Germany to backfill East European heavy weapons for Ukraine

Germany has reached an agreement with eastern European partners to supply Ukraine with a new batch of heavy weapons "in the next few days", Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Thursday.

A tank near Kyiv, Ukraine
A tank near Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Ukrinform | -

“It’s about tanks, armoured vehicles, or other options individual countries are able to give,” Lambrecht told the NTV broadcaster.

Germany will then replenish these stocks, she said, without giving further details.

The deliveries must happen quickly because “military experts agree that the next two weeks will be decisive in Ukraine’s fight against Russia”, she said.

The tanks will include T-72 models from Slovenia, a government source told AFP, confirming German media reports.

READ ALSO: ‘Too little, too late’: Scholz under fire for inaction on Ukraine

These will be replenished with Fuchs armoured vehicles and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, the source said.

Lambrecht also said Germany would train Ukrainian soldiers to use German-made Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers — reportedly due to be sent by the Netherlands.

Germany cannot send the Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery systems itself because its army “does not have the stocks”, Lambrecht said. “But where we can provide training, we will do that.”

Germany has come under fire for refusing to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, even as allies such as the United States, Britain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands up their deliveries.

But the government has said that after decades of chronic underinvestment, the Bundeswehr German army is simply not in a position to send the weapons Ukraine wants.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday raised the possibility of eastern European partners sending older, Russia-made “weapons systems” to Ukraine.

Asked whether Germany really could not deliver heavy weapons from Bundeswehr stocks, Lambrecht said this was impossible “if I want to continue to guarantee national and allied defence”.

“In the future, we must be much better equipped. We must no longer allow the Bundeswehr to be cut down to the point where we are in the situation we are in at the moment,” she said.

READ ALSO: Germany has ‘reached limit’ on arms shipments to Ukraine, defence minister admits

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Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.