Germany to authorise tank deliveries to Ukraine

Germany will authorise the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said Tuesday, in what would be a clear switch in Berlin's cautious policy on military backing for Kyiv.

A Gepard tank during military drills in Munster
A Gepard tank during military drills in Munster. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Maurizio Gambarini

The government has agreed to sign off the delivery of used Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, Lambrecht told an international meeting of defence ministers at the US Ramstein airbase, according to a draft of her speech seen by AFP.

Forty countries are holding emergency talks at the airbase in southwestern Germany on bolstering the defence capabilities of Ukraine.

The meeting, held on the invitation of the United States, is “focused on doing things to generate additional capability and capacity for the Ukrainian forces”, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

France is delivering Caesar cannons with a range of 40 kilometres (25 miles) and Britain has provided Starstreak anti-air missiles and tanks.

READ ALSO: Germany to backfill East European heavy weapons for Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under fire for refusing to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite announcing a “turning point” in German defence policy in response to the war.

Critics have accused Scholz of weak leadership and say his Social Democrats (SPD) are too reluctant to break from their historic policy of detente towards Moscow.

Scholz has even faced criticism from within his own coalition government, a partnership between the SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

The chancellor has justified his cautious approach by saying he wishes to avoid a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, a nuclear power.

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

But according to a draft document seen by AFP on Tuesday, the three coalition parties now plan to present a joint proposal in parliament calling for the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

The document calls on the government to “continue and, where possible, accelerate the delivery of necessary equipment to Ukraine, including extending the delivery to heavy weapons and complex systems”.

It also suggests that Ukrainian soldiers should be trained in Germany and other NATO countries to operate the weapons.

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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.