Weapons for Ukraine: what a tank ring exchange should bring


Status: 04/22/2022 10:50 a.m

In the dispute over the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz is coming under increasing pressure. But what has Germany already delivered, who is demanding what – and what does a ring exchange of tanks bring?

Other NATO countries have long supported Ukraine with heavy weapons. Germany not yet. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is coming under increasing pressure on this issue – not only from the opposition, but also from his own three-man government.

the initial situation

Two days after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the German government decided to deliver weapons to the war zone – breaking a taboo. However, heavy weapons such as tanks were not included. In the meantime, however, Ukraine is demanding these heavy weapons in order to be able to defend itself against Russian attacks. Chancellor Scholz rejects this. He argues with the danger of an escalation of the war, because the NATO state Germany could become a party to the war, and the Bundeswehr could no longer deliver. Another argument: Ukrainian soldiers would first have to undergo lengthy training in order to operate modern German tanks. But criticism of this attitude is growing from the opposition and also from the ranks of the governing parties. Dissatisfaction with the hesitant German position also comes from other European countries.

What has Germany already delivered to Ukraine?

According to the dpa news agency, the following German weapons have now arrived in Ukraine: a good 2,500 anti-aircraft missiles, 900 anti-tank rocket launchers with 3,000 rounds of ammunition, 100 machine guns and 15 bunker launchers with 50 rockets. In addition, there are 100,000 hand grenades, 2,000 mines, around 5,300 explosive charges and more than 16 million rounds of ammunition of various calibers for small arms, from assault rifles to heavy machine guns.

Initially, the federal government announced which weapons it was supplying, but not for a long time. Members of the Bundestag can only obtain information about this from the secret protection agency.

Financing instead of delivery?

Instead of handing over heavy weapons to Ukraine, the federal government wants to finance the delivery of weapons and equipment from German industry to Ukraine. In this context, the Chancellor spoke of a list of armaments that could be delivered. As before, these include anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft equipment, ammunition “and also anything that can be used in an artillery battle”. Specifically, the list available to the dpa contains 5,150 anti-tank weapons with a range of up to 500 meters. Also on offer are 18 small reconnaissance drones, 3000 night vision goggles, more than 3000 handguns, 30 anti-drone rifles and armored vehicles. The largest part falls into the categories of reconnaissance technology (approx. 162 million euros), personal protective equipment (approx. 79 million euros) and handguns (approx. 41 million euros). This year, the federal government is providing two billion euros from taxpayers’ money for armaments aid abroad, most of it for Ukraine.

Why a ring exchange – and how should that work?

The second way of facilitating the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine is the exchange of rings: other countries deliver Soviet-designed weapons to Ukraine and receive replacements from Germany. The idea behind it: The Ukrainian armed forces can handle the aging weapons without special training. So they can be used quickly.

A first ring exchange is now planned. For example, the NATO partner Slovenia is to hand over a large number of its old battle tanks to the Ukraine and receive modern replacements from Germany. Slovenia still has a Yugoslav variant of the T-72 main battle tank, which is also used by Ukraine, under the designation M-84. The T-72 weapon system, which dates back to the Soviet era, is already being used by the Ukrainian army.

According to information from the dpa from government circles, Slovenia has also requested more modern equipment from Germany as compensation, including the German Leopard 2 battle tank, the Boxer wheeled tank and the Puma infantry fighting vehicle, which the Bundeswehr is introducing as the successor to the Marder, which has been in use for 50 years.

Is the ring exchange a liberation for Scholz?

It doesn’t look like that. Criticism continues to come from his government partners FDP and Greens as well as from the Union opposition. The exchange of rings was insufficient, complained Anton Hofreiter from the Greens. The chair of the defense committee, the FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack Zimmermann, invited Scholz to the committee for next Wednesday. There he is supposed to report personally on arms deliveries. “The question of what contribution Germany and in particular the Bundeswehr can actually make in terms of arms deliveries is an existential question for the people of Ukraine,” the invitation reads. The FDP politician is a supporter of the delivery of heavy weapons.

There is also a threat of trouble from the opposition. With a motion in the Bundestag, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group wants to urge the federal government to move on the question of deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine. Union faction vice Johann Wadephul (CDU) said in the common morning magazine ARD and ZDF to the question of whether the threat with the application and roll-call vote was valid, the Union had decided to do so and was bringing in the application.

There is a clear parliamentary majority for the delivery of heavy weapons. The majority, if not all, of the Greens and the FDP are in favour, and there are also important voices in the SPD. The Union has been supporting this for weeks. Wadephul sees the planned exchange of rings as insufficient. “It’s one excuse after another. It’s too little and too late.”

And how is the Scholz SPD positioned?

The Chancellor’s party is divided. Representatives of the left wing of the party have spoken out against the delivery of heavy weapons, while foreign affairs committee chairman Michael Roth is in favour. In a people’s party with almost 400,000 members, there are sometimes different opinions, said SPD leader Lars Klingbeil. He interpreted the criticism from the ranks of the coalition partners as individual opinions.

“I am very happy that we have a chancellor who thinks things through and coordinates closely with the international alliance partners,” said Klingbeil, referring to the procrastinating allegations against Scholz. “That’s what I expect from good leadership: No quick shots, but rather thoughtful, decisive and consistent action and not changing your mind every day or relying on nice headlines.”

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