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    The German Chancellor does not want to send Marders and Leopards. We can only speculate about the reasons [Interview with Roderich Kiesewetter for “Gazeta Polska Codziennie”]

    The federal government was not prepared to discuss with the German arms industry the pace at which it could possibly deliver Leopard 2 A7 tanks to Poland. The Bundeswehr does not have a large number of such tanks, but Poland is closer to the front than Germany, so sending the best weapons, rather than older models, would have been a strong expression of solidarity with an ally. However, this was not done. This situation arose disagreements and disappointments, and in the process highlighted widespread arrogance on the part of Germany.

    The interview with Roderich Kiesewetter (CDU), Member of the Bundestag, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Control Panel (PKGr), and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The interview was conducted by Olga Doleśniak-Harczuk for “Gazeta Polska Codziennie.”

     

    The message had already come out from both Poland and Germany that the planned exchange of armoured weapons between Poland and Germany to exchange armoured weapons (Ringtausch) had failed. What determined the failure of this plan?

     

    Firstly, Germany delayed too long in responding to the Polish side’s inquiry, which was made as early as March. Germany did not reply at all until May. Poland said that it was willing to transfer between 400 and 600 modernised T72 tanks to Ukraine and asked for this transfer to be compensated by approximately the same number of Leopard 2 A7 tanks, new or in very good condition, even if the delivery of these tanks were to take slightly longer. Germany did not respond. Later on, it was said that it couldn’t be that Poland was demanding modern Leopard 2 A7 tanks in exchange for old T72s. We often had to explain to government colleagues at the time that this wasn’t about outdated T72s, but tanks meeting NATO standards.

     

    Did the explanations have an effect?

     

    The government has at least slowly started to change its stance, and there have been many insistences that it should respond to the Polish proposal. A response was finally formulated last week – a disappointing one, given that Poland was invited to supply 20 Leopard 2 A4 tanks for the almost 300 T72s it had sent to Ukraine. Twenty Leopards are only half a battalion, far too few, and it would have made more sense to provide a whole battalion, do the 55-55 tanks. So that was the first disappointment. The second was that the federal government was not prepared to discuss with the German arms industry at what pace it could possibly deliver Leopard 2 A7 tanks to Poland. The Bundeswehr does not have a large number of such tanks, but Poland is closer to the front than Germany, so sending the best weapons rather than older models would have been a strong expression of solidarity with an ally. However, this was not done. This situation arose disagreements and disappointments, and in the process highlighted widespread arrogance on the part of Germany.

     

    Why did the SPD/FDP/Green coalition government decide on Ringtausch in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been easier and quicker to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine without intermediaries? I remember the concerns expressed especially in SPD circles that Germany could not afford to directly supply Ukraine with tanks of its manufacture, which was argued in very different ways. Over time, however, communication chaos arose around Ringtausch, and not only that with Poland.

     

    It is difficult to assess the reasons for this decision, as the Chancellor remains silent. Three weeks ago, my question to the Foreign Affairs Committee was answered that “there have been no threats from Putin against Germany,” and a short while later, answering my colleague’s question as to why Germany was not supplying Ukraine with Marders and Leopards, the Chancellor said that “sending Marders would have meant a terrible escalation.” We do not share this opinion, because Germany is to purposely supply Ukraine with 15 Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (three of them have already arrived in Kyiv – ed.) with 35 mm calibres and they are even more efficient than Marders. Meanwhile, the Chancellor gave the order not to deliver Marders and Leopards. Apparently, there were (in this matter – ed.) remarks from Russia, but we have no evidence of this, we can only speculate. Since the federal government itself, on the part of both the Greens and the FDP, supported the delivery of Marders and Leopards to Ukraine, and on 28 April this year, the Bundestag voted on the supply of heavy weapons to the Ukrainians, including Marders and Leopards, by almost 600 votes. It can be considered that only the Chancellor is withholding these supplies.

     

    How deeply is the coalition government divided on this issue?

     

    As a parliamentary club of the CDU/CSU, we are in opposition and strongly advocate the sending of heavy weapons to Ukraine, but voices coinciding with ours are multiplying in the coalition government. The head of the Bundestag’s Defence Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the FDP, said at the weekend that since Ringtausch had failed, weapons should be sent to Ukraine indirectly, while Bundestag vice-chairwoman Katrin Göring-Eckhard also called for direct deals, in line with statements made earlier by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck. However, Chancellor Scholz is the only one who opposes such solutions.

     

    Is the Ringtausch problem exclusive to Poland? After all, Germany has negotiated exchanges with several countries. 

     

    Slovenia wanted to send one hundred T72 tanks to Ukraine, and in return the Germans offered its 70 Fuchs wheeled armoured transporters, which the Slovenes considered insufficient. The idea behind the Ringtausch was to send Ukraine available post-Soviet equipment and ammunition so that these weapons could be used quickly, without wasting valuable training time, but Germany dragged out the negotiations for too long. This can be seen particularly well in the case of Greece. The Greeks bought a hundred BMP-1 tanks in the 1990s, today these tanks are 55-60 years old. At that time the Greeks did not pay 25,000 Deutsche Marks per tank, these tanks had not been in service for a decade and were to be sent to the Ukrainians, and in return, the Greeks were to receive a hundred Marders from Germany. The Germans did not, however, take into account the position of Turkey, which opposed the exchange, arguing that the balance in the region would be upset and that Ankara should therefore have the right to take part in the decisive process. In the end, Greece did not get 100 Marders and Ukraine did not get one hundred BMP-1s. And there are now 100 Marders in German warehouses that could have been directly delivered to Ukraine, but there is no decision. This issue is also disappointing.

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