Germany’s allies pushed Germany to send tanks to Ukraine. Now, Scholz is the one urging them.

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MUNICH — As Kyiv calls for more advanced military aid, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Friday pushed for Western allies to make good on their promises to send Ukraine the type of battle tanks that many had long wanted his country to provide.

After weeks of heavy public pressure from European allies, Germany agreed last month to send at least 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and to allow other nations to re-export the German-made vehicles for the war effort, too. Yet now, Berlin has found itself in the awkward position of pushing for the same European partners that had nudged Berlin to act to provide enough of their Leopards to make a difference on the battlefield.

“We will do whatever we can to make this decision easier for our partners — for example, by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany or supporting them with supplies and logistics,” Mr. Scholz said at the first day of the Munich Security Conference. He did not name specific countries.

After his speech, he was asked in a panel with Christiane Amanpour, the CNN anchor, how it was that Germany had gone from being urged to send Leopard tanks, to now urging others. Mr. Scholz smiled before answering, in English, to a burst of laughter: “Yeah. There is a question I have to ask to others — especially those who were so much urging me to act in a special way.”

He was careful not to imply that Germany would be taking on a more forceful role in providing weapons to Ukraine overall, stressing that he felt his government had made the right decision in insisting that the United States also send American-made tanks as a condition for Berlin to send its own.

“The only strategy for being united is not to do something on your own, but to discuss with others and your partners,” Mr. Scholz said. “This is what we do, and we really appreciate very much the alliance with the United States.”

“We did a lot — not just the last step — together,” he added, “and I’m sure we will continue.”

Asked by Ms. Amanpour whether he expected a similar round of deliberation and pressure before assenting to Ukrainian demands for more advanced weapons such as fighter jets, Mr. Scholz demurred.

“You are asking me about another question which is not on the table, which is not on the agenda,” he said.

Instead, he said, Europe should focus on fulfilling the promises of weapons it has already committed to, such as the tanks.

In his speech, Mr. Scholz highlighted his efforts over the past year to create a “Zeitenwende,” or turning point, in Germany by bolstering the country’s military with a fund of 100 billion euros ($106 billion).

He also said that Germany had made great strides in its efforts to take on a more robust role in European affairs. Central to that has been breaking with one of its greatest taboos, he said: providing weapons to a war zone. Germany has provided €12 million in aid to Ukraine last year, he noted, and has taken in nearly one million Ukrainians since the war began.

But he stressed that European countries would need to work together on their military structures to maintain security on the continent. “In armaments policy, the European Union must pull together strategically,” he said.

He highlighted several projects by European nations: the Future Combat Air System by France and Spain; the Main Ground Combat System being developed by Germany and France; and Germany’s proposal for a European Sky Shield Initiative to bolster European air defenses.

“These are steps toward a Europe that is more capable of acting in geopolitical terms — a Europe that is also a stronger trans-Atlantic ally,” he said.


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