In the meantime, the theoretical training of Ukrainian soldiers on the German tank howitzers in Idar-Oberstein in Rhineland-Palatinate has been completed. Now they are learning how to use the device in the field.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht will certainly see this as a success, perhaps as a milestone. But if you put the list of failures next to it, with regard to the delivery of heavy weapons, it is no more than a pebble.
The German balance of arms deliveries, it must be said, is devastating. Despite statements to the contrary from Berlin, Germany has not delivered a single heavy weapon to Ukraine. No tank, no multiple rocket launcher, no air defense system, no howitzer crossed the border. Only promises to deliver something went to Kyiv.
The problem now: None of the promised devices could be operational before autumn or winter, neither the Mars multiple rocket launcher nor the Iris air defense system. Not to mention tanks. The howitzer delivery was announced for June. It is currently unclear whether this can be maintained.
Instead, artillery from the USA, Great Britain, France and Norway is currently deployed on the front in the Donbass. Polish “Krab” howitzers have also arrived in Ukraine. There are around 150 devices in total.
Multiple rocket launchers from the US and UK will follow soon. The US systems are already in Poland. The training will probably take another two weeks. Then they should be made available to Ukraine.
A Ukrainian commander, who is using the US howitzers against Russian troops in the Donbass, recently enthused: “They work extremely well. They have the accuracy of a sniper rifle while firing a 155mm shell. Their range is much greater than our own weapons, and we can hit their positions, supply lines, and ammunition depots at longer ranges.”
The governor of the currently fiercely contested Luhansk province, Serhiy Haidai, even believes that the city could be “cleaned up in two or three days” using long-range weapons such as rocket launchers.
And indeed, the Western systems are clearly superior to the Russian ones. Once in large numbers with sufficient ammunition in Ukrainian hands, military experts agree, they could make the decisive difference in the terrible war.
When Olaf Scholz claims, as he did during his visit to Lithuania, that “nobody is supplying weapons on a similar scale” as Germany, that must sound like mockery to Kyiv.
Mainly because there is also a general lack of weapon support. As the “Welt am Sonntag” reported, between March 30 and May 26, only two German deliveries arrived in Ukraine – with small equipment such as anti-tank mines.
So here are the facts.
When one turns to the reasons, it becomes nebulous: Is it inability in Berlin or is there even an intention behind the delayed deliveries? This question cannot currently be answered.
In any case, Scholz is suspicious that he is not so unhappy about the delays. Research by “Zeit” and “Spiegel” recently showed that there is still mistrust of Ukraine in the Chancellery. Some co-decision-makers allegedly fear that they could use the weapons in exuberance on Russian territory.
US President Joe Biden has openly addressed this issue to Kyiv. The result: the USA only supply their rocket launchers with medium-range ammunition; at least 80 kilometers instead of the possible 100. That is a responsible approach to the risk of a further escalation of the war, which cannot be completely ruled out, and still helps Ukraine.
Another argument in Berlin: The country doesn’t stand a chance against the Russian troops anyway. This was the conviction in government circles, especially in the first days of the war, which is why long-term planning for weapons was not even tackled.
Finally: The argument that Russia and with it Vladimir Putin will still be there after this war and that we somehow have to continue together. That’s why you shouldn’t anger Putin too much.
This idea also seems to influence politics in Paris. Hence the telephone diplomacy between Scholz and Macron with the Kremlin ruler, which caused astonishment in Eastern Europe. One should not “humiliate” Putin, Macron said recently.
However, unlike Scholz, Macron can counter his critics by sending the powerful Caesar artillery system to Ukraine. The chancellor must now deliver the howitzers on time.
Because as of today, Scholz and parts of his government (mainly the Ministry of Defense) are not doing well: Olaf Scholz either has a credibility problem or a competence problem. Wondering what’s worse.