By Gökhan Dağtekin
It has long been a matter of dispute whether Germany would allow the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The German government’s authorization is required for Ukraine to receive the Leopard 2 tanks that Germany has in its inventory or that Germany has previously exported to other European countries.
Avoiding Russia-NATO war
There was enormous pressure from the US and almost all NATO member states in Europe on Germany to authorize the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Most recently the issue was at the table in Davos, where some even hoped that Olaf Scholz might announce the authorization decision during his speech. However he did not. Instead, he stated that the Ukrainians can rely on Germany’s support, but added: “we will avoid that this is becoming a war between Russia and NATO.”
Germany’s Chancellor’s resistance to pressure ended on January 25th. He announced Germany’s decision to send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries that have the Leopard tanks to send their own.
The Leopard 2 tanks issue reveals the divisions within the German government and the enormous pressure on Germany by the US and NATO member states in EU to get Germany more engaged in the war.
The difference Greens-FDP-CDU and SPD
The Greens and the FDP in the governing coalition are in favor of getting Germany more engaged in the war in Ukraine. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the FDP, Chairwoman of the Defense Committee in the parliament, Anton Hofreiter and Omid Nouripour of the Greens are the spokespeople for this policy. CDU and its leader Friedrich Merz are not very far behind them. AfD and Die Linke are against this policy.
The Greens, FDP and CDU put enormous pressure on the government to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Of course, it would not be accurate to claim that the SPD as a whole opposes this policy, there are different opinions within the party. A few days ago SPD published a report on its new foreign policy perspective. In this report, SPD is also sympathetic to imperialist aggression in line with the goals of the US -a continuation of the “Zeitenwende (turning point) in German foreign policy” as Olaf Scholz put it when the war in Ukraine began.
Despite all this, there is a distinction between SPD and the Greens-FDP-CDU trio. This came to the fore over the Leopard 2 tanks. A group led by Scholz stipulated that further involvement in the war (in this case, the authorization of the tanks) would require more US involvement while the trio of Greens-FDP-CDU is ready for the “leadership” in the war even without the US Abraham tanks.
Indeed, Germany’s authorization decision occurred on the same day as the US decision to send Abraham tanks to Ukraine, which had also been on the agenda for a long time. “An official US announcement that it will send just over 30 tanks is expected to come on Wednesday, a US official told the Associated Press”, reported the Guardian.
The recent statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that “Poland has not yet asked Berlin for authorization but if they do, we will not deny it” demonstrates how serious of the rift is. Baerbock made this statement in a moment when Scholz openly opposed the authorization. Perhaps her aim was to increase the pressure on Scholz, saying “look, we are for it, but Scholz is against it”.
Political rather than military
According to military experts, Germany is the only country capable of supplying these tanks to Ukraine in large quantities. In Germany, many retired soldiers and military experts are asking the following question: Are we going to weaken our own defense forces and give our tanks to Ukraine? And no one believes that these tanks will play a decisive role in the war.
So we can infer that the aim of this move is to draw Germany further into the war in Ukraine. Just look at the statements of the presidents, foreign ministers and various officials of NATO member states in EU in the last 10 days to appreciate the scale of the pressure on Germany.
For a while a group led by Scholz resisted the authorization decision, as far as the US does not do the same for Abraham tanks. But on January 25 this resistance appears to have come to an end with a US-German compromise.