When the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, Germany responded by offering to send the country 5,000 helmets. Kyiv’s mayor mocked the offer saying, “What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?” But under pressure from allies, Germany did eventually change course and agree to send Ukraine anti-tank missiles and other light weapons.
Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again drew a line, this time at sending German tanks to Ukraine. The idea was proposed by members of the Green Party who are part of the ruling coalition with Scholz’ Social Democratic Party.
Under a plan pushed by Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock from the Greens, Berlin would send up to 100 Marder armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.
German defense company Rheinmetall has signaled it could provide 100 of the tanks, which are currently in the firm’s possession. However, those tanks have been decommissioned and would have to be refurbished first, which would take months. A workaround under consideration had been to instead send identical models from the German army to Ukraine and later replace the army’s tanks with the refurbished ones.
But a defense ministry spokesperson told reporters Friday that the ministry had examined such a possibility but found that it was not feasible.
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Baerbock pushed back in what was seen as a veiled attack on Scholz.
“What’s clear: Ukraine needs more military material, especially heavy weapons,” Baerbock said at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Luxembourg, adding that “the terrible horror that we see every day” in Russia’s war against Ukraine made the need for such supplies “more than clear.”…
The foreign minister also issued indirect but harsh criticism of Scholz’s position: “Now is not the time for excuses; now is the time for creativity and pragmatism,” she said.
But excuses continue to be what Germany is offering. The country agreed to stop buying Russian coal this summer and hopes it might be able to cut off Russian oil by the end of the year but it won’t commit to cease buying Russian natural gas anytime soon as that’s considered too damaging to the German economy.
From the beginning of this conflict, there’s a sense that Germany is being dragged along against its will. The NY Times has a piece today arguing that’s essentially accurate, i.e. despite Germany’s outward commitment to support Ukraine and turn against Russia, it’s still not a comfortable fit for many Germans.
It was Germany’s biggest foreign policy shift since the Cold War, what Mr. Scholz called a “Zeitenwende” — an epochal change — that won applause for his leadership at home and abroad.
But six weeks later, the applause has largely ceased. Even as images of atrocities emerge from Ukraine since the invasion by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Scholz has ruled out an immediate oil and gas embargo, saying it would be too costly. He is dragging his feet on sending 100 armored vehicles to Ukraine, saying that Germany must not “rush ahead.” There are new debates in the ruling coalition about just how to go forward with the massive task Mr. Scholz has laid out, let alone how fast.
Already doubts are building as to the German government’s commitment to its own radical plans. “Zeitenwende is real, but the country is the same,” said Thomas Bagger, a senior German diplomat who will be the next ambassador to Poland. “Not everyone likes it.”…
Annalena Baerbock, the self-assured Green foreign minister, expressed concerns that Zeitenwende may be more temporary than fundamental. She said she worried that the consensus was fragile, that Germans who favor close ties to Russia were silent now, but had not changed their views.
“You can feel this,” she said in an interview. “They know they have to do it right now with regard to sanctions, energy independence and weapons deliveries, also with regard to how we treat Russia. But actually, they don’t like it.”
A German defense expert summed it up this way, “Once again Germany is not leading, it is being dragged.” That’s exactly how it has looked from day one and despite a few changes in direction it still seems Germany is less than eager to face the consequences of its own bad decision making when it came to where to get its energy. On that note, I saw this clip from 2018 on Twitter this afternoon. Here’s how the “outrageous” suggestion that Germany was becoming too dependent on Russian energy was greeted by German officials (and left wing media outlets) about three and a half years ago.
Trump made some outrageous claims about German energy at the UN — and the German delegation’s reaction was priceless pic.twitter.com/izpa2fKC3B
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 26, 2018