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Calls for ‘Leopard’ deliveries to Kiev are getting louder

Some 80 years after the defeat of Stalingrad, German tanks will soon be rolling into Russia again. This is made possible thanks to the German government's recent decision to supply Marder armored personnel carriers to Ukraine. Observers assume that it will not stop there and that the delivery of heavy Leopard 2 battle tanks, as demanded by Kiev and Western war supporters, is now only a matter of time.

Published: January 10, 2023, 11:04 am

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    After the German government had resisted the demand for German tanks for months, citing the position of Western allies, they have since changed course and are following the example of France and the US.

    Last week President Macron ordered the delivery of AMX-10 armoured fighting vehicles to Ukraine, while the US government announced the delivery of Bradley armored personnel carriers. As a result, Chancellor Scholz’s government came under pressure, and promptly caved in.

    Hardliners, not only in Kiev but above all Scholz’s coalition partners the Greens, see the promised Marder delivery as a dam breach in their favour and reacted immediately with even more far-reaching demands.

    The Greens want war

    For example, the chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, the Greens MP Anton Hofreiter, explained: “I would like us, as the main manufacturing country for the ‘Leopard 2’, to start a European initiative for the delivery of ‘Leopard 2’.”

    In the Bundestag, his Green colleague Katrin Göring-Eckardt also spoke out in favor of handing over battle tanks to Ukraine: “It would be wrong to do nothing.” And Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck certainly did not want to rule out Leopard 2 deliveries to Kiev.

    In the FDP, too, supporters of escalation have been particularly emboldened and are pushing for the next steps in the confrontation. The chairwoman of the defense committee in the Bundestag, the armaments lobbyist Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, declared: “We will not give up. After the ‘Marder’ comes the ‘Leopard’. I’ll keep at it.”

    In the public sphere close to the government, the warmongers have finally dropped their masks. Scenarios are already being discussed on how the implementation would result in an open military conflict with Russia. Such plans go far beyond the Marder delivery that has now been decided.

    At the end of December, Carlo Masala, Professor of International Politics at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich, said that with regard to arms deliveries to the Ukraine, “there was talk of armored personnel carriers and combat aircraft, which were previously largely taboo”. Masala himself believes in expanding the war: “Tanks and planes are the only solution.”

    Masala is also optimistic that the current escalation is making good progress: “In two months we may be talking about fighter planes”.

    Kiev calls for WW3

    The government in Kiev has meanwhile lost all measure of the situation. There, Deputy Foreign Minister Melnyk, who in the past ten months as ambassador to Germany had made escalating demands for more and ever more deadly German weapons, promptly reacted with a new catalogue of demands – in addition to combat aircraft, he also wanted “combat drones, warships, U -boats, ballistic missiles”. These deliveries should come “as early as tomorrow”.

    Voices like that of the military expert Masala make no secret of the fact that the inhibitions which had placed limits on German arms deliveries in recent months have now disappeared from the discussion in Germany. This no longer needs to be taken into account. Masala, for example, addressed warnings that one could cross Russia’s “red lines” and become a party to the war by supplying tanks.

    He considered such concerns obsolete: “All this talk of ‘Putin will escalate if we deliver certain weapon systems’ is now finally off the table” and this opened “the door for other arms shipments”. About the delivery of battle tanks, and possibly also fighter jets and other heavy equipment, Masala said that this would not yet be “decisive for the war”.

    ‘Red lines’ should be ignored

    The armaments lobbyist Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann had previously called for the Kremlin’s red lines to be deliberately ignored: “Anyone who fantasizes about the concern that certain arms deliveries ‘will cross a red line towards Russia’, supports the story of the aggressor, not that of the victims,” she said.

    A recent article in the New York Times, in which an expert from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London openly spoke out in favor of disregarding Moscow’s red lines, explicitly made the case for ignoring Russian warnings that Western arms deliveries would lead to a wider war: “Red lines are almost always soft, changeable and conditional”, and therefore on can safely ignore them.

    In view of the demonstrative willingness to escalate, level-headed and sane voices currently seem to be in the minority. One of them is the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen. In a television interview at the weekend, he warned: “If we don’t deliver first-aid kits but rather arms, we naturally run the risk of being a party to the war. You have to imagine that: We are now a party to the war – against Russia. […] We could now become the target of Russian attacks with these arms deliveries. That means: Germany is drawn into a war – without us having our own war aims.”

    Voters are also ignored

    According to an INSA survey for the Bild am Sonntag, 49 percent of Germans consider the decision to deliver fighting vehicles to Kiev to be wrong, while only 40 percent agreed. The delivery of main battle tanks, which is probably next on the agenda, was rejected 50 percent, while only 38 percent were in favor. Some 1001 people were questioned.

    However, such sentiments are completely irrelevant for political leaders. In September, Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock declared her solidarity with Ukraine at an appearance in Prague, “regardless of what my German voters think”.

    The reaction to the German decision to deliver the Marders to Ukraine did not go unnoticed in Moscow either. In a statement by the Russian embassy in Berlin on Friday, the government’s decision is described as a “further step towards escalating the conflict in Ukraine”.

    The embassy said it took into account that the Scholz government apparently acted “under great pressure from Washington”. The Marder deliveries nevertheless represented a moral limit “that the federal government should not have crossed”, it added. Berlin’s decision to supply heavy weapons to the Kiev regime would “seriously impair German-Russian relations”.

    UK sets the pace for escalation

    It is not surprising that Great Britain is setting the pace. London is considering the delivery of initially up to ten Challenger 2 tanks, the broadcaster Sky News reported on Monday. Earlier, Poland had also increased the pressure, encouraging other countries to form a broad coalition to hand over more modern tanks to Ukraine.

    Corresponding discussions with Great Britain have been going on for weeks in order to encourage other states to supply main battle tanks, a “Ukrainian source” quoted by Sky News said.

    Meanwhile, German weekly Spiegel reported that among Western Ukraine supporters, London had already “non-bindingly announced” the possible delivery of a good dozen Challenger 2 systems. Officially, however, the decision will probably only be presented at another meeting of the so-called “Ramstein Group” on January 20 at the US military base of the same name in Germany.

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