Germany to allow shipment of heavy weaponry to Ukraine

“They are giving Soviet-made equipment to Ukraine, and we are filling these gaps. More can be done here, we are ready to do it,” defence minister Christine Lambrecht said today (26 April) during her visit meeting with international defence ministers at the Ramstein airbase in Germany. [RONALD WITTEK/EPA]

The German ‘traffic light’ coalition will intensify its efforts to support Ukraine with weapons and is green-lighting the delivery of heavy weaponry by industry, marking a distinct change in approach.

The move comes after pressure has continued mounted on Chancellor Scholz over his hesitancy to ship heavy armaments to the country following its invasion by Russia. Now the three coalition parties in the Bundestag are preparing a motion to intensify their assistance.

The motion calls on the German government to “continue and, where possible, accelerate the delivery of needed equipment to Ukraine, including expanding the delivery to include heavy weapons and complex systems, such as in the context of the ring exchange, without jeopardising Germany’s alliance defence capabilities,” the parliamentary motion obtained by dpa reads.

Last week, the “ring exchange” was announced as a preliminary compromise between coalition parties. While Germany will not deliver heavy weaponry directly, they will assist NATO allies who deliver Soviet and Russian equipment by replacing them with German heavy weaponry.

“They are giving Soviet-made equipment to Ukraine, and we are filling these gaps. More can be done here. We are ready to do it,” defence minister Christine Lambrecht said today (26 April) during her meeting with international defence ministers at the Ramstein airbase in Germany.

However, according to information obtained by dpa, the German government has green-lighted a shipment of Gepard anti-aircraft tank by the German weapons manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, marking a U-turn from the ring-exchange approach.

Delivery of heavy weapons no longer ‘taboo’, foreign minister says

With German chancellor Olaf Scholz increasingly caught in a crossfire over his hesitancy to assist Ukraine, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock stressed on Wednesday (20 April) that the shipment of heavy weaponry would now be on the table.

More tanks to come?

The German government said last week that delivering heavy weapons would not constitute a “taboo” but that Bundeswehr stocks would be depleted, and there are no heavy weapons – like tanks or armoured vehicles available – ready for immediate shipment.

Instead, Chancellor Olaf Scholz provided a list of weapons to Ukraine worth a total of €1 billion that they could order from German weapon manufacturers directly.

However, according to the Ukrainian Ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, the list did not contain “any heavy weapons” at the time. “The weapons we need are not on that list,” he told ZDF last week.

With the green-lighting of the shipment of Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, Germany could now also allow other weapon producers to ship their tanks to Ukraine.

Rheinmetall already announced a couple of weeks ago that it would also be able to ship tanks of the type Marder and Leopard 1, which Ukraine says it desperately needs, in weeks.

German Social Democrats under pressure over Schröder's ties to Putin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats find themselves haunted by the legacy of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who held a close friendship with Putin, while they find themselves also increasingly isolated within their own coalition government.

Pressure increasing on SPD

The SPD was considered the main obstacle when it comes to the contested topic, as both of its two coalition partners – the liberal FDP and the Greens – have long been calling for the shipment of the heavy armaments.

Last Saturday, the liberal FDP even took matters into its own hands and voted at its party congress in favour of delivering heavy weapons.

The opposition has also increased its pressure on the SPD, as the conservative CDU/CSU party announced their own parliamentary motion last week that called for the immediate shipments of heavy weaponry.

“The SPD doesn’t know what it wants, and the chancellor is manoeuvring around. Clarity must now be created, and who is to do that if not the opposition,” CDU/CSU leader Friedrich Merz said yesterday.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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