After weeks of reluctance, evasion and fogging, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz succumbed to growing pressure and, along with other Social Democrats in the government, agreed to supply heavy military weapons to Ukraine.
The Minister of Defense and Scholz’s party colleague from the SPD, Christine Lambrecht, confirmed that Germany would hand over the Cheetah armor to Kiev. This happened before the start of Tuesday’s meeting with the ministers of other NATO countries at the American military base in Ramstein, where it was just about further arms assistance to Ukraine before the continuing Russian aggression.
Although cheetahs have been decommissioned by the Bundeswehr for ten years and are a lighter option compared to conventional tanks, which Ukraine might prefer, Berlin’s approval of their delivery is still groundbreaking. Although Kyiv needed it much earlier than two months after the start of the war.
Ukraine, led by President Volodymyr Zelenský, has persistently and strongly demanded German heavy equipment. The being careful Scholz did not explicitly reject her demands, but he clearly did not want to comply and tried to squeeze out of such a commitment.
Instead of the required tanks or other heavy weapons, the chancellor first tried to offer a billion euros for which the Ukrainians could buy weapons. But he didn’t give them a free hand. The list, which Kyiv compiled for this purpose with the German armaments, had the Chancellor’s Office “clean” of heavy weapons.
Subsequently, the coalition leaders agreed not to provide heavy weapons to Ukraine directly, but to compensate other states that would supply Kiev with their own equipment, usually Russian-made equipment. For example, T-72 tanks supplied by the Czechia. But even that did not satisfy Scholz’s criticisms.
At the same time, the Chancellor, who was not expressing himself at all and did not speak very well, could not clearly justify his restrained attitude regarding heavy machinery. At the same time, it was clear that he feared a negative reaction from Russia.
It was not until last week, in an interview with Der Spiegel, that he warned of the need to avoid a direct clash between NATO and Russia.
“I am doing everything I can to prevent the escalation leading to World War III. There must be no nuclear war, “said the chancellor.
But it was too late. At that time, Scholz was no longer bombed only by the outspoken Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrei Melnyk, but also by most German commentators.
Some politicians from the other two coalition parties, the Liberals (FDP) and the Greens, also began to speak out against the Chancellor’s procrastination.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the parliamentary defense committee, made a special impact on Scholz on the media several times. She emphasized that Germany must not be reluctant to take the lead militarily.
“Those who do not want to take on this role may be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said against the backdrop of her party’s weekend convention. Some media have seen this as questioning Scholz’s ability to lead the government.
At the same time, the Chancellor was increasingly pushed into the corner by other circumstances. Rheinmetall last week asked the government for permission to export 88 Leopard tanks.
The strongest opposition formation, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came up with a proposal this week to decide on a heavy-duty contribution to Ukrainians in parliament, where the fearful SPD could theoretically be outvoted.
The meeting of NATO defense ministers in Ramstein, which was convened at the initiative of the United States, thus in a way came in handy for Berlin.
What a German Cheetah can do
Cheetah armor has been serving in the German army since the 1970s, and the Bundeswehr had more than four hundred in its arsenal. They were considered second-order vehicles, which were to advance behind battle tanks and transporters and cover them with their anti-aircraft guns against air attacks.
The cheetah is built on the chassis of the Leopard tank and has two automatic cannons with a caliber of 35 millimeters. It was designed mainly for defense against low-attack aircraft and helicopters, but can also be used on ground targets, which can hit a distance of up to six kilometers. According to the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), who published a presentation video about the Cheetah, it is also reliable against drones. The highest stated speed of the armored car is 65 kilometers per hour, the weight of the armor is 47.5 tons.
According to the weekly Der Spiegel, the Cheetah has a reputation as a machine that is particularly maintenance-intensive and requires particularly long training. In addition to firing, the crew must control a complex radar system and other reconnaissance equipment.
However, the agreement to provide the Cheetahs does not end the whole problem with German courage.
In addition to Scholz, the entire SPD party, or its well-known faces, which have not deterred such warnings from Russia as the annexation of Crimea or the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, has been criticizing for a long time.
In the first place, this concerns President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who experienced an unusual disgrace when his Ukrainian counterpart refused to accept him in Kiev, along with the heads of Poland and the Baltic states.
As a boomerang, the SPD returns mainly its pro-Russian energy policy, due to which Germany has deepened its dependence on Russian natural gas. It has recently been revealed that the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, has been actively working with representatives of Russia’s Gazprom Group to set up a special-purpose foundation to help Germany avoid US sanctions against the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
A major reputation problem for the SPD is the performance of its former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who does not intend to give up lucrative positions in energy companies controlled by the Kremlin even two months after the launch of the Russian attack on Ukraine. In a recent interview, Schröder even again partially defended Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has a long-standing friendship.