Four weeks ago, Germany agreed to send dozens of anti-aircraft tanks to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression, calling it a turning point after decades of military restraint. Berlin says it could deliver the first Gepard tank in July.
It is very slow, a Ukrainian lawmaker said yesterday, as Russian forces launched an offensive in the east of the country.
“For us, July is ‘what?'” Ukrainian MP Anastasia Radina told Reuters at the World Economic Forum. “Let me tell you this: let’s ask a mother who is forced to sit in a basement with her newborn child who has no baby formula … How far is July for her from now on?”
Kiev’s appeal for heavy weapons has intensified since Moscow launched its firepower in eastern and southern Ukraine. But one of the reasons for Germany’s delay was the lack of ammunition, industry sources and the Ukrainian ambassador said a fact that was well known to Berlin when it first made the pledge.
Confusion highlights how the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine left Berlin behind. Despite being unprepared for military action, Germany’s military chief says that despite being one of the world’s largest defense industries, it will export 9.35 billion euros worth of weapons in 2021, according to official figures.
Gapard tanks make an explosion of 35mm shots that create clouds in the air to stop an incoming plane. Germany no longer uses them and has a small stockpile of ammunition, which needs to be specially manufactured
The supply of arms to Ukraine “is understood only when it is accompanied by ammunition – it was clear to everyone from the beginning,” an industry source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue was sensitive.
Asked to comment on the lack of ammunition, a Defense Ministry spokesman said the government was providing support where possible. On May 20, Berlin said it had found ammunition and would send tanks. The ministry did not respond when asked how enough ammunition was found.
Hours after Moscow launched a “special military operation” on February 24, the German army chief told LinkedIn that he was “annoyed” by Germany’s neglect of the military – and that the army was “more or less empty”. On 27 February, Chancellor Olaf Schulz launched his turning point, or ‘Jittenwend’, pledging 100 billion euros ($ 107 billion) in special funds for defense.
But instead of spontaneously responding to the Ukraine attack, defense sources told Reuters that the plan was based on a proposal from the defense ministry a few months ago to negotiate the formation of an alliance.
The document, classified as confidential and seen by Reuters, said the military, Bundesweh, would need about 102 billion euros to secure funding for major defense projects by 2030 and proposed a special fund outside the general budget.
The plan was not included in the December 2021 alliance agreement. The German government did not respond to a request for comment.
Since the Gepard tank was promised, Berlin has promised more heavy weapons to Ukraine. At home, it aims to use special funds to increase defense spending in 4-5 years, bringing it to 2% of the mandatory economic output by NATO. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this will make Germany the world’s third largest military spender after the United States and China.
But its parliament has not yet passed a special fund.
“Germany … will never again become a military power,” Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the parliamentary defense committee, told Reuters.
“We are now being asked to show military leadership. This is a change of mindset that the Germans must first adapt to,” said Strack-Zimmermann, a junior partner in the Free Democrats (FDP) Scholes Tripartite Alliance.
10 years for a helmet
Germany has moved away from the conflict in the wake of World War II. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Germans felt “surrounded by friends” by a foreign minister in 1997. The political establishment focused on trade and engagement, where the country became dependent on Russia for half of its natural gas supplies.
At home, the military has fought red tape with so much complexity that they are still waiting for the helmet requested in 2013, which has been used by US forces since the 1990s, said Eva Hogel, parliamentary commissioner for the German Bundestag. Armed forces.
“This means it will take 10 years (Germany) to buy a helmet that is available on the market and that is being used in the United States,” he said. The government did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
The German army, the Bundeswehr, has a single brigade ready to fight to defend German territory – not a single unit of about 5,000 troops. Europe’s largest economy has one-tenth of the 3,500 major battle tanks in the 1980s. Its fleet of fighter jets and submarines is one-fourth of their Cold War power.
In those years when Germany had to provide a brigade for NATO’s rapid response force, troops had to stand in line first to respond to any Russian attack, and troops had to borrow gear from other units.
Shortly after the Ukraine invasion, the Defense Ministry’s head of procurement, Vice-Admiral Carsten Stavitsky, invited arms manufacturers to a WebX meeting on February 28 to discuss ways to increase military readiness for Germany’s defense, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
“He made it clear that we must … be prepared to increase production in anticipation of the arrival of large and varied orders,” an industry source told Reuters.
It has not yet been implemented, two defense sources told Reuters.
“We have not received any orders yet,” said another industry source. Other countries have placed orders with Germany’s defense industry just days after the attack, the source said, declining to give details. “In Germany, the war has had no effect on the defense procurement system.”
“Lightning without clouds”
Ukrainian diplomats are receiving mixed messages calling for German weapons.
Kyiv requested Gepards from Germany at the start of the war, but Berlin refused, Andrej Melnik, its ambassador to Germany, told NTV broadcaster. The government did not respond to a request for comment.
On April 26, the United States hosted more than 40 countries at an air base in the German city of Ramstein to discuss arms supplies to Kiev. That was the day German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that Berlin had approved export for Gapard: “This is what is needed right now to secure Ukraine’s airspace,” he told reporters.
On April 27, the announcement by Ukrainian Ambassador Melonik was “blue to bolt” because Berlin said there was not enough ammunition. Two defense industry sources said they only learned from media reports that the government had approved sending tanks to Ukraine.
The Gepard, called Cheetah in English, is an old system that only a few countries still use. Germany sold its Gapard a decade ago, so there was no need to stockpile ammunition. The tanks are now owned by the defense agency that built them, KMW. A company spokesman declined to comment on the story.
Most of the heavy weapons that NATO countries have so far sent to Ukraine are Soviet-made weapons still on the list of Eastern European NATO member states, but some allies have recently begun to supply Western hawkers.
On May 6, Mrs. Lambrecht said that Germany would send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. The Panzerhoubitz 2000 is one of the most powerful artillery weapons in the Bundesweh inventory and can hit targets at a distance of 40 km (25 miles).
The guns will come from Bundesweh inventory and will be delivered in the coming weeks, Berlin said. Training of Ukrainian troops began in Germany earlier this month and Germany will provide an initial ammunition package, with further purchases to be conducted between Kyiv and the industry.
But new purchases for Bundeswar will take more time, and members of the ruling coalition are already questioning the need for special funding.
The youth leaders of Greens and Scholes Social Democrats (SPD) want more debate on what it is for and the promise of reform of the procurement system.
“It’s not clear to me exactly what to buy [the fund] And we need to reform the procurement system that burns with money, “said Jessica Rosenthal, Member of Parliament and leader of the SPD youth organization.
“We obviously need to raise funds for the military – but we need to do the same in other areas.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)