Support for Kyiv Germany Expected to Announce Tank Deliveries to Ukraine
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) wants to push ahead with further arms deliveries to Ukraine. DER SPIEGEL has learned that the SPD minister will announce at a Ukraine conference hastily convened by the United States at the Rammstein Air Base this morning that Germany wants to enable the delivery of German "Gepard" anti-aircraft tanks. In addition, Germany will train Ukrainian solders on the Panzerhubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzer system that the Netherlands plans to supply to the Ukrainian army.
With the announcement, Lambrecht is seeking to blunt the harsh criticism on the issue of arms deliveries to Ukraine. The German government has been the subject of criticism for its hesitant stance for several weeks. Lambrecht is expected to emphasize to the around 20 defense ministers who have arrived for the meeting that the German government has achieved a true turning point with a special 100-billion-euro funding package for the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, and the first deliveries of weapons to Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and almost all of his counterparts in the European Union as well as Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Rezniko and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg are expected at the Ramstein base. The U.S. made clear in advance that it expects more from Europe in terms of arms deliveries. A U.S. military spokesperson told DER SPIEGEL that Washington alone has already pledged $3.2 billion worth of weapons. Now, he said, they want to work with partners to find ways to "equip Kyiv with additional abilities to counter the Russian war of aggression."
A possible delivery of the "Gepard" systems has been discussed for some time. Back in February, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), the arms manufacturer, announced it still had around 50 of the tanks in its own inventory that could be delivered to Ukraine after a short overhaul. A corresponding offer had also been made to the German government. At the time, KMW CEO Ralf Ketzel said the weapon systems could be made operational again "relatively quickly."
The Bundeswehr’s used "Gepard" tanks have already been sold to Brazil, where they were used for security at the Summer Olympics hosted there, and to Qatar, which plans to use them when it hosts the World Cup. Romania has also purchased "Gepard" tanks.
The "Gepard" tanks are based the "Leopard" chassis and are equipped with two 35-millimeter cannons and radar. In addition to being used for air defense, they can also engage with targets on the ground.
Swap Deals Encouraged
Following weeks of criticism of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the SPD for his government’s hesitancy in weapons deliveries, a decision could also be made in Berlin this week on whether and in what form Germany will support Ukraine with heavy weapons. The conservative Christian Democrats have already introduced a resolution for the supply of heavy weapons in Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag. The German government coalition, comprised of the SPD, the Green Party and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), are also preparing their own joint resolution, which DER SPIEGEL has seen. Under the motion, arms deliveries would mainly take place in the form of swap deals with other countries.
According to the motion, "in particular, weapons of Soviet or Russian design" are to be delivered to Ukraine, since they could be used immediately. The swap deals envisage "Central and Eastern European states, in particular, providing Ukraine with their own rapidly deployable heavy weapons, particularly of Soviet and Russian production, with which the Ukrainian forces are familiar, and in return successively equipping themselves with Western weapons systems."
Support in Parliament for Heavy Weapons and Training for Ukrainian Soldiers
The delivery of materiel to Ukraine is to continue and, "where possible," is to be accelerated, including heavy weapons and complex systems, the 10-page draft states. "In the framework of swap deals, for example." It also states that Germany’s alliance defense capabilities must not be jeopardized in the process, however, direct deliveries are not explicitly excluded.
It states that the government should review "whether further weapons can be provided" and that it should "actively approach other countries to offer them swap deals."
In the motion, the government coalition also supports the idea of providing training for Ukrainian soldiers in Germany or on NATO territory. In addition, equipment gaps in the Bundeswehr would have to be closed "as quickly as possible." That, the motion states, is why the adoption of the special 100-billion-euro Bundeswehr fund is so crucial.
In their motion for a resolution, which is to be the basis for talks with the governing parties, the parliamentary group of the opposition Christian Democrats has also called for deliveries of heavy weapons from the "available stocks" of the Bundeswehr. Speaking on a prime time news show from public broadcaster ARD on Monday night, the conservatives’ parliamentary group leader, Friedrich Merz, said he wants to see the coalition government "introduce and pass a joint resolution in the German Bundestag next Thursday."
Among the things listed in the draft motion from the conservatives are "armored weapon systems (including battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles) and artillery systems, long-range reconnaissance assets, command and control equipment, protective equipment, electronic warfare assets." It also calls on the government to decide "without delay" on offers from the defense industry to Ukraine. The Bundestag is expected to vote on the motions this week.