from German production, the federal government would have to give their approval. Scholz is under increasing pressure because of his opposition to a delivery of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Annalena Bärbock (Greens) said in an interview with the French television channel LCI that the federal government would not oppose Poland supplying Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. “If you ask us, we wouldn’t stand in the way of that,” Baerbock said. However, Germany had “not yet been asked”.

In Warsaw, Baerbock’s statement met with approval on Monday. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Polish presidential adviser Marcin Przydacz on Polish radio. “We welcome the position of the German Foreign Ministry.”

FDP strengthens Baerbock’s back

On Monday morning Baerbock expressed himself in Brussels however, evading inquiries about a delivery permit from the federal government. “Eleven months after the start of Russia’s brutal war of aggression, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has not deviated from his murderous plan to annihilate Ukraine,” she said. “And that’s why it’s so important that we as the international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine.”

However, FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Saai jumped to Baerbock’s side on Monday. The liberals assume that Poland will receive permission from the federal government to supply Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine, Djir-Sarai said in Berlin.

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