Berlin US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was optimistic: “The military support that we are giving Ukraine makes a real difference,” he said on Wednesday after the support group from around 50 countries had met again. Above all, long-range artillery such as the Himars rocket launchers show a great effect.
Austin expressly thanked Poland, which was the linchpin of support for Ukraine and, like the Czech Republic and Great Britain, also mobilized additional aid together with the domestic armaments industry.
From the point of view of Union parliamentary group leader Johann Wadephul (CDU), Germany could do a lot more here. Although the government factions and the Union decided on a joint motion in the Bundestag at the end of April to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons, Germany has only delivered seven self-propelled howitzers so far.
The federal government is perceived internationally as “the soft part of the resistance” against the Russian aggressors, Wadephul told journalists on Thursday. If Ukraine were to be defeated, then Germany and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) would also have to take the blame.
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Should there be a special session of the Bundestag in August due to the escalation of the gas crisis, the Union will probably file a motion for disapproval against the federal government, the CDU politician announced. Because the traffic light actually disregards the joint decision to deliver heavy weapons.
In fact, there is little movement on the list of “military support services” that the federal government posted online a month ago. In terms of heavy weapons, only the seven Panzerhaubitzen 2000 mentioned by Wadephul appear under the heading “supplied”.
The delivery of the 30 “Gepard” anti-aircraft tanks is also “in preparation” as is the shipment of three “Mars” multiple rocket launchers, the “Iris-T” air defense system and 54 M113 armored personnel carriers from Denmark, the conversion of which Germany financed and carried out .
Other countries, on the other hand, are going further. Ukraine has already received 126 howitzers and 12 Himars rocket launchers from the United States. Austin agreed to deliver four more Himars systems. The weapon, with a range of up to 80 kilometers, can also attack Russian ammunition depots or supply routes in the hinterland.
Austin praised Norway for providing a modern anti-aircraft system, and the Baltic States and Australia are generously and continually supplying material, including from their own army stocks. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Thursday that his country would send more than 20 M109 self-propelled howitzers and 36 L119 guns.
There is apparently also movement in the planned delivery of ten Leopard 2 A4 main battle tanks from Spanish depots to Ukraine. As the industry service “European Security & Technology” reports, an industrial consortium has been found that can repair the tanks. This could take two to three months.
In Germany, too, there are offers from the armaments industry to restore decommissioned Leopard 2 tanks or Marder infantry fighting vehicles for delivery to the Ukraine.
How far is the ring exchange?
The federal government does not want to go it alone, however, as long as other countries do not also send western-made battle tanks. Instead, Scholz and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had campaigned for an “exchange of rings”: Eastern NATO countries delivered Soviet-era material to Ukraine, just like Poland modernized T-72 tanks, and received replacements from Western allies.
But when asked what Germany has already done or offered, the federal government has been stonewalling for weeks. Criticism has repeatedly come from Poland, including from the highest levels of government, that Berlin is not keeping its promises. Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek said there was no real offer from Germany that could be considered.
According to information from the CDU foreign politician Roderich Kiesewetter, the German government has promised Warsaw the delivery of 20 Leopard 2 tanks from April 2023, initially one per month, then three from October. And that despite the fact that Poland had given Ukraine almost 300 T-72 tanks, Kiesewetter wrote on Twitter.
It is no wonder that the Polish government is now orienting itself towards the USA and wants to buy American Abrams tanks. “We are gambling away the trust that has been built up over the years.”
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The federal government, which has also planned ring swaps with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece, emphasizes that talks are being held with Poland at the technical level and that a solution will certainly be found. “There can be no talk of failure,” said a government spokeswoman. But what a solution might look like is unclear. The Bundeswehr itself only has a limited number of the most modern variant of the Leopard 2 in its inventory.
That is why there are now doubts about the ring exchange concept from the ranks of the governing coalition: “Ring exchanges were a good idea for first aid at the end of February – now we have the end of July,” says FDP defense expert Marcus Faber. Ukraine now needs modern material with a high combat value. The ring exchange project is only of limited help.
However, according to the Defense Minister and high-ranking military officers, the Bundeswehr can hardly hand over material with a high combat value from its own stocks.
So it would have to come directly from the defense industry. CDU politician Wadephul says it is certainly no coincidence that the wife of the Ukrainian President, Olena Selenska, is soliciting support for her country in the USA. “This is a cry for help that should be heard in Berlin.”
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