Berlin is said to have been slow to send arms to Ukraine, fearing that military success would spur it to attack Russia
Germany was reluctant to send tanks to Ukraine to counter Russian forces, due to “historical reasons” government sources told Der Spiegel magazine.
According to unnamed officials, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government fears kyiv could become overconfident if it wins a string of victories and launches an incursion into Russian territory.
Such a development “would mean that German tanks would again be inside Russia”, Der Spiegel wrote on Friday, in an apparent reference to Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
The fear that German weapons could be sent to Russia highlights a certain mistrust in Berlin towards Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And this is also a reason why the defense industry in Germany was not allowed to deliver battle tanks,” says the report.
So far, tanks have only been supplied to the Kyiv government by Poland and the Czech Republic, and not by major arms exporters such as the US, UK and France.
Although a tank embargo was never discussed at the NATO level, an informal agreement on the matter was reached between Washington, London and Paris, the sources said, and Germany could never be the first country to deliver tanks to Ukraine for “historical reasons”.
The Der Spiegel report quotes politicians and analysts accusing Scholz of being too slow to help Ukraine with weapons to fight Russia. The authors also cited rumors that the Chancellor was coerced into all the concessions he has made so far on military aid, but still delayed deliveries.
Since late February, when the Russian military offensive in Ukraine began, Berlin has only supplied Kyiv with lighter weapons, and the size of the deliveries has dwindled over time, with Welt am Sonntag reporting that only two German shipments are arrivals in Ukraine between March 30 and May. 26.
Deliveries of heavy weapons, including 30 Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles, seven Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers and four MARS II multiple rocket launcher systems, have been announced by Berlin, but have not yet materialized.
Scholz claimed last week that Germany would also send one of its most modern weapons – the IRIS-T air defense systems – to the Kyiv government. However, the Ministry of Defense said it did not have the designated material in stock and that questions should be directed to the producers. According to the media, Ukraine can expect to get the systems only in November.
That may be too late, according to Der Spiegel, as leaked assessments from German intelligence suggest Russian troops could bring all of Donbass under their control by August.
Russia attacked the Ukrainian state in late February, after kyiv’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.