Germany is isolated, its reputation is ruined, it is considered unreliable: That, in a nutshell, is the opposition’s accusation against the federal government. It’s about the Ukraine policy, the supply of weapons, heavy weapons, main battle tanks. A lot of things get muddled up in the debate. The tone of the criticism is accusing, at times harsh. Could the massacres of the Russian invaders have been prevented if Germany had provided the necessary weapons in good time? Such questions are asked.
But there is another reading. So far, not a single NATO country has delivered Western-style main battle tanks to Ukraine. At least not officially. Heavy weapons? The Yes. Infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers, artillery, drones, Stinger missiles: most of them come from the USA.
It is claimed that Ukraine must win the war. But apparently there are informal agreements among some Western NATO member states not to make certain weapons – such as battle tanks and combat aircraft – available to Ukraine, at least for the time being, so as not to give Russia an excuse to see this as entering the war. Of course, NATO did not formally decide this because the alliance as such does not supply any weapons.
“Germany has made thousands of weapons available to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles,” praised a NATO spokesman. However, stocks are limited and some are ailing. The promised but decommissioned Gepard tanks must first be made operational. This takes a while. A decision by the Federal Security Council on the delivery of Marder armored personnel carriers is still pending. But doesn’t Germany overestimate its ability to decisively influence the course of the war – whether through weapons, diplomacy or sanctions?
Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron spoke to Vladimir Putin on the phone for 80 minutes over the weekend. They called for an end to the war, and Putin warned against further deliveries of heavy weapons and an aggravation of the humanitarian situation. But what mandate do Germany and France have for this initiative? Can Scholz and Macron – over the heads of the Ukrainian government – discuss negotiated solutions that may affect the territorial integrity of Ukraine? And who do they speak for, the European Union? There is already a representative there for foreign and security policy, it is the Spaniard Josep Borrell. Putin, on the other hand, should at best be interested in what his closest rival, US President Joe Biden, has to say.
Divergent interests within the EU are also colliding in the struggle for an oil embargo. Some countries are dependent on Russian oil. In any case, in the medium and long term it will be more decisive whether energy-hungry countries such as China and India circumvent western sanctions.
The horror of war increases the will to help. But the capacities are limited. Anyone who suggests that German tanks, extensive telephone calls with Putin and an EU oil embargo could bring Russia to its knees raises hopes that will probably remain unfulfilled. That does not speak against such measures. It only speaks against fomenting illusions.