WAR IN UKRAINEWhy Is Germany Not Supplying Ukraine with Heavy Weapons?

By Rob Mudge

Published 22 April 2022

The criticism of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been unrelenting. He has been accused of stalling and breaking his promises over sending heavy weapons to Ukraine. Here are some of the main points of contention.

The German government has listed several reasons why it’s been unable to dispatch heavy weapons to Ukraine. Do those claims hold up? Several of its explanations are listed below.

Germany Is Simply Following the Lead of Its Allies
This has been Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s mantra since the outbreak of the war. He has said he’s doing everything in close coordination with NATO and EU partners. “Look at what our allies are doing, for example our friends in the G7,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday, pointing out that countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States were supplying the same weapons that Germany was sending.

But on Thursday, the US announced a new military aid package worth $800 million (€740 million) for Ukraine, including for heavy artillery. That brings the total to more than $3 billion in aid since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

By contrast, as of early April, the latest information that has been made available, German spending for Ukraine’s military defense stood at around €186 million, according to the Economic Affairs Ministry. That was mainly used to buy rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft rockets, machine guns, ammunition and protective gear — but not heavy weapons.

Professor Carlo Masala, a defense and security expert at the Bundeswehr University Munich, said Scholz is on the one hand delivering a message to the Russians by saying Germany is still holding back on heavy weapons. On the other hand, it’s also a signal to the domestic audience and his center-left party, the Social Democrats.

This is an issue which is now being debated among various groups in the Social Democratic Party, and he needs them in parliament. He needs all those people who don’t want to deliver heavy weapons because they think that this will escalate the conflict and that Germany will become a target of Russian activities,” he told DW.

While that’s a justifiable concern, it’s difficult to reconcile with the news that several Western countries, including the US, the UK and the Netherlands, have delivered heavy weapons, according to a recent tweet from Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko.

The Czech Republic has reportedly also signed off on sending several dozen Soviet-made T-72 tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. The US announced last week that it would quickly deliver 11 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers and 90 155-mm field howitzers with 40,000 artillery shells — all of which would qualify as heavy weapons.