Ukraine receives the first heavy weapons from Germany | International

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The heavy weapons that Germany promised Ukraine, and that have cost Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz so much criticism for the delay in sending them, are finally reaching the combat zone. Berlin has already sent 12 Panzerhaubitzen 2000 self-propelled howitzers, one of the most modern and powerful conventional artillery systems in the world, to Ukrainian territory, after training soldiers of the kyiv Army for weeks to use it. And Scholz says he is willing to continue supporting Ukraine “massively” with weapons and financially “for as long as necessary.”

The chancellor appeared this Wednesday in the Bundestag to talk about the three crucial international summits that are going to be held in the coming days: the European Council in Brussels, the G-7 meeting in Germany and the NATO meeting in Madrid. Scholz, who has been in office for just over six months, has barely had time to find his role as a leader in world politics. The series of high-level meetings will put him in the international spotlight, especially as his previous foreign policy actions have caused some skepticism, from his slowness in shutting down the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to his long-delayed visit to kyiv, going through the hesitation when it comes to committing weapons to Ukraine.

The war of aggression initiated by the Kremlin will mark the three appointments, as the chancellor pointed out before the German Chamber; however, the leader has other priorities under his arm, such as the climate emergency. Scholz has proposed to take advantage of the presidency of the group of seven industrialized countries to promote criteria to combat dependence on fossil fuels and form a “climate club” for which he will try to find a place during the negotiations at Elmau castle, in the Bavarian Alps, next week.

Reforms in the EU

The foreign minister stressed that during his visit to kyiv he had already made clear Germany’s support for the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, but insisted that the EU must be “receptive” to the reform of its structures and procedures. Berlin will defend in Brussels this Thursday and Friday that in the future decisions can be made with a qualified majority, for example, in foreign policy. Scholz reiterated that the countries of the Western Balkans demand “clear perspectives” after years of waiting in line for the Union. “The EU must finally give the green light to accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia,” he said.

The invasion of Ukraine has caused a radical shift in Germany’s defense policy, which is preparing to rearm itself with an investment of 100,000 million euros in its hitherto abandoned Army. That rearmament, Scholz said in the Bundestag, will not only serve to defend the security of Germany, the EU’s largest economy and most populous country, but “that of all allies.” NATO partners in Eastern Europe “can trust us,” the chancellor said.

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Berlin is telling the world that it is finally taking charge of its own protection. “In the biggest security crisis in Europe in recent decades, Germany is assuming a special responsibility,” Scholz added, in line with what SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil said Tuesday at a meeting of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin: “Germany must aspire to be a leading power. After almost 80 years of contention, Germany now has a new role in the international system.”

A Marshall Plan for Ukraine

From the meeting in Madrid, Scholz hopes that the Allies will send “a sign of cohesion and determination” in the face of the war of aggression against Ukraine. The chancellor confirmed the obvious, that “a partnership with Putin’s aggressive and imperialist Russia in the near future is unimaginable”, but declared himself in favor of maintaining the NATO-Russia Founding Act. It would be “unwise” to denounce him, he said, even though he reaffirms principles that the Russian president has blatantly violated. In the context of the dispute between Russia and Lithuania over the enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Scholz assured his eastern partners of his full solidarity: “We will defend every square meter of the Alliance territory,” he said.

In the opinion of the German chancellor, it is time to think about the future after the war. “Ukraine needs a Marshall plan for its reconstruction,” he said, referring to the help the United States provided to pull postwar Europe out of the pit. He said seeing the destruction in places like Irpin with his own eyes reminded him of German cities after World War II. The reconstruction of Ukraine will be “a task of several generations,” he added, and “many billions of euros and dollars” will be needed. But at the same time he confirmed that there is no progress to stop the conflict. Russia and Ukraine “are still far from negotiations,” he assured, because “Putin still believes in the possibility of being able to dictate peace.”

Moscow accuses Berlin of taking a militaristic turn reminiscent of 1945

In its reaction to the shipment of heavy weapons to Ukraine, the Kremlin took advantage of the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the USSR – June 22, 1941 – to link that tragedy with the German decision. “Official Berlin jeopardizes the results of decades-long efforts by Russia and Germany to overcome post-war enmity, hostility and mistrust between our peoples,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, accusing the German chancellery to take a militaristic turn and promote “an anti-Russian mass psychosis” that recalls “the events that preceded May 1945”, reports Javier G. Cuesta from Moscow.

The 2,000 armored howitzers already in Ukraine mark the first delivery of German heavy weapons to the country since the Russian invasion began nearly four months ago. Ukrainian Defense Minister Okeksii Reznikov thanked the delivery on Twitter her German counterpart, Christine Lambrecht. In his intervention before the Bundestag, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, answered – without naming them – to the criticism of his hesitation when sending war material. “Germany is doing everything it can to help Ukraine,” he said.

This model is the most modern artillery system of the Bundeswehr, the German Army. The howitzer is mounted on an armored chassis, similar to a tank, which is highly mobile in all terrains. Hit targets at 30 kilometers. Seven of the Panzerhaubitze 2000 have left Germany and another five from the Netherlands, with export permission from Berlin.

The German government has come under fire in recent months, first for not committing to sending heavy weapons, and then for being slow to deliver them. Berlin has offered different explanations, from the shortage of material in its own arsenals to the difficulty in maneuvering some models, which require weeks of specialized training. On Tuesday, after much secrecy, Olaf Scholz’s Executive made public the list of all the war material that has been sent to Ukraine since the beginning of the offensive. The delivery of the armored howitzers marks the first shipment of modern weapons, currently in use in Western Armies, and not from the old arsenals of the Soviet Union. Until now, Berlin had prioritized the exchange with countries of the former Warsaw Pact, so that they would send their Soviet tanks to Ukraine and in return the Bundeswehr would supply them with German-made tanks.

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