German Bundestag approves heavy weapons for Ukraine

The German parliament on Thursday voted in favour of providing Ukraine with heavy weapons, backing a shift in policy that came with the decision to send tanks to Kyiv earlier this week.

Anti Russian-war demonstrators in front of the Federal Chancellery on April 25th.
Anti Russian-war demonstrators in front of the Federal Chancellery on April 25th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The Bundestag voted with a large majority for a motion put forward jointly by the three ruling coalition parties – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and liberal FDP — and the opposition conservatives.

The document calls for the “acceleration of the delivery of effective, including heavy, weapons and complex systems by Germany”.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht had said on Tuesday that Germany would send Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, in a clear switch in Berlin’s cautious policy on military backing for Kyiv.

READ ALSO: Germany to authorise tank deliveries to Ukraine

Germany had previously sent only defensive weapons, leaving Chancellor Olaf Scholz facing criticism that he was not doing enough to support Ukraine.

The motion approved on Thursday calls on the government to supply heavy weapons directly, as well as indirectly by replacing stocks sent to Ukraine from eastern European countries.

In a debate before the vote, Britta Hasselmann, co-chair of the Green party’s parliamentary group, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “blatant” breach of international law and Ukraine had an “unrestricted right to self-defence”.

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr also said it was “right” to approve both direct and indirect heavy arms deliveries.

Scholz had previously justified his reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine by saying he wished to avoid a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, a nuclear power.

But leader of the opposition CDU party, Friedrich Merz, on Thursday said it was not caution that was driving the chancellor. “It is hesitation, it is dithering, it is timidity,” he said.

SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil accused Merz of trying to use the conflict to boost his political standing. “There is no room for party-political posturing here,” he said.

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‘Russia must not win this war,’ says Germany’s Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged once again to stand with Ukraine against Russia - but said Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up.

'Russia must not win this war,' says Germany's Scholz

Scholz said the war in Ukraine was the greatest crisis facing the EU in its history, but that solidarity was strong. 

“We are all united by one goal: Russia must not win this war, Ukraine must prevail,” Scholz said in the speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.

Putin thinks he can use bombs to dictate the terms for peace, the SPD politician said. 

“He’s wrong. He was wrong in judging the unity of Ukrainians, and the determination of our alliances. Russia will not dictate peace because the Ukrainians won’t accept it and we won’t accept it.”

Scholz said it was only when Putin understands that he cannot break Ukraine’s defence capability that he would “be prepared to seriously negotiate peace”.

For this, he said, it is important to strengthen Ukraine’s defences. 

Scholz also pledged to help cut Europe free from its reliance on Russian energy. 

The Chancellor welcomed the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato. “With you at our side, Nato, Europe will become stronger and safer,” he said.

However, Scholz dampened expectations for Ukraine’s quick accession to the EU.

“There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership.

“The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years,” he said.

Scholz had in April called for Western Balkan countries’ efforts to join the EU to be accelerated amid a “new era” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last October, EU leaders at a summit in Slovenia only reiterated their “commitment to the enlargement process” in a statement that disappointed the six candidates for EU membership — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo – who had hoped for a concrete timetable.

“For years, they have been undertaking intensive reforms and preparing for accession,” Scholz said on Thursday.

“It is not only a question of our credibility that we keep our promises to them. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interest,” he said.

The chancellor said he would be attending the EU summit at the end of May “with the clear message that the Western Balkans belong in the European Union”.

Scholz also called for other ways to help Ukraine in the short term, saying the priority was to “concentrate on supporting Ukraine quickly and pragmatically”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also said it will take “decades” for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political club beyond the bloc that could also include Britain.