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Germany has recently come to the forefront of European countries causing escalations with Russia when it began pressuring Washington and NATO allies to send tanks to Ukraine last month. Being well aware of its precarious position with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany is now in a race to drastically increase its defense spending and arm itself against possible Russian attacks, including spending $18 billion on a nationwide missile defense shied.
It should be noted that less than a year ago, Germany’s military was struggling to meet its commitment to NATO and had an entire battalion of Puma tanks fail drills and be deemed unfit for action in the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (NRF). The German military is also known to be underfunded and lacking resources. Now, it’s giving away the handful of operational tanks it does have to Ukraine. The German military should be helping itself before it helps Kyiv.
As part of Germany’s recent about-face regarding its defense spending, the country is now in talks with multiple defense manufacturers to have a multi-layered, anti-missile shield built that could cost as much as €17 billion ($18.5 billion).
Specifically, the government is negotiating a contract with Bavarian-based manufacturer Diehl Defence to purchase up to 8 IRS-T anti-missile systems for a cost of €2 billion to €3 billion. The 8 IRS-T anti-missile systems are expected to be just the first layer of a more complex multi-layered system. One IRS-T battery is capable of intercepting fighter jets, inbound cruise missiles, and drones and can fire missiles that travel over 40 km.
Germany also supplied Kyiv with the first 4 IRS-T air defense systems it received in October, keeping a promise it had made with Ukraine to provide the systems to protect its cities from drone attacks. It should also be noted that Germany does not currently own any IRS-T systems.
Berlin is finally waking up to the realization that it has a woefully inadequate military. While Chancellor Olaf Scholz is doing everything possible to increase defense spending and build up Germany’s military, it comes as concern is mounting that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spread both West and deeper into Europe. Germany’s last-minute effort to build its military up before it gets dragged into a conflict with Russia is a classic example of too little, too late.
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During a press conference Monday to discuss an upcoming trip to Poland, President Biden announced that the U.S. will not be sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from some European countries and reportedly from some Pentagon officials. When asked by reporters if he would provide Ukraine with F-16 jets, he answered with a simple “no.”
However, Biden also said that he would not send tanks to Ukraine in March 2022, and yet last week he approved a shipment of not only M1 Abrams tanks, but also Bradley Fighting Vehicles. It is likely that this “no” is tentative.
When asked about sending tanks to Ukraine last March, Biden said, “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews – just understand, don’t kid yourself, no matter what y’all say, that’s called World War III.”
While Biden claims the U.S. will not send jets to Kyiv, the Ukrainian president’s office is saying that it is already working on expedited negotiations with Washington regarding possibly being supplied with long-range missiles and jets by the U.S. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that sending jets is not an option, although he was instrumental last week in the decision of both Washington and Berlin to send tanks to Ukraine.
On Saturday, a Zelensky advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press that “fast-track” discussions are taking place that focus on Ukraine obtaining both jets and long-range missiles “to drastically curtail the key tool of the Russian army” by giving Ukraine the ability to strike weapons warehouses that are far from the frontlines.
Meanwhile, reports emerged from U.S. media over the weekend that there is a growing movement within the Pentagon to pressure the Biden administration into approving sending jets to Kyiv.
According to Politico, “A contingent of military officials is quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile drone attacks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.”
“As Ukraine prepares to launch a new offensive to retake territory in the spring, the campaign inside the Defense Department for fighter jets is gaining momentum, according to a DoD official and two other people involved in the discussions,” the report continued. It went on to quote a defense official who said, “I don’t think we are opposed” with regard to sending F-16s to Ukraine. The senior DoD official spoke on a condition of anonymity and emphasized that there has not been a final decision made.
The White House has only commented thus far to say that the U.S. would be discussing fighter jets “very carefully” with Ukraine and its allies. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said on Thursday, “We have not ruled in or out any specific systems.”
While Germany could stand in the way, it should be noted that the Germans gave in fairly quickly to pressure from its NATO allies regarding the tank issues last week. In a recent interview, Scholz said, “I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems.”
“The question of combat aircraft does not arise at all,” Scholz added.
While both the U.S. and Germany currently do not support sending F-16s to Kyiv, talks are allegedly in the works with Ukraine, and as we have seen, both Biden and Scholz can change always change their minds.
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After weeks of Germany refusing to allow its Western allies to send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Berlin has finally authorized Poland to send its German-made Leopard tanks to Kyiv to fight the Russian invasion.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told LCI television after a Franco-German meeting in Paris on Sunday, “If we are asked the question, then we will not stand in the way. We know how important these tanks are, and this is why we are discussing this now with our partners. We need to make sure people’s lives are saved, and Ukraine’s territory is liberated.”
For months, Kyiv has been pleading with the U.S. and its Western allies to send Western-made tanks to the frontlines to assist its effort to resist Russian forces. While all Western allies have been fairly reluctant to provide tanks for fears of an escalation with Russia, Germany has been one of the strongest opposers.
While Berlin is still refusing to send its own tanks to Ukraine amid mounting pressure from Kyiv, Poland has indicated that it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Ukrainian troops. However, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that he was waiting for a “clear statement” from Germany as to whether or not Western countries with the tanks would be allowed to send them.
Morawiecki has been critical of Germany’s resistance to not only provide its own tanks to Ukraine but also of its hesitancy to allow its allies to do the same calling the previous decision “unacceptable.” He also told the PAP agency that “Innocent people are dying every day.”
Prime ministers from three Baltic states released a joint statement Saturday urging Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday there was “no alternative” other than for the West to provide tanks to his country.
Last week, Germany indicated that it would not allow other countries to provide Leopard tanks unless the U.S. sent its M1 Abrams tanks as well. The U.S. declined to send tanks citing difficulties with maintenance and training.
While Germany has given Poland the green light to send its Leopard 2 tanks if it chooses to, Baerbock indicated in her comments on Sunday that Poland has yet to make a formal request to Berlin.
After an embarrassing incident in which all 18 of Germany’s Puma tanks failed a drill and were declared unfit for action in the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (NRF), German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that the country will not be purchasing any more of the tanks until their reliability can be proven.
The failure of the Puma tanks is just one of several recent troubles plaguing the German military. Army Inspector General Alfons Mais said of the Pumas, “there was an unexpectedly high number of failures in the demanding exercise conditions. So far, the Puma combat vehicle has proven to be increasingly reliable in terms of operational readiness.”
The commander of the 10th Armored Division, General Ruprecht von Butler did not have such an optimistic outlook of the Pumas, saying, “Unfortunately, I have to express myself so harshly. It cannot be compared with the usual reliability of German ground vehicles.”
While the Puma tanks are known for their high-quality armor, they are notoriously unreliable. While the German military has been replacing its Marder tanks from the 1970s with the more modern Puma ground vehicles, the military has stopped purchasing Pumas due to the vehicle’s unreliability.
Lambrecht commented on the Pumas’ failures in recent military drills, saying, “The recent failures of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle are a major setback,” adding, “Our troops must be able to rely on weapon systems being robust and stable even in combat.”
Earlier this month a classified report was leaked revealing that the German military is underfunded, lacking resources, and is struggling to meet Germany’s NATO commitments.