German expert on why Berlin’s security assistance to Ukraine is slow

26 July, 07:51 PM
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Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft systems (Photo:REUTERS/Christian Charisius)

Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft systems (Photo:REUTERS/Christian Charisius)

Even members of Germany’s ruling coalition agree that military aid to Ukraine is moving too slowly, German political scientist and Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, Andreas Umland, said in an interview with NV Radio on July 26.

NV: It can seem sometimes that the Bundestag (German parliament) is conflicted in how Germany should support Ukraine militarily. Some reports suggest aid shipments are getting bogged down or even blocked, while other officials are calling for them to get ramped up. What’s going on?

Umland: First of all, we ought to point out that heavy (German) weapons are finally arriving in Ukraine – howitzers and Gepard (anti-air systems). So there is some progress. But it’s also true that the situation in general is a bit shameful, as Germany can’t even fulfill its NATO obligations.

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There is a debate ongoing in Germany, but I don’t think it should be viewed as evidence of some kind of undue behind-the-scenes influence.

It’s probably caused by Germany having to deal with these questions for the very first time. It doesn’t have any experience of how to resolve any of this.

NV: It’s everyone’s first time. Ukraine has no experience in defending against an invasion either.

Umland: Right, that’s why we can see all this criticism in German media and even coalition parties. There are a lot of questions about how slow the embarrassing the process is – not as smooth as one would expect.

And while Germany is a large country, it’s hardly a military one, so it does what does – endless half-measures.

NV: Neighbouring Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic are very speedy in their weapon shipments to Ukraine.

Umland: Yes. Germany, unfortunately, lacks their swiftness. Still, there are more complicated issues.

For instance, the Bundeswehr (German military) has had its fair share of rows about technical problems with its equipment. I think objective reasons are affecting (slow German military aid). Germany is rather ineffective in military stuff, in general. That’s why this issue is so embarrassing for the country.

NV: Do you think tank delivery could fall through altogether?

Umland: I’m not all that familiar with military matters.

We also just don’t have many tanks. The United States has 6,000 tanks, while Germany – only 300, some of which are currently in maintenance. This equipment is somewhat in short supply. The debate is over how much Germany can transfer to Ukraine, before it’s left without an army at all.

And I also think that sometimes politicians speak on matters without being familiar with their complexities.

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