‘What is Berlin afraid of?’ Ukraine presses Germany for more military kit

Ukrainian foreign minister accuses German government of ignoring requests for military hardware

Ukraine has ramped up the pressure on Germany to deliver more military hardware as Kyiv pursues its counter-offensive in the east and south against Russian forces.

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, accused the German government of ignoring Kyiv’s requests for Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles.

He said Berlin had only given “abstract fears and excuses” over why it was not providing more equipment.

Kuleba tweeted: “Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs Leopards and Marders now, to liberate people and save them from genocide.

“Not a single rational argument on why these weapons cannot be supplied, only abstract fears and excuses. What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not?”

He was speaking on Tuesday after a meeting with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, in Kyiv at the weekend.

The Green party politician, who had travelled by night train for her second visit as foreign minister to the Ukrainian capital, pledged further support from Germany, saying the advances made by the Ukrainian army in pushing Russian forces back were a “good argument” for the west’s delivery of weapons.

But when pushed by Kuleba to specifically support the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks, Baerbock said: “We’re already delivering heavy weapons.”

She then listed the weapons systems Germany had already sent to Ukraine, referring to its multilateral exchange programme and the agreements it has with other western partners, adding: “I know that time is of the essence.”

Baerbock is believed to want to step up German participation but must first win the support of the other parties in the three-way coalition government.

Others in her party, led by the co-leader Omid Nouripour, backed calls for a speedy delivery to Ukraine of Leopard tanks. “Everyone in the government knows that even more would be possible,” Nouripour told a German newspaper.

Anton Hofreiter, a leading member of the Green party, said in an interview with Mediengruppe Bayern: “Sooner or later, we will have no other choice than to deliver modern, western battle tanks to Ukraine.”

He said Russia had largely destroyed Ukraine’s armaments industry. At the same time, the old Soviet tanks that Ukraine possessed offered “bad protection” against Russian attack, Hofreiter added.

“I believe we should be delivering Leopard tanks as quickly as possible in order to prevent Ukrainian soldiers from dying unnecessarily,” he said.

Members of the pro-business Free Democratic party and the opposition conservative CDU/CSU alliance have also backed the calls.

Only the Social Democratic party of the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is seen to be hesitant. He has repeatedly said there should be no “deutscher Alleingang” (meaning Germany going it alone), which has been the backbone of Germany’s foreign policy since the second world war, but is increasingly being interpreted, from Kyiv to Washington, as potentially hazardous and feeble indecision in the current circumstances.

Scholz’s hesitation is seen by some as a wariness over further exacerbating tensions with Moscow and nervousness about an energy crisis that is being used by groups on the left and right to turn some of the electorate away from supporting Ukraine.

On Monday, Scholz insisted that the weapons Germany had delivered – including Gepard anti-aircraft guns, howitzers and Mars rocket launchers – “are actually contributing to the fact that it is now possible in the battle on the eastern front to change the outcome just in the way that we are seeing right now”.

Even as initial reports of the Ukrainian counter-offensive were trickling in last week, the defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, ruled out increasing weapons supplies to Ukraine, saying Germany’s stocks were depleted and that it needed to keep supplies to ensure the country can defend itself until it could use a €100bn (£87bn) package pledged by Scholz in February to purchase more equipment.

Amy Gutmann, the US ambassador to Germany, urged the German government on Sunday evening to commit to sending more weapons, telling the public broadcaster ZDF that while she welcomed and admired how Germans had supported Ukraine so far, “my expectations are even higher”.

Berlin has repeatedly pointed to Washington’s hesitancy in delivering certain types of weaponry – from tanks to fighter jets – to defend its own restraint.


Kate Connolly in Berlin

The GuardianTramp

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