Photo: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz makes a statement after talks with European leaders and US President Joe Biden in Berlin
Source: REUTERS / Lisi Niesner
On April 26, the first, historic meeting of the International Ukraine Defense Consultative Workshop took place at the Rammstein US Military Base. According to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Contact Group will be open to any nation willing to help meet Ukraine’s evolving defense needs so it can “win” the war against Russia. The backbone of this format consists of NATO member states, but in addition to the Alliance and Ukraine itself, the initiative also includes other countries such as Sweden, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Tunisia, Liberia and Morocco. This Group should be considered as a US initiative aimed at sharing responsibility between partner countries. The United States has radically changed its approach to Russia's war, announced a 33 billion aid package to Ukraine, approved a land lease program, and before that had mobilized its network of partnerships to facilitate and coordinate support for Ukraine creating a Contact Group. According to the head of the US Department of Defense, its meetings will be held every month in person, virtually or in a mixed format.
As Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby noted, the Rammstein meeting took place outside of NATO, because as an alliance the organization does not provide security assistance to Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, NATO has been paralyzed and Ukraine’s interaction with the states of the North Atlantic Alliance was held on a bilateral level and within formats created by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry over the past year, such as the Lublin Triangle and the joint Ukraine Initiative with Poland and Great Britain. Washington and London became the drivers of international support for Ukraine, while a number of important European states leaned towards appeasement policy. To a lesser extent, this applies to France and Italy, which made half-measures in the issues of sanctions imposition and military assistance to Ukraine at the initial stage. And this statement is completely related to Germany.
Now we are at a moment in time when the issue of support for Ukraine affects the internal political situation of European states, and inaction can cost politicians more than assistance to Ukraine. The Ukrainian issue can either raise the rating of the current governments or bring it down. So far in the UK, Boris Johnson, who has been severely criticized by the opposition for participating in a party during a pandemic, is holding up as a prime minister, thanks in part to the support of Ukraine. Olaf Scholz in Germany may, on the contrary, lose his rating due to his lack of initiative. The chancellor's unwillingness to avoid arms supplies to Ukraine raised many questions about Germany's position in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
At first, Scholz shamefully declared that the Bundeswehr did not have equipment that Germany could transfer. When the German military-industrial complex openly offered a number of weapons the Armed Forces of Ukraine need, the chancellor said that the Ukrainian military would have to learn how to manage this equipment for a long time. And when military experts denied this claim, Scholz said these weapons were necessary to defend NATO. The chancellor was struggling to avoid weapons supply to Ukraine, while the German bureaucrats were changing their minds.
Scholz's attitude was even criticized by Angela Merkel's former CDU / CSU party. Leaders of the German opposition can further not only contribute to Ukraine's victory, but also make a political profit thanks to the Ukrainian issue. After the refusal of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to meet Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Kyiv, Olaf Scholz decided not to visit the capital of Ukraine. On May 2, 2022, Friedrich Merz, chairman of the CDU / CSU, decided to come to Kyiv instead of the current Chancellor. It is likely that such a move will help strengthen the position of the German opposition, which has taken the lead in supporting Ukraine within Germany. It was this party that proposed in the Bundestag an already adopted document entitled “Protecting Peace and Freedom in Europe – Comprehensive Support for Ukraine”. The document allows the federal government to “supply efficient, including heavy, weapons and complex systems through Germany to Ukraine”. Merz's visit also indicates the existence of forces in Germany that tend to support Ukraine more and are ready to change the current "Eastern Policy" of the country. This applies not only to the opposition, because the aforementioned document was supported by the overwhelming majority of the Bundestag: 586 deputies voted in favor, 100 against and 7 abstained. The starting point for such a change, in the event of further support for Ukraine with heavy weapons, can be considered April 26, the day of the meeting at the Rammstein base, since on that day, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht confirmed that her country had agreed to supply Ukraine with 50 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun "Gepard". Berlin is also ready to support the EU initiative to impose an embargo on oil imports from Russia, although FRG was previously one of the main opponents of sanctions against Russian oil and gas. Approval of an alternative route of supply through the port of Gdansk opens up the possibility of Germany's independence from Russian oil, and, therefore, a foreign policy more independent of Moscow.
The meeting of the International Ukraine Defense Consultative Workshop at the American military base in Germany marks the creation of the Coalition in support of Ukraine. This initiative will allow coordinating international military assistance to Ukraine and delivering the necessary pieces of equipment in a timely manner. For the initiator of the Coalition, US, this is another opportunity to demonstrate its status as the leader of the democratic world and share obligations among partner countries. Against the background of the meeting, the shift in the policy of Germany has occurred. For a long time a leadership in countering Russian aggression is expected from Berlin. Following Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election and his announced transfer of Caesar artillery systems to Ukraine, EU leaders Germany and France can be expected to finally consolidate Europe within the US Pro-Ukrainian Coalition in order to win the war with Russia.
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