Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Germany should send Ukraine all the weapons it needs to defend itself against Russia’s invasion, including tanks, as Berlin is facing increasing criticism over the reluctance to provide modern weapons
Delivering the keynote speech at a ceremony marking former conservative Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble’s half-century in parliament, he implicitly criticised Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s reluctance to send heavier weaponry.
“I call for decisive actions by the German government,” he said, to applause from gathered, mostly conservative, German legislators. “For all sorts of weapons to be delivered. The battle for freedom and our future is raging as we speak… Tanks must not be left in storehouses, but placed in their hands.”
The remarks came as Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday resigned following a series of blunders and public relation disasters as Berlin comes under rising pressure to allow the delivery of German-built battle tanks to Ukraine.
And this criticism is getting even more severe after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday confirmed that the UK would provide Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine during a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Later on Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had said Ukraine could expect more deliveries of heavy weapons from Western countries soon, as Kyiv is pushing hard for getting modern arms to end the Russian occupation of its territories.
Stoltenberg, in an interview with German daily Handelsblatt, said, “The recent pledges for heavy warfare equipment are important — and I expect more in the near future.”
“We are in a decisive phase of the war,” Stoltenberg said. “Therefore, it is important that we provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win.”
Earlier this month, France, Germany and the United States respectively promised French AMX-10 RC light tanks, 40 German Marder infantry vehicles, and 50 Bradley fighting vehicles.
However, pressure is growing on the allies to go further and agree to the delivery of battle tanks. That’s why Sunak pledged to provide 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, making it the first Western country to supply the heavy tanks Kyiv has been calling for.
Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a mistake by attacking Ukraine. “He overestimated the strength of his own armed forces. We see their missteps, their lack of morale, the leadership problems, the poor equipment,” he said.
But the Russians “have demonstrated that they are prepared to take heavy losses to achieve their goals.”
As far as Lambrecht is concerned, she was mocked for her announcement that Germany was supporting Ukraine by sending 5,000 military helmets and widely criticised for failing to improve the notoriously ill-equipped armed forces despite the provision of €100 billion for that task following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lambrecht, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), also came in for criticism when it emerged that she had taken her son on a trip in a military helicopter.
The long-running debate over the state of Germany’s defence capabilities intensified last month when several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a recent military drill.
But it was an awkward video she posted on New Year’s Eve which triggered widespread contempt and undermined her support within political circles. In the video, Lambrecht talked about the positive personal encounters she had enjoyed during the war in Ukraine, while fireworks exploded around her in Berlin.
“What kind of a year was 2022? It faced us with many incredible challenges. There is a war raging in the middle of Europe. Associated with this were for me many special impressions, many encounters with interesting, great people,” she said in the video that was recorded outside.
Leading German media condemned the tone of the message, with some commentators saying Lambrecht’s position was “no longer tenable”.
In a resignation statement seen by the German national news agency, Lambrecht said: “Months of media focus on me doesn’t allow for fact-based reporting and discussion about soldiers, the army and security policy in the interest of German citizens.”
“The valuable work of the soldiers and many motivated people in the defence area needs to be in the foreground.”
Lambrecht was due to meet other defence ministers from Ukraine’s western allies at the American military base in Rammstein on Friday to discuss further support for Ukraine.
The German government is facing renewed calls to approve the delivery of German-built Leopard 2 tanks. It is not yet clear who will succeed Lambrecht in a job which is considered such a poisoned chalice that many refer to it as “the ejector seat”.
After years of chronic underinvestment, Scholz in September vowed to transform the country’s military into the “best equipped” in Europe.