The Germans have never been as helpful as in the past few weeks. More precisely: since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression and conquest against Ukraine. Tens of thousands pitched in – and still do. They provide accommodation, collect medicine, clothing and food, and set off aid transports with bandages, blankets and sleeping bags.
Ambassador of Ukraine Andriy Melnyk says many Ukrainian refugees are turning their backs on Germany because they don’t feel welcome here. In the meantime more people would leave than come. “You don’t want to stay here.” The Germans urged Melnyk to think about the motives of the departing. The ambassador himself gives one possible reason. From the Ukrainians’ point of view, Germany is responsible for many of the dead because it has not yet delivered any heavy weapons.
Not welcome – that hurts. By the end of April, Germans had raised at least 752 million euros for Ukraine. The ongoing collection of donations has long since broken all records. It already has the highest volume for a single catastrophe in the history of the Federal Republic. It is higher than after the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004, higher than after the flood disaster in Germany last year.
Not welcome – how must this accusation affect volunteers who see the term “welcome culture” as an incentive? How must it affect those who support those seeking protection very pragmatically in city, state and federal government? In many ways, life in Germany is made easier for Ukrainian refugees than for refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea.
Melnyk is now, and one has to give him credit, less concerned with criticism of German refugee policy or a lack of solidarity than with an additional argument for the delivery of heavy weapons to his country. In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, he had previously complained about the lack of clarity as to when the promised multiple rocket launchers from Bundeswehr stocks would be handed over.
So far, Germany has delivered thousands of anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and fragmentation grenades to Ukraine, but no heavy weapons such as artillery pieces and anti-aircraft tanks. Of course, that should change very soon. By June 22 – Melnyk also said this, this time on Saturday – his country would receive the seven self-propelled howitzers promised by the traffic light coalition. After that, shipments of “Gepard” anti-aircraft tanks would follow.
From the point of view of the federal government, the naming of concrete timetables is extremely delicate for organizational reasons, but above all for security reasons. Commenting on Melnyk’s announcement on Twitter, security expert Carlo Masala, who teaches at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, asked the ambassador: “Do you want the tanks on the battlefield or should they be destroyed before they arrive?”
Occasionally Melnyk exaggerates in his rhetoric. Who could blame him as the ambassador of a country that was attacked by Russia and where murder, torture and rape have been going on for more than a hundred days? Nevertheless, he has to be careful not to alienate too often those whom he asks for help and whose help his country needs. Chancellor Olaf Scholz will soon be traveling to Kyiv. Melnyk said that he was expecting a new German armaments aid package from the visit, which should include “Leopard 1 main battle tanks that must be available immediately”.
So far, not a single NATO country has delivered Western-style main battle tanks – that’s the Leopard 1 – to Ukraine. This corresponds to what appears to be an informal agreement between some western NATO member states, who are striving not to give Russia any pretext for treating such a delivery as entering the war.
Words that are to work must have been carefully considered. Every diplomat should consider this carefully.