The freezing of armor exchanges is a political blow for Soltz
Germany’s goal may have been the rapid exchange of armored personnel carriers with NATO allies, in the context of military aid to Ukraine, but this has not yet materialized, while the collapse of a related German-Slovakia agreement is indicative of the obstacles.
Despite protracted talks with Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Greece and the Czech Republic, he has yet to sign a contract with any of these countries, rightfully causing concern in Athens to acquire the long-awaited Marder.
Government circles, however, commented on iefimerida.gr that the Greek side remains fully prepared for the implementation of the agreement, and as far as our side is concerned, all actions have been taken in order to start the exchange of armored vehicles, exactly as it has been defined.
If Germany’s European allies sent Ukraine their older tanks, Berlin would quickly replace those vehicles from its own supply, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised. Three months later, however, Berlin is struggling to implement many of those deals, leading to a delay in armored deliveries to Ukraine as the country tries to fend off Russian advances in the east and prepares an offensive to retake territory in the south.
Now, Solz is under increasing pressure because of the slow pace. Not only is Germany’s center-right opposition pressuring him, but members of his coalition are grumbling publicly. Adding to the problems, NATO ally Poland has openly accused Germany of reneging on its commitments, with Warsaw’s Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak saying the offer was “just a propaganda effort”.
The discussions focus on two of Germany’s most powerful weapons, the Leopard tank and the Marder, an infantry fighting vehicle.
Instead of sending the Leopards or Marders directly to Ukraine, Solz proposed in April an exchange plan under which NATO countries that still have Soviet-era tanks would donate them to Kyiv in exchange for more modern German tanks.
The chancellor argued that the Ringtausch model would be more beneficial for Ukraine. Kiev’s military will acquire the same models of Soviet-style tanks already in use by its forces and, in theory, avoid the training and logistics required to operate and repair the German tanks. In practice, however, the exchange of armor has made little progress.
So far, Germany has only made significant progress in reaching an agreement with the Czech Republic. Other potential deals with Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece remain stuck in negotiations, Politico reports, and the Financial Times similarly confirms. And, to make matters worse, Polish officials claim that their swap deal has effectively failed.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Prague on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Analena Burbock admitted, in a diplomatic tone, that the government is struggling to implement the swap agreements.
Burbock, from Soltz’s Green coalition partner, had previously urged the chancellor to send German tanks directly to Ukraine. But Solz and senior members of his Social Democratic Party (SPD) worry the move could provoke Russia and even escalate the situation into World War Three.
Consequently, the government has tried hard to avoid giving any impression that it will send tanks to Ukraine.
Even as Germany this week delivered the first five of 30 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to the country, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht maintained that these weapons are not considered tanks in the classic sense. For example, a government catalog of military support for Ukraine names the Gepard as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon”.