Olaf Scholz and the “Leopard” tanks: everyone is waiting for the chancellor

Olaf Scholz and the “Leopard” tanks: everyone is waiting for the chancellor

Debate about “Leopard” deliveries
Battle tanks for Ukraine: everyone is waiting for the chancellor

Federal Chancellor Olaf Schold (SPD)

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD)


The pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to also deliver “Leopard” main battle tanks to Ukraine is growing. International partners obviously feel alienated, even traffic light politicians climb onto his roof.

It was the first question and it was unequivocal: could he assure Ukraine that a decision on “Leopard” deliveries would be made without further delay? “Thank you for the question”, replied the Chancellor, Germany will continue to make decisions “always closely coordinated with all our friends and allies”. Not more but also not less.

It’s practically the same wording that Olaf Scholz has been unwinding for weeks and months when it comes to German military aid to Ukraine, which can only be achieved in international solidarity and not on a national basis – as was the case at the joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday in Paris.

The 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty was celebrated, the basis of Franco-German friendship (the star was there). The battle tank debate was to accompany the chancellor all the way to the Sorbonne University. This should not least be due to Scholz himself, who only explains himself in monosyllables and in the same words. In doing so, he has obviously created a communicative gap that others fill – with the demand to deliver the “Leopard” tanks, the accusation of slowing down the aid and the fundamental question of what is actually behind Scholz’s reluctance.

Washington upset with Scholz, Warsaw wants to deliver

For the chancellor, the debate about the supply of main battle tanks is gradually becoming a stress test, with criticism pouring down from all sides. The USA in particular seems angry because the federal government is said to have made conditions for the “Leopard” deliveries to the White House. the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” According to reports, a war of words broke out between US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chancellor Wolfgang Schmidt. There was “at no point in time” a corresponding demand, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit deniedthere should also be a quarrel according to German representation have not given, but the impression of a slowing down the federal government has evidently established itself.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki criticized Scholz’s (reluctance) attitude on the “Leopard” question “unacceptable” be. After the Polish government had repeatedly promised to deliver the battle tanks to Ukraine if necessary without a German export license, Warsaw now wants to officially ask for a license. “We will apply for such a permit”, announced Morawiecki on Monday. And: “If the Germans are not in this coalition, we will still move our tanks together with others to Ukraine.”

This increases the pressure on Scholz to position himself and possibly grant delivery permits to other countries for the tanks produced in Germany (You can read here why this is necessary). Recently they had too Foreign Ministers of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania appealed to the Chancellorto clear the way. But will he?

The federal government is sending out different signals. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) defended on Sunday evening in the ARD program “Anne Will” the deliberation process, it was not just “a matter of the mere question of whether or not to deliver these tanks, but also of weighing the consequences of inaction, but also of action”. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), on the other hand, went a lot further: According to her statements, Germany would not oppose the delivery of “Leopard” battle tanks from other countries. “We have not been asked and (…) if we were asked, we would not stand in the way”, she told the French broadcaster LCI on Sunday evening.

Baerbock answered the question of what would happen if Poland were to deliver “Leopard” tanks to Ukraine – Warsaw now wants to make the corresponding request. At the time, it was unclear whether Baerbock actually represented a final agreed position of the federal government. On Monday she dodged corresponding inquiries about it.

Differences in the traffic light coalition

The differences about Germany’s course on the tank issue are also becoming clear in the traffic light coalition. The chairwoman of the defense committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP, and SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich delivered a violent public exchange of blows with mutual blame at the weekend. The social democrat Michael Roth even felt compelled to intervene: “Hey folks, our opponent is called Putin!” he called on the bickering on Twitter.

The coalition members seem to be getting the impression that Ukraine policy is being made primarily in the chancellery – public criticism from traffic lights is getting louder. SPD General Secretary Kevin Scholz boldly defended against “excessive criticism and personal hostilities”, co-party leader Lars Klingbeil also joined the chancellor and called it right to weigh up and coordinate with the allies in this phase of the war.

Gregor Peter Schmitz reports from Davos

Greens and FDP, this argument is apparently no longer sufficient. They urge more speed in arms deliveries. “We now need the decision to deliver battle tanks quickly, and that should be made together with our European partners,” said Green security politician Agnieszka Brugger “Mirror”. FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai said to “Berlin.Table”: “Who does not want the Ukraine If you lose this war, you have to act.” It is true that Scholz “carefully weighs things up”. At the same time, he warns that it is problematic “if Ukraine and its allies get the impression that Germany is delaying necessary decisions”.

It might already be too late for that. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy had Germany’s attitude recently sharply criticized in an ARD interviewon Monday have themselves several EU politicians on the fringes of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels disappointed by the hesitation in Berlin shown. Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, for example, said that Scholz had “a great responsibility to really take a step”. Before the expected Russian spring offensive, the Europeans would have to make sure “that the material is available (…) so that Ukraine can defend itself.” In other words: it’s Scholz’s turn.

Sources: “Southgerman newspaper”, ZDF, “Daily News”, “Handelsblatt”, n-tv, “t-online”, “Mirror”, “Berlin.Table”

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