Did the Chancellor’s calculation work?

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has prevailed: the USA is now also supplying battle tanks. But Germany has faced a great deal of criticism with its condition that it only deliver Leopard 2 tanks if the Americans cooperate. Was it worth it?

Shortly after the Ukraine Contact Group meeting in Ramstein, Timothy Garton Ash mocked the Chancellor. The Oxford-teaching historian posted a nasty lexical entry next to the Olaf Scholz picture on Twitter, in which he explained the word ‘scholz’ to mean: ‘Communicating good intentions just to use/find/invent every conceivable reason , to invent or prevent them”.

Now it’s over with “Scholzen”. Germany supplies main battle tanks to Ukraine. Not only that, the allies also want to go along with it. The chancellor has thus achieved a great success. He has forged an impressive tank alliance. A strong signal to Russia’s President Putin and help for Ukraine in its fight for survival against the aggressor.

When the Chancellor was questioned in the Bundestag, the only thing left for the Union to do was to accuse him of hesitation. But it was worth waiting. It’s just better to coordinate with allies and request “escorts” from the US.

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The Federal Chancellor bears the responsibility. Not the opposition and not Anton Hofreiter from the Greens or Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP. No matter how many talk about international collateral damage, in the end Scholz will be measured by the result. That’s something to be proud of.

The Bundeswehr is supplying a company of Leopard 2A6s – i.e. 14 tanks. There is also a not inconsiderable number of American Abrams tanks. This is also a success for Scholz. The US had long refused.

Anyone who now sees the transatlantic friendship in danger is confusing kissing with good relationships. Friends have to be able to have different opinions. What kind of alliance would that be if you had to live in constant fear of a tit-for-tat.

On Wednesday, Scholz answered questions from MPs in the Bundestag. In the evening he went on television and explained his decision to the population. Many have claimed he should have done it much sooner. But from his point of view there was nothing to announce. That also shows leadership. Now it is important that Scholz also takes with him the citizens who are skeptical about a delivery of heavy tanks because they fear a dramatic escalation of the war.

In retrospect, his wait was probably worth it. Scholz believes that he didn’t make it easy for himself.

Cons: Collateral damage is incalculable

from Jens Munchrath

Yes, American battle tanks are now also being delivered to Ukraine – the chancellor has prevailed. You could see the satisfaction in his sovereign appearance in the Bundestag. Who could blame him, with all the criticism he had to take, with all the pressure he was under?

Still, was it worth it? Was it really necessary to snub the US to the point that Washington was even forced to deny Berlin’s claim that there was a tie between German and American tank supplies?

German Defense Minister Pistorius and his American counterpart Austin

The Bundeswehr is supplying a company of Leopard 2A6s – i.e. 14 tanks. There is also a not inconsiderable number of American Abrams tanks.

(Photo: IMAGO/Christian Spicker)

Was it necessary to once again irritate the European partners with his hesitation and hesitation, so that the Luxembourg foreign minister felt compelled to publicly point out to his counterparts that Vladimir Putin is the enemy – and not the Chancellor?

The doubts prevail. One thing is certain: Despite Joe Biden’s commitment, the German-American relationship is considered to be strained – of all times, when Europe and especially Germany could hardly be more dependent on its big brother across the Atlantic for security policy. Ultimately, Scholz was concerned with a symbol: America had to be there with its Abrams, which military experts believe are at best the second choice for Ukraine.

America had to be there so that Germany and its Leos didn’t look so exposed from a Moscow perspective – so far, so understandable. And the United States had to be there because the chancellor obviously wanted to reassure himself of the Americans’ conventional and nuclear deterrent power. However, this is worrying.

This is how the Handelsblatt reports on the tank deliveries to Ukraine:

If that was actually a motive, it implies that Berlin has doubts about the reliability of the obligation to provide assistance under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which in itself would be a fatal signal. And on the other hand, the question arises: Is the deterrence more credible because Washington is now also sending tanks under pressure from Berlin? That too can be doubted.

Overall, from the perspective of the United States, the suspicion must be confirmed once again that Germany, even after the “turn of the era”, cannot abandon its decades-long habit of delegating responsibility for its security to the traditional protecting power, the United States. Against this background, the talk of European sovereignty also seems like mockery.

Biden may overlook this because of the geopolitical dimension at stake in the Ukraine war. A successor who could well be called Donald Trump will not have this strategic foresight – and he will certainly remember Berlin’s barely concealed attempts at blackmail in the matter of Abrams. He considers NATO to be “obsolete” anyway.

More: All developments on the war in Ukraine in our live blog

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