Written by IDU Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, MEP David McAllister
After weeks of pressure, German Chancellor Scholz finally announced on January 25th that Germany now stands ready to deliver 14 Leopard 2 Battle tanks to Ukraine, notably the same amount the United Kingdom has promised to deliver. Further, the German government has decided to grant allies permission for the transfer of tanks that were assembled in Germany. As the country that manufactures and assembles Leopard 2 battle tanks, Germany has a decisive role to play in their export to partner countries.
The German decision to grant authorization to European partners was long-overdue. We need to give the Ukrainians what they need. With great sacrifice and military skill, Ukrainians have succeeded in repelling Russian attacks and have inflicted tremendous losses on the Russian armed forces.
The brave women and men of Ukraine are not only defending their own territory, but also the values of freedom and democracy which we cherish in Europe. If Putin were to emerge victorious from this war, his appetite for more would inevitably grow. The cost of inaction, the cost of not defending Ukraine, will always be greater than the cost of action. At the same time, let us remember, that Putin has repeatedly worn out and overstretched his military with offensive operations in the last year. Structural problems in the Russian armed forces have become visible, demonstrating how little the Kremlin has learned from the mistakes of the past months. Trust in the authority of the Russian leadership is starting to crumble.
Ukrainians need further assistance, especially in the face of the spring offensive which Russian armed forces are expected to launch soon. That offensive will also rely on the additional troops mobilized in recent months, amounting to an estimated 300,000 men. What the Ukrainian armed forces therefore need, as a matter of priority, are modern air defence systems and long-range artillery but also battle tanks of modern western design.
Following Chancellor Scholz’s announcement, the German government now needs to actively coordinate a Leopard 2 alliance, bringing together those countries which want to supply tanks in a consortium. As this consortium takes shape, the Ukrainian soldiers need to be trained accordingly to guarantee that the equipment is actually operational on the battlefield.
Regardless of the issue at stake, in terms of security and defence, the German Government has in the past year always moved late and only under immense external pressure. Just last week on January 18th, the European Parliament adopted two resolutions that called on the German government to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine without further delay. When it comes to strategic decisions of the Scholz government, we have seen the same pattern being repeated.
If the “Zeitenwende”, which Mr Scholz pronounced last year, is to actually deliver on its promises, the German government needs to take up its role within Europe and act as a bridging power.