Berlin gives the green light to deliver tanks with anti-aircraft guns, in a move welcomed by the United States.
Germany announced its first delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, after weeks of pressure at home and abroad to do so amid confusion over its position.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Tuesday that the government, which is also racing to reduce its heavy dependence on imported Russian energy, has agreed to deliver Gibbard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he welcomed Germany’s decision to send in the tanks.
“These systems will provide real capacity for Ukraine,” he said after talks with Lambrecht and dozens of their counterparts at the Ramstein air base in western Germany.
Critics, including Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, have Accused Berlin is slow to give heavy weapons to Ukraine and on other measures that could help Kyiv fend off Russian forces, such as a ban on Russian energy imports.
They said Berlin does not show the leadership expected of a great power and that its reluctance – amid concerns about the economic impact in Germany of blocking Russian gas supplies – is killing Ukrainians.
Chancellor Olaf Schultz responded by saying that the armed forces, the Bundeswehr, were already at the limit of what they could provide, while the weapons that could be supplied by the industry lacked ammunition and needed modernization.
Discussing Germany’s role
Schulze, a Social Democrat whose party has long advocated rapprochement with Russia after World War II, also warned of the danger of Moscow’s perception of Germany as a party to the conflict, which could lead to a “third world war.”
However, even members of the two smaller partners in his tripartite governing coalition, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, questioned this reasoning, saying Germany needed to do more.
Ukraine’s appeals for heavy weapons have intensified since Moscow shifted its offensive to the eastern Donbass region, which is seen as more suitable for tank battles than the areas around the capital Kyiv where most previous battles have broken out.
The announcement of the Geppard shipments followed reports on Monday that defense company Rheinmetall had requested government approval for the delivery of 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles and 88 old Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine.
Moscow has described its actions in Ukraine, now entering a third month, as a “special military operation” aimed at weakening its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and rooting out what it calls dangerous nationalists.
Ukraine and its Western backers describe this as a false pretext for an unjustified provocation war to seize land. Ukrainian forces put up stiff resistance and the West imposed an economic sweep Penalties Russia is trying to force it to withdraw its forces.