Conference in Ramstein discusses arms aid for Ukraine

Conference in Ramstein discusses arms aid for Ukraine

Germany’s expectations of the Ramstein talks were enormous. On March 3, 2022 – a good week after the Russian attack – Ukraine officially asked Germany for the delivery of main battle tanks for the first time and then repeated this request several times. In recent days, European allies have increased pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Poland, for example, announced that it wanted to hand over Leopard tanks to the Ukrainians as part of a coalition. As a producing country, Germany plays a key role. Any transfer of tanks to Ukraine by other countries must be approved by the German government.

Those export licenses were discussed but not decided, Pistorius said. At the same time, the new defense minister tried to counteract the impression that Germany was blocking deliveries. “The impression that has occasionally arisen that there is a closed coalition and Germany is in the way – that impression is wrong,” said the SPD politician.

There are good reasons for surrender and good reasons against it. All arguments must be carefully considered. This assessment is shared by many allies. Germany do not hesitate, just be careful. “We are preparing for the worst case scenario.” The decision on delivery will be made “as soon as possible”. If delivery is decided, it has to be quick, Pistorius said.

The German chancellor made it clear on Friday, through her spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, that the delivery of the Leopard main battle tanks was never conditional on the delivery of such weapons by the United States. True, Scholz repeatedly made “significant decisions” about military support for Ukraine “in close consultation with the American president.” Hebestreit emphasized that the chancellor’s three principles when it comes to arms delivery to Kyiv are: “support Ukraine as much as possible (…), prevent NATO and Germany from becoming part of the war and, thirdly, that you don’t go alone nationally, do it”.

The unresolved Leopard issue overshadowed new allied pledges to Ukraine. For example, Pistorius announced a “spring package” worth one billion euros, bringing the total value of German military aid since the start of the war to 3.3 billion euros. Prior to the meeting, the US government announced an additional $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Lithuania has announced the delivery of dozens of L70 anti-aircraft guns, ammunition and two Mi-8 helicopters. Meanwhile, Russia’s neighbor Finland is donating more military equipment to Ukraine worth around 400 million euros. This is the twelfth shipment that the Nordic EU country is making to help Ukraine defend itself from the Russian attack. The new package is worth more than twice as much as all the previous eleven combined.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said giving Ukraine hundreds of new armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and main battle tanks would make a huge difference for the country. Stoltenberg said he was confident that discussions about supplying Leopard 2 tanks would continue.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned – in Ramstein via video – to hurry up arms deliveries. Timing is critical, he said. Russia is gathering its strength, its last strength. “We have to be faster.” Russian terror does not allow long discussions. “The Kremlin must lose.”

US Secretary of Defense Austin made a similar statement. “This is not the time to slow down.” Instead, efforts must be stepped up. “The Ukrainian people are looking at us. The Kremlin is looking at us. And history is looking at us.” Austin called on all the allies – not just Germany. Germany is a reliable ally and has already done a lot to support Ukraine. When asked if Germany was fulfilling its leadership role in Europe due to tank hesitation, Austin said, “Yes, but we can all do more.”

According to the Russian leadership, the West is not changing the course of the conflict by supplying Ukraine with tanks. Instead, it would just mean more trouble for the people of Ukraine, a spokesman for the presidential office in Moscow said on Friday. On relations between Russia and the United States, he says that in the middle of President Biden’s term, they are the worst they have ever been. There is currently no chance of improvement.

Ukraine’s so-called contact group, which met in Ramstein on Friday, includes the United States, Germany and Britain. According to the Ministry of Defence, Austria was represented as an observer, as in previous similar meetings.