Trench warfare within German coalition over weapon deliveries

With his statement, Mützenich was also criticising his SPD party colleague Michael Roth, chairman of the committee for foreign affairs, who announced a change of course regarding the shipment of heavy weaponry following his visit to Ukraine. [HAYOUNG JEON/EPA]

After three key Bundestag members returned from their Ukraine visit, the issue of whether Germany should deliver heavy weaponry to Ukraine has become a heated and contested topic within the country’s ruling ‘traffic light’ coalition.

Following their visit on Tuesday (April 12), the three chairpersons of the committees for Europe, Defence and Foreign Affairs in the Bundestag – all held by members of the governing coalition – have called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to allow the delivery of heavy weaponry to the country.

They all blame Scholz for slowing down the process.

“The problem is in the Chancellor’s Office,” the Bundestag’s Europe Committee Chairman, Anton Hofreiter, told RTL on Wednesday (13 April). “We must now finally start supplying Ukraine with what it needs, and that includes heavy weapons.”

While the Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has long advocated for the shipment of heavy weaponry to Ukraine, the Social Democrat-led government has so far refrained.

However, the co-leader of the Greens, Omid Nouripour, has refuted his party colleagues’ statement, saying at a press conference that the blaming of Scholz would not represent “the line of the Greens.”

Splits also appear within the social democrats, where the chairman of the SPD, Rolf Mützenich, who is regarded as the number two within his party, reacted fiercely to the call to deliver heavy weaponry.

“There are no easy answers, not even when it comes to supplying heavy war equipment to Ukraine. Anyone who says that is acting irresponsibly,” Mützenich said on Thursday in a statement.

While he claimed that it “may be right” to get a picture of what’s happening in Ukraine “on the ground,” he said that “demanding unprecedented decisions” based on impressions from Ukraine would be “wrong.”

With his statement, Mützenich also criticised SPD party colleague Michael Roth, chairman of the committee for foreign affairs, who announced a change of course regarding the shipment of heavy weaponry following his visit to Ukraine.

“I say Ukraine needs all the weapons now to defend itself, to defend itself even better. These weapons need to be deployable quickly, they need to be delivered safely, and then they need to be manageable,” Roth said in an interview with ARD yesterday.

The third committee chairperson who visited Ukraine, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the governing FDP, heavily criticised the reaction of the chairperson of the SPD.

“Mützenich is, unfortunately, one of those who neither understood nor wants to understand the necessity of the Zeitenwende of their own chancellor,” Strack-Zimmermann said on Twitter.

“He cannot accept that an old, rigid world view has collapsed and ignores the processes of parliament to do so.”

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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