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Olaf Scholz hails Ukraine tanks fiasco as victory while critics count reputational cost

According to him, these people will soon call fighter jets and troops to the ground.

Mr. Scholz and his team insist that his critics underestimate the likelihood that one wrong step could lead to a terrible escalation of the crisis.

However, behind Mr. Scholz’s slowness, there was another calculation. He insisted that Germany would only take the next step in military aid if the US also joined in.

He is said to have made this clear in a telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden the Tuesday before last.

Although the US administration was reluctant to send its own Abrams tanks for fear that their excessive weight would make them ineffective on the battlefield in Ukraine, Berlin once again insisted on reciprocity at a meeting of defense ministers at Ramstein airbase, German media reported. .

In the end, on Monday, Biden reportedly ignored his Defense Department’s advice and agreed.

This gave Scholz an excuse to announce his decision to supply a high-tech model of the Leopard tank from the stocks of the German army.

Berlin says it was not blackmail

Berlin tried to prove that its insistence that the US also supply tanks was not a form of blackmail.

Scholz ally Nils Schmid told The Telegraph that “there were no hard terms” on the US sending Abrams tanks.

At the same time, it is true that Germany would only supply the tanks if the United States also supplied them, acknowledged Mr. Schmid, the Social Democrats’ spokesman for foreign affairs.

Although Berlin has never spoken openly about why it was so insistent that the US be involved in a tank alliance, local media reported that it was due to fears that Russia would single out Germany for special treatment if it decided to send the fight. tanks without the cover of US participation.

Concerns about Russian infrastructure

Berlin is particularly concerned that Russia could target key infrastructure such as a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Norway or try to spark another refugee crisis, according to a report published this week in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The fact that Germany is the only major Western power without its own nuclear deterrent is said to have played a role in Berlin’s thinking.

Whatever the reason, Scholz’s insistence on portraying the tank deal as a victory is misleading, experts say.

“The idea that Scholz should be given credit for persuading the Americans to agree to supply the Abrams is, to put it mildly, implausible,” says Benjamin Tallis, an analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Quickly noting that German military aid to Ukraine had been substantial, Mr Tallis said Mr Scholz’s delaying tactics “tarnished Germany’s reputation.”

“The damage this has done to the transatlantic relationship is not yet fully understood.”

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