Germany and the Leopards: hesitation or strategy?

Scholz has not wavered in the face of a momentous decision: sending the Leopards to Ukraine, but has set the pace, seeking as broad a coalition as possible with allies from the government, the opposition, the Americans and, most importantly, German society. . His strategy has worked out for him.

The most common headline (with some exceptions) in light of the German decision to finally send a company of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to the Ukrainian army (which had been requesting them since the first Russian tanks entered its territory) has been that Germany yields to the pressure of the allies and that it has been forced to make a decision that it did not want. In my opinion, things are not so linear and simple. For German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, securing the support of his own party and not deepening differences with his government partners (liberals and greens) was essential. And he has achieved it. First, by showing its resistance and getting the United States to commit, in turn, to sending its own state-of-the-art cars, the Abrams. They are few, but it is a qualitative change, not without opposition in the Capitol. A risky and courageous decision by Joe Biden, even with the clear reluctance of the Pentagon.

At the same time, in his justification before the Bundestag (in a clear example of respect for democratic institutions), Scholz has joined the opposition (the CDU/CSU), which had been demanding the decision, thus achieving broad parliamentary support from which only the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been exempted (and not by chance). Beyond Parliament, it should be noted that German public opinion has been very divided and that, especially in the east, the decision receives notable rejection, albeit decreasing. Today the supporters are already a majority. The rejection is based on history, as it is reminiscent of German tanks invading Poland and later going on the offensive against the Soviet Union in World War II. Obviously, the current situation has nothing to do with it, but it is one more example of the weight (and the feeling of guilt) that the country’s recent history has on Germans. It is evident that in the case of the AfD there is an additional political component that is related to the equidistance to attend exclusively to the interests of Germany, but which, in practice, ends up favoring Russia.

On the domestic front, therefore, in the end things have turned out well for Scholz. It is true that this forces us to reconsider spending in defense budgets, since it will be necessary to recompose the German military capacity. But it is also a strong endorsement of his powerful defense industry and a recognition of his advanced technology. It is, in short, to provide content to the Zeitenwende or change of era, facing an essential modernization and the reinforcement of an Armed Forces that is not well endowed for a country with the weight of Germany.

“This risk of scale was already assumed when NATO decided to support Ukraine military and financially against Russian aggression”

Some will argue that the decision could provoke an unpredictable response from Russia and an escalation whose consequences are very difficult to predict. But it is a risk already assumed, when NATO decided to support Ukraine military and financially against Russian aggression, with the limits (which remain, at least for now), of not providing fighter planes or using NATO troops. on Ukrainian territory.

In any case, it has become clear that it is not a decision that affects only Germany. Both the US, with its commitment, and some of the countries that have Leopard 2s willing to be delivered, are all going to accompany the Germans. Beginning with Poland (in a clear paradox of history: asking Germany to accept that its tanks are used in a war in a border country), but probably also continuing with Spain (this has already been stated by the Spanish government , despite the internal opposition of Unidos Podemos and some of its most relevant parliamentary partners). At the time, Spain rushed, anticipating that shipment without having the approval of Germany (which is necessary as it is a license for its technology) and then backing down, arguing the poor condition of its cars. Something that now seems that it can be solved, once the German permission is guaranteed.

In any case, Germany has managed to register its decision within the framework of international coordination and in common agreement with its allies and counting, in parallel, on the US commitment. It has not been a solo movement that dumped all the responsibility on her.

“The fragile Franco-German axis and France’s unreserved support for a Germany that has marked the times compared to the rest of its allies, but above all within the European Union, has managed to rebuild, for better or worse.”

Such an assertion must be accompanied by another reflection. With this, Germany has strengthened its European leadership, shortly after the Franco-German summit a few days ago (on the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Pact) which has tried to close (at least in appearance) the discrepancies between the two countries on areas such as energy, finance or State aid. The fragile Franco-German axis and France’s unreserved support for a Germany that has marked the times compared to the rest of its allies, but above all within the European Union, has been able to be put back together, making it explicit that it is She is the one who sets her policy against Russian aggression.

For all these considerations, what has been perceived as hesitation and even a lack of commitment by Germany in the face of a momentous decision does not correspond to reality.

Germany has set the pace and their strategy has worked out well. Now it remains to press the accelerator so that the dispatch and, above all, the training of the Ukrainian military are done as quickly as possible (in fact, the latter had already started earlier) to arrive in time for the eventual Russian counteroffensive when the end of the winter. If that is achieved, Ukraine will not only be in a better position to repel it, but also to start its own offensive to recover a good part of the invaded territory and force Russia to enter into a real negotiation that can only yield real results. lasting if the internationally recognized territorial integrity of Ukraine (including China, India or Turkey) is restored.

Hopefully the Ukrainian military advantage will help Russia reach this conclusion. And sending the tanks can be a momentous milestone. There has been more strategy than actual hesitation.

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Written by Editor TLN

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