German chancellor vows ‘leadership’ with call to further arm Ukraine

German chancellor vows ‘leadership’ with call to further arm Ukraine
Опубликовано: Friday, 17 February 2023 16:11

Scholz urges allies to supply Kyiv with Leopard tanks, in a bid to save his pledge to organize international support.

MUNICH — Countries able to send battle tanks to Ukraine should “actually do so now,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday, trying to rally support for a Europe-wide fleet of tank donations.

Speaking at the opening of the Munich Security Conference, a gathering of global political and security leaders, Scholz said “Germany acknowledges its responsibility for the security of Europe and the NATO alliance area, without ifs and buts.”

This is, he added, “a responsibility that a country of Germany’s size, location and economic strength has to shoulder in times like these.”

Concretely, the chancellor said Germany would “permanently” adhere to the NATO goal of spending 2 percent of its economic output on defense — a target that Berlin is currently set to miss this year and probably also next year, despite a massive €100 billion special fund for military investment.

Germany needs to boost its defense industry and switch to “a permanent production of the most important weapons we are using,” the chancellor added.

Scholz’s remarks came just hours after his defense minister, Boris Pistorius, told reporters in Munich Germany must commit to even higher spending targets to follow through on its security pledges.

“It must be clear to everyone: It will not be possible to fulfill the tasks that lie ahead of us with just under two percent,” Pistorius said.

Western allies are gathering in Munich for a series of high-level talks focused primarily on the war in Ukraine, one year after Russia invaded the Eastern European country.

Scholz said it would be “wise to prepare for a long war” and to send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he’s making “a miscalculation” if he is counting on Ukraine’s Western allies eventually growing war-weary and pulling back from their military support.

The German chancellor said Ukraine’s allies with German-made, modern Leopard 2 tanks in their stocks should join Berlin in delivering them to Ukraine, adding that his government would use the three-day Munich conference to “campaign intensively for this.”

The German chancellor himself hesitated for months over whether to send Leopard 2 tanks, only changing course last month, when he vowed to build an international alliance that would give Ukraine 80 of the German-built tanks.

But he is struggling to deliver on that commitment. Some allies like Finland are dragging their feet on tank donations, while others like Portugal are not sending as many as Berlin had hoped.

Other countries like Poland or Spain are only sending an older version of the tank, the Leopard 2 A4. Scholz said he hopes “some more will also join” Germany in sending the more modern Leopard 2 A6.

Scholz also said that Germany “will do everything it can to make this decision easier for our partners,” offering to provide logistical support or training Ukrainian soldiers on the tanks. “I see this as an example of the kind of leadership which everyone is entitled to expect from Germany — and I expressly offer it to our friends and partners.”

Just before Scholz spoke, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that “speed is crucial,” underscoring the German leader’s point.

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