I admit I have changed my mind. I have long fully understood Chancellor Scholz’s reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. And I can very well understand the concern that Germany or the whole NATO is involved in the war by supplying certain armaments. Let’s not forget that Russian politicians have threatened to do so and President Putin has even toyed with the nuclear possibility. So there is reason to behave wisely toward Russia.
The problem is: Putin knows this, more than that, he has calculated this from the very beginning. And at a time when Ukraine is desperately fighting for life and freedom, the Russian army is systematically destroying homes and civilian infrastructure. War crimes are being committed on our doorstep!
Fear of a forgotten war
Considering Russia’s high military superiority or the unrestrained way Russia is waging war, it must be said that the Ukrainian army managed to defend itself very well and even capture territories. This happened thanks to Western military aid. However, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is apparently reaching its limits; in the meantime, a defensive war has begun on the fronts. Russia can hold out longer with this form of war. But even without heavy daily fighting, every day is a day of suffering for the civilian population, let’s not forget a day when the world could turn to more pressing problems, for example, the fight against hunger, which has taken on huge proportions with the war in Ukraine.
Now is not the time for negotiations
In times of a momentary military situation, in times of energy supply shortages and inflation in many supporting countries of Ukraine, the calls for the activation of diplomacy have become louder: Peace must be negotiated! What is clear is that if Ukraine negotiates now, it will get a peace dictated by Russia. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “If President Putin stops fighting, there will be peace. If Ukraine stops fighting, it will no longer exist as an independent state.” Diplomacy and military aid are therefore not contradictory, but complementary. Ukraine needs to negotiate from a strong position, which it does not yet have.
Putin interprets everything the way he wants
According to military experts, Western battle tanks would make a big difference because Ukraine could use them, instead of just holding their positions, to invade Ukrainian-occupied territories. According to Putin, these areas currently represent regions of Russia. What would happen if Russia considers Ukrainian intervention with Western tanks as entry into the war of the countries that sent those tanks? The answer is that Putin can interpret anything he wants. He can interpret other things as the start of war. But the West should not depend on that, international law is on the side of Ukrainians and their supporters, because this country is defending itself against an aggressor.
Nothing is without risks
Yes, this path is not without dangers. But the other path, that of restraint and hesitation, is even more dangerous. It would show Putin and his potential imitators that it can launch an attack on a country and there are no consequences. Then its next targets would be Moldova and the Baltic states.
Therefore, the hesitation to send battle tanks is no longer appropriate, if it was ever the right attitude. As long as no other Western country sends battle tanks, Scholz could say, he does not want isolated German action. Now Britain is taking the lead in sending Challenger tanks, regardless of who follows. Other countries, such as Poland and Finland, would immediately send Leopard tanks if Germany allowed them because Berlin has the right to approve its main battle tanks. Granting such permission would be the least the German government could do. But it still refuses. Only the country’s ability to defend itself can be used as an argument against the deployment of tanks from Germany, but no other diplomatic, strategic or moral reasons.
The deployment of battle tanks must be done for military reasons, it is supported by international law, and it is a crucial signal to Putin and his allies that Western countries stand united for freedom. The German government must not wait too long, otherwise it risks losing credibility./DW/