War against Ukraine: Escalation in the coalition dispute over main battle tanks

war against Ukraine
Escalation in the coalition dispute over main battle tanks

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is being put under more pressure on the issue of supplying main battle tanks.  Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP/

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is being put under more pressure on the issue of supplying main battle tanks. photo

© Markus Schreiber/AP/dpa

Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the German traffic light coalition has been struggling to find the right course, more or less publicly. Now the collars of important players are bursting.

The disagreements over the issue of supplying German main battle tanks to the Ukraine grow into a public coalition riot. After FDP defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann publicly attacked Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in the dispute over the battle tanks, SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich told the German Press Agency: “Politics in times of war in Europe are not made in the style of outrage rituals or gasping, but with clarity and reason.”

The chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (Greens), told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Monday): “Of course it’s not just about Leopard 2, but this is a crucial support that Germany can offer.” Training for Ukrainian soldiers on the Leopard must begin “right now” so that there are no further delays.

At the Ukraine conference in Ramstein on Friday, Germany had not yet agreed to the delivery of main battle tanks decided to go to the war zone. The federal government has not yet issued any delivery permits to other countries for the tanks produced in Germany. Hofreiter said: “Germany made a serious mistake in Ramstein and lost their reputation as a result. That must now be corrected quickly.”

The foreign ministers of the Baltic countries also asked Germany to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine. “This is necessary to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and bring peace to Ukraine Europe quickly restored,” wrote Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on Twitter on Saturday – according to his own statements also on behalf of his counterparts from Estonia and Lithuania. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC on Sunday: “I would like nothing more than to see the Ukrainians are equipped with Leopard 2.”

Agree in hesitation

However, US President Joe Biden also seems to be just as hesitant on the question of main battle tanks scholz. While the Americans have no objection in principle to supplying main battle tanks, they do not find it practical to provide their own M1 Abrams. The US tanks would first have to be transported across the Atlantic, maintenance is more complex and they consume too much fuel. The tanks swallow the jet fuel kerosene, unlike the Leopard and many of the Ukrainians’ companions diesel.

SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert defended Scholz. “Excessive criticism and personal hostilities threaten to let the political discourse about our Ukraine aid slip further and further from the facts. That’s unfortunate,” he told the “Rheinische Post” (Monday). The cornerstones of German Ukraine policy under Chancellor Scholz have been on the table for the world to see for months and have not changed. “We’re not going it alone, we’re maintaining our own defense capabilities, we’re not becoming a war party and we’re not doing anything that harms the Western alliance more than Vladimir Putin,” said Kühnert, referring to the Russian president.

The Russian head of parliament Vyacheslav Volodin warned of a possible “tragedy of global proportions” if main battle tanks were delivered to Ukraine. “The delivery of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime leads to a global catastrophe,” Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel on Sunday. Russia will use even “more powerful weapons” if the US and NATO states deliver weapons to Kyiv that could be used to recapture areas.

Against “outrage rituals” and “gasping”

On Friday, Strack-Zimmermann attacked Chancellor Scholz in the ZDF “heute journal”, which in turn triggered a violent reaction from Mützenich. “Ms. Strack-Zimmermann and others are talking us into a military conflict. The same people who are calling for going it alone with heavy battle tanks today will be screaming for planes or troops tomorrow,” said Mützenich of the German Press Agency. “Politics in times of war in Europe are not made in the style of outrage rituals or gasping, but with clarity and reason.”

Strack-Zimmermann described the communication, especially from Scholz, on the issue of battle tank deliveries as a “disaster” because on the one hand Germany is giving Ukraine massive support, but the lack of a decision on the battle tanks gives a different impression. She told Tagesschau24 on Saturday: “If you don’t want to deliver Leopard 2, then you have to explain why. Then you have to explain why to Ukraine.”

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) told the “Bild am Sonntag” when asked when the decision on Leopard tanks for Ukraine would be made: “We are in very close dialogue with our international partners, especially with the USA Question.” In order to be well prepared for possible decisions, he instructed his house on Friday “to check everything so far that we don’t lose time unnecessarily if the worst comes to the worst”. In the interview, he also announced that he wanted to travel to Ukraine as soon as possible, “probably even within the next four weeks”.

Pistorius took office on Thursday after Christine Lambrecht resigned as head of department.


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