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Ukraine urgently needs to supply German tanks – DW – 14.09.2022

Leopard 2A4 tank
Kyiv calls on Germany to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanksPhoto: Courtesy Canadian Armed Forces/REUTERS

The recent successes of the Ukrainian army in the east of the country came as a surprise not only to Russian troops. The West, including the German government, also did not count on the rapid advance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The combat effectiveness of both armies seemed too high for Berlin: on the one hand, Russia, considered a military superpower with endless supply options for guns, tanks and fighter jets; on the other hand, the Ukrainian troops, who for several months daily begged the West for weapons in order to continue the fighting.

Consolidate success on the battlefield

And now Ukraine has again turned to the German government with a request to urgently send modern Leopard 2 tanks. Kyiv wants to use success on the battlefield and push the Russian troops as far as possible. Further acquisition of territory would be an important trump card in negotiations with Moscow in the event of a possible truce.

Miodrag Shoric
Miodrag Shoric

Modern tanks for Kyiv now, immediately? The German government hesitates. As has often happened in recent months when it came to arms supplies to Ukraine.

Berlin’s reaction is ambivalent: members of the government promise that Germany will stand unconditionally on the side of Ukraine. At the same time, they immediately disappear when they are asked to clearly answer the question of whether Germany should supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks or not. There is often a huge distance between rhetoric and action.

Dispute between partners in the German coalition

It is true that Chancellor Olaf Scholz and, in particular, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are cautious and evade a clear answer. Their partners in the ruling coalition, liberals and “green“, in its turn, stand for the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraineincluding modern Western tanks.

In Ukraine, the dispute between partners in the German government coalition does not find much understanding. Now Kyiv needs support. After all, luck on the battlefield can quickly turn away. And no one can predict whether German tanks will be able to exert the same deterrent effect on Russian aggressors in a few months as they have in the coming weeks.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is slow again: firstly, he wants to coordinate the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks – especially with the US, France and the UK. Secondly, despite the supply of arms to Kyiv, Scholz does not want to completely cut off relations with the Kremlin. Thirdly, the head of the German government fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use tactical nuclear weapons to prevent an imminent military defeat. The West would like the conflict to eventually be resolved through a political solution that will suit all parties – including Moscow.

Danger for Putin becomes a chance for the West

But wars rarely develop according to the scenario that politicians draw for themselves. President Putin has experienced this in recent months. In February, he thought that his so-called “special operation” would last several days, at best – weeks, bringing him a crushing victory. In reality, he could hardly have had a better chance to demonstrate to world public opinion the military incompetence and low morale of the Russian troops.

A military defeat would jeopardize his power. For the West, it would not be a threat, but an opportunity. Putin is not prone to irrational actions. He respects opponents only if they can oppose him with strength. The manifestation of weakness, including the disunity of the West, he uses to his advantage.

Therefore, it is impossible for the Western allies to agree on the supply of modern tanks to Ukraine for weeks. It should happen quickly – within a few days. This decision, another demonstration of Western unity, would greatly increase Putin’s readiness for serious negotiations.

Risk of war with NATO

And one more thing: the West does not need to be afraid of the use of nuclear weapons. These threatening gestures from the Kremlin are more rhetoric than anything else. The use of nuclear weapons would quickly lead to the end of Putin. China, his most important ally, would turn his back on him, at the very least because of the economic consequences.

The same applies to the Russians. They want to keep believing in what Putin promised them: a space- and time-limited “special operation” that has little to no effect on their daily lives. Polls show that Russians fear nothing more than a military confrontation with NATO. And if Russia uses nuclear weapons, it is hardly excluded.

Posted by Miodrag Shoric, columnist for DW

The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editors and Deutsche Welle in general.

See also:

Will the supply of Western weapons help Ukraine defeat?

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