Germany has been hesitant in sending tanks to Ukraine to counter Russian forces, due to “historical reasons,” government sources have told Der Spiegel magazine.
According to the unnamed officials, there is concern within Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government that Kiev could become over-confident if it achieves a series of victories, and might launch an incursion into Russian territory.
Such a development “would mean that German tanks would once 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 weaponry could be sent into Russia “highlights a certain distrust in Berlin of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And that, too, is a reason why the defense industry in Germany has not been authorized to deliver battle tanks,” the report claimed.
So far, tanks have only been supplied to the Kiev government by Poland and the Czech Republic, not major arms exporters such as the US, UK and France.
Despite a tank embargo never being discussed at the NATO level, an unofficial agreement on the issue has been 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 quoted politicians and analysts accusing Scholz of being too slow to help Ukraine with weapons to fight Russia. The authors also cited rumours that the chancellor has been forced into every concession he’s so far made on military aid, but then still delayed the deliveries.
Since late February, when the Russian military offensive in Ukraine started, Berlin has only supplied Kiev with lighter weapons, and the size of deliveries has dwindled over time, with Welt am Sonntag reporting that only two German shipments arrived 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-launch rocket 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 – IRIS-T air defense systems – to the Kiev government. However, the Defense Ministry said it did not have the designated hardware in stock, and that questions should be addressed to the producers. According to media reports, Ukraine can only hope to get the systems in November.
That might be too late, according to Der Spiegel, as leaked assessments by German intelligence suggest Russian troops could bring all of the Donbas under their control by August.
Russia attacked Ukraine state in late February, following Kiev’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 German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions 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. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
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(PHOTO: Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)