For the time being, Germany and the Netherlands do not want to deliver more than the twelve 2000 self-propelled howitzers they have already promised to the Ukraine. He does not see an increase “at the moment,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday in The Hague at a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).
The Chancellor pointed out that the heavy artillery “cannot be easily made available”. The two heads of government did not say when the first howitzers with a range of 40 kilometers could be delivered.
Alongside the Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, the self-propelled howitzers are the first heavy weapons that Germany intends to deliver to the Ukrainian war zone. The Bundeswehr is also training Ukrainian soldiers to operate the modern guns.
The number twelve – five from the Netherlands and seven from Germany – is not accidental, emphasized Scholz. It has something to do with “the fact that we considered when does it make sense, how much does it have to be in order to create a functioning unit from it,” explained the Chancellor. “And then we both got together and made a little bit more possible than otherwise would have been possible.”
Rutte explained that the howitzers were not a weapon aid intended for immediate use, “but rather for a subsequent phase of the fighting”. A good training of the Ukrainian soldiers with these “complex guns” is crucial. The Netherlands also have a lot of backlogs in their army that they have to clear up first.
Before his conversation with Rutte, Scholz was received by King Willem-Alexander on his inaugural visit to the neighboring country. Switching Europe’s energy supply away from Russian gas and oil was also one of the main topics. Rutte ruled out significantly increasing gas production from the fields in the north-eastern province of Groningen. “We’re not going to put 100,000 people there at risk of an earthquake,” he said.
The production of natural gas from the Groningen fields had been severely curtailed due to hundreds of earthquakes and major damage to buildings. The government had promised to stop funding by 2024 at the latest.
Only in the greatest emergency, “if there is talk of a total gas crisis in Europe, will we look at Groningen again,” said Rutte. For years, the Netherlands had one of the largest natural gas deposits in Europe.
Scholz (SPD) warned of the danger of a “severe food crisis, especially in the global south” as a result of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. “To put it bluntly: Russia alone is responsible for this,” he said.