The German federal government under the incumbent Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is still unable to deliver heavy weapons systems to Ukraine. More than 110 days after the start of the war in Ukraine still not one heavy weapon system from Germany arrived in Ukraine. One gets the impression that Germany is unwilling to provide a democratic state with the support it urgently needs. The last delivery of light weapons from Germany concluded two moth ago Meanwhile, the situation in eastern Ukraine is coming to a head. The war is developing into an artillery war in which Ukraine cannot win without the right weapons. The result is always new losses of land and life. Ukraine is now openly communicating what the country needs to repel the Russian invasion. Among the weapon systems required are tanks and howitzers, which the German armaments industry could easily supply. This requires the approval of the German government and is not granted, even after repeated requests. Germany can contribute a part to the victory, but it refuses. A chronology of unreasonableness.
A turning point in the German Bundestag
Germany does not deliver weapons to the war zones of the world. Neither light nor heavy weapons. This doctrine of political action in Germany was overcome on February 27th. In a speech to the German Bundestag, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany is willing to support Ukraine in its defense against Russia. Even with weapons. A historic moment. According to Scholz, supporting Ukraine with weapons is the answer to the warmonger Putin, who is questioning the European peace order. “The freedom of Ukrainians challenges his own oppressive regime. That is inhuman. This is against international law. Nothing and nobody can justify that.” These were the words of the Federal Chancellor in the Bundestag. Arms and sanctions are the only possible responses to Russia’s aggression. At the same time,the financial contribution of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr was announced. A turning point in German politics. After the German Bundeswehr had been the subject of decreased funding and budget cuts for years, it will be now modernized with more financial resources. After years of pursuing a policy of appeasement towards Russia, the failure has finally been accepted. The classic German politic “Wandel durch Handel” (the political change through trade with western country) has failed and the consequence of this is now called sanctions. Finally, helpful support to Ukraine through military supplies. Anyone who followed the debate in the Bundestag as a freedom-loving democrat could be proud of a country that gave the impression of having learned from its mistakes. A strong partner for a country under attack by a totalitarian regime.
German arms shipments to Ukraine
After initial difficulties, weapons and equipment worth around 191.1 million euros reached Ukraine from Germany. Including 2,500 anti-aircraft missiles, 900 rocket-propelled grenades, 100 machine guns and 15 bunker grenades. Over 10,000 hand grenades, 2,000 mines and 5,000 explosive charges were also sent to Ukraine. Finally, there were 16 million rounds of ammunition for various weapons spread over several deliveries. These numbers come from a recent request from Left MP Sevim Dagdelen. They take into account deliveries to Ukraine from February 24 to April 19.
According to research by the German newspaper Welt, only two deliveries arrived in Ukraine between March 30 and May 26. Both deliveries contained only minor material. According to this research, Germany delivered 3,000 anti-tank mines and 1,600 special mines in mid-May. According to the same research, the last delivery of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons took place on March 25.
Like many other countries, the German Bundestag decided to deliver heavy weapons systems to Ukraine. A total of 50 Gepard anti-aircraft systems and 7 self-propelled
howitzers are to be made available to the Ukrainian army after the training of Ukrainian soldiers on these systems has been completed. Unlike other countries, Germany has not yet delivered any heavy weapons systems to Ukraine. Although the decision of the Bundestag was made at the end of April. Meanwhile, the list of promised heavy weapons has been expanded. Germany has agreed to deliver 4 Mars multiple rocket launchers and the IRIS-T air defense system. Delivery date unknown. Experts assume a delivery date in autumn at the earliest.
Big promises and no support
If the research of the German newspaper Welt is correct, then Germany has been delivering almost no weapons to Ukraine for 12 weeks. The critical reactions from Kyiv and the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, seem to support this research. While German politicians boast abroad that Germany achieves more than many other countries, the reality is different. Initial practical solidarity with Ukraine has given way to empty words. Instead of creating clarity, Germany keeps finding new excuses not to have to testify about the delivery of arms to Ukraine. The words of the German chancellor during his speech at the economic forum in Davos therefore seem downright cynical: “But Putin will only seriously negotiate peace if he realizes that he cannot break Ukraine’s defenses. That is why we support Ukraine.”
The weapons that Ukraine can use determine Ukraine’s defense. The defense force is therefore directly dependent on supplies from western allies. Many states have recognized this and are supporting Ukraine on a large scale. Above all the USA and Poland with heavy weapon systems. Germany does not play the front field in support. The promised heavy weapon systems have still not reached Ukraine and the training of the soldiers on the systems is taking place with too much delay. Germany seems to deduce the extent to which weapons must be supplied from its own poorly positioned Bundeswehr. Every reasonable person should be aware that no war can be won with 7 self-propelled howitzers. Especially when the promised deliveries drag on for months.
Germany’s support could be much greater and without affecting the meager holdings of the Bundeswehr. The German armaments industry has been willing to deliver heavy weapon systems for months. These included 100 Marder armored personnel carriers and 88 Leopard 1 main battle tanks. The German government has received corresponding applications for export and sale, but is reluctant to make a decision. An offer for 100 Panzerhaubitze 2000 is also on the table with the Ukrainian government. The supplier is the German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, which, like other companies, is only too happy to deliver to the Ukraine. But the germany authorities refuses to approve the sales.
Instead, the German government wants to equip Ukraine with outdated systems from Soviet stocks. To this end, Germany is urging European partners to exchange rings under unclear conditions. In this case, old Soviet systems are to be delivered to Ukraine and the states are to receive modern weapons made in Germany in return. However, this leads to several problems. Agreements with the German government are proving to be difficult. After all, Poland accused Berlin of breaching its word. Last but not least, the Soviet systems on the battlefield are not effective enough to be truly decisive for Ukraine’s war. What Ukraine urgently needs are western-made heavy weapon systems. Tanks, planes, artillery and armored personnel carriers.
Disinformation by the Department of Defense
At the end of May, the parliamentary state secretary in the German defense ministry, Siemtje Möller (SPD), declared that there was an informal agreement within NATO that would prohibit the delivery of modern weapon systems such as western tanks. For the first time, Germany provided a reason that would explain the hesitant policy of supplying arms. After the German press and international media took up this report, several NATO partners contradicted this statement within a very short time.
According to a report in the Tagesspiegel, the information about an informal agreement within NATO goes back to a statement by Olaf Scholz. He spoke before on the defense committee on May 13 and had to answer questions from other parliamentarians on Ukraine policy. The committee was not public and just little information has leaked out to the press. This may also be the reason why the report about the alleged NATO agreement only found its way to the public two weeks later, after Siemtje Möller spoke about it in a german television program.
Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová and Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď contradicted the statement about an informal NATO collusion shortly after the first reports about it. Černochová said during a press conference in Prague that there was no such deal and that the Czech Republic would never agree to such a deal. British politician Liz Truss also contradicted the report. She stressed that it was a hoax and that it is legitimate to support Ukraine with tanks and even planes.
The Chancellery remains evasive in clarifying this matter. When asked by the Tagesspiegel, the answer was that the delivery would take place in close consultation with partners and allies. Weapons should reach Ukraine as quickly as possible and help effectively with the defense. “There is also a common understanding that arms deliveries should not be included in the conflict with Russia.” The NATO alliance announced that arms deliveries are national decisions.
What remains is the betrayal
Germany never gets tired of emphasizing that Germany will not go the way alone. That all deliveries of weapon systems happen in close consultation with allies. Reality paints a different picture. Unlike many other countries, Germany has not yet delivered a single heavy weapon system to Ukraine. Unlike other countries, support for Ukraine from Germany has fallen sharply. Recently, no weapons from Germany reached the Ukraine.
At the same time, the German government is putting pressure on its own allies. Poland is said to hand over its weapons systems under unclear conditions and Greece is said to weaken its defenses and wait indefinitely for replacement deliveries. At the same time, Turkey is openly threatening Greece with a conflict. Both countries are not enthusiastic about German foreign policy.
Instead of helping Ukraine directly by allowing arms sales, Germany is embroiled in more and more promises waiting to be implemented. Even with the Promised Anti-Aircraft system Gepard, there are still unresolved ammunition issues. Germany has owed a solution for months.
The question is whether Germany will really help Ukraine win this war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj recently called on Germany to finally take a stand. Either to fight for a victory on the side of Ukraine, or to further promote relations with Russia. Germany would do well to make a decision, everything else remains as a betrayal.
By Christian Gruber
Christian Gruber is a war reporter & part of the FTN editorial team. He is in Ukraine since end of February 2022