Germany takes a turn in the military strategy towards Ukraine by approving the shipment of tanks | International

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The pressure, internal and external, has had its effect. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has made the decision to send heavy weapons to Ukraine after weeks of resisting criticism and tensions that became unbearable as the days went by. The coalition government has announced that it will deliver around 50 German-made Gepard main battle tanks with anti-aircraft defense capabilities to kyiv. Not only that: he has pledged to train Ukrainian soldiers on German soil, in a radical departure from his previous stance.

Just a few days ago, Scholz justified his refusal to send tanks to Ukraine with the argument that an escalation that would lead to an atomic war between Russia and NATO had to be avoided. “I do what I can to prevent a third world war,” he told Der Spiegel. On other occasions, in the face of growing pressure from Ukraine, other international partners and his own allies in the government coalition, he had alluded to the need to make such decisions in a coordinated manner. Finally, he has given in, taking advantage of an international forum of defense ministers held in Ramstein (Germany).

A Gepard tank, during training in Germany, in an image provided by the German Army. MICHAEL MANDT (AFP)

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced it before the conference began, dedicated to agreeing more military aid to kyiv: “If Ukraine urgently needs anti-aircraft systems, Germany is ready to support it.” Another novelty is the possibility for Ukrainian soldiers to receive training on German soil to learn how to use artillery systems such as the Panzerhaubitze 2000. It is a German-made model that the Netherlands is beginning to send to Ukraine, the most heavyweight that the Western allies have so far delivered.

Defense ministers from 40 countries have attended Ramstein, the epicenter of the US air force in Europe, a number of participants greater than that of NATO members – the alliance includes 30 states. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has hosted the event at the air base with a very clear message: “Ukraine clearly believes it can win, as do all of us here,” he said before start conversations.

The first agreement that came out of the meeting of defense representatives is constant coordination. The United States has agreed with its allies to meet monthly to study how to further develop Ukraine’s military capability against Russia. Austin stressed that the military aid that the allies have given to Ukraine has made a “huge difference on the battlefield”, and warned that support must be maintained and increased not only so that kyiv can win the war, but also “ facing the battles of tomorrow”. In an appearance at the end of the meeting, the Secretary of Defense assured that in the two months of invasion, Russia has suffered “substantial” casualties: “In terms of military capabilities, they are weaker than when it began.”

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Austin also highlighted Germany’s “important decision” to send tanks and thanked the UK and Canada for their latest contributions. “There is no time to waste”, he urged the Defense representatives: “The next few days will be crucial. We must move at the speed of war.” The meeting in Ramstein wants to underline that all those present share the same objectives: “The nations of the world are united in the determination to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian imperialism,” said the US secretary.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Germany after meeting Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whom they supported in kyiv just hours before Russia bombed several railway lines in an attempt to disrupt the supply of weapons from Western allies and to send a message before Tuesday’s meeting in Germany to increase Ukraine’s military capabilities. No one was unaware that both politicians had arrived in kyiv by train.

Blinken expressed hope that Ukraine can win the war “if it has the right equipment and the right support.” It is not possible to know how the conflict will develop, he said, but “we know that a sovereign and independent Ukraine will exist much longer than Vladimir Putin.” Austin’s words in kyiv also hinted at Washington’s long-term goal: to weaken Moscow. “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do the kinds of things it has done by invading Ukraine,” the Pentagon chief told reporters on Monday. “It has already lost a lot of military capacity and many of its troops. And we want him to not be able to get that ability back quickly.”

The pressure on Scholz had increased in recent days. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed on Monday that he has already sent tanks to kyiv, although he did not specify the type or number. France and the Netherlands had also promised the delivery of heavy weapons, with which the feeling was growing in Berlin that it would soon be impossible to defend their resistance. The danger of being completely isolated from his allies and giving a terrible image of lack of leadership was already tangible.

Internal pressure was also taking its toll on Scholz’s image. The Christian Democrat opposition has tabled a draft motion in the Bundestag demanding the delivery of heavy weapons “from the available stocks of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) to the greatest extent possible,” including armor, artillery and equipment. antitank. The coalition parties are preparing their own motion to oppose that of the CDU, although criticism of Scholz’s hesitation has intensified from the ranks of the Liberals.

There has been speculation for weeks about the kind of tank Germany might send to Ukraine if it finally changed its mind. There was talk of the Leopard and the Marder, but the chosen one is the Gepard (cheetah, in German), a model widely used during the Cold War, built on the same chassis as the Leopard battle tank and that can hit targets on the ground and air up to a distance of six kilometers. Experts believe that the Bundeswehr still has in its stock most of the tanks – more than 400 – that it bought in the 1970s. Haven’t used them in over 10 years. The Romanian is the only NATO army that still has this model in operation.

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