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Date: July 6, 2022 4:02 am

The heavy weapons that Germany promised Ukraine and that cost Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz so much criticism for delaying their shipment are finally reaching the war zone. Berlin has already deployed 12 Panzerhaubitzen 2000 self-propelled howitzers, one of the most advanced and powerful conventional artillery systems in the world, to Ukraine after several weeks of training in its use by Kyiv army soldiers. And Scholz says he is ready to continue to support Ukraine “massively” with weapons and financially “for as long as necessary.”

The chancellor appeared this Wednesday in the Bundestag to speak about three important international summits that will take place in the coming days: the European Council in Brussels, the G-7 meeting in Germany and the NATO meeting in Madrid. Scholz, who has been in power for just over six months, has barely found his role as a leader in world politics. A series of high-level meetings will put him at the center of international attention, especially since his previous foreign policy actions have drawn a certain amount of skepticism, from his slowness in shutting down the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to his long-delayed visit to Kyiv, which is hesitant when it comes to comes to the transfer of weapons to Ukraine.

The aggressive war initiated by the Kremlin will mark three appointments, as the chancellor pointed out before the German House of Representatives; however, the leader has other priorities, such as the climate emergency. Scholz offered to use the presidency of a group of seven industrialized countries to advance criteria for combating fossil fuel dependency and form a “climate club” for which he will try to find a seat during talks at Elmau Castle in the Bavarian Alps next week.

Reforms in the EU

The Foreign Minister stressed that during his visit to Kyiv he had already made it clear that Germany supported the status of Ukrainian and Moldovan candidates, but insisted that the EU should be “receptive” to reforming its structures and procedures. Berlin will argue in Brussels this Thursday and Friday that in the future decisions can be taken by qualified majorities, for example in foreign policy. Scholz reiterated that the countries of the Western Balkans are demanding “clear prospects” after years of waiting in line for unification. “The EU should finally give the green light to accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia,” he said.

The invasion of Ukraine has caused a radical shift in Germany’s defense policy, which is preparing to rearm by investing 100 billion euros in its hitherto neglected army. This rearmament, Scholz told the Bundestag, would serve to protect the security not only of Germany, the EU’s largest economy and most populous country, but of “all allies.” According to the chancellor, NATO partners in Eastern Europe “can trust us.”

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Berlin tells the world that it has finally taken responsibility for its own defense. “In the face of the biggest security crisis in Europe in decades, Germany takes on a special responsibility,” Scholz added, in line with what SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil said Tuesday at a meeting of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin: “Germany must strive to to the leading force. After nearly 80 years of arguing, Germany now has a new role in the international system.”

Marshall Plan for Ukraine

At the meeting in Madrid, Scholz hopes the allies will send “a sign of unity and determination” in the face of a war of aggression against Ukraine. The chancellor reaffirmed the obvious that “partnership with Putin’s aggressive and imperialist Russia is unthinkable in the near future,” but spoke in favor of retaining the Russia-NATO Founding Act. According to him, it would be “unreasonable” to condemn him, although he confirms the principles that the Russian president has flagrantly violated. In the context of the dispute between Russia and Lithuania over the Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea, Scholz assured his eastern partners of full solidarity: “We will defend every square meter of the territory of the Alliance,” he said.

According to the German chancellor, it’s time to think about the post-war future. “Ukraine needs a Marshall Plan to rebuild it,” he said, referring to the help provided by the United States to pull post-war Europe out of the hole. He said he saw the destruction with his own eyes in places like Irpin, which reminded him of German cities after World War II. He added that rebuilding Ukraine would be “a multi-generational task” and would require “many billions of euros and dollars.” But at the same time, he found that there was no progress to stop the conflict. Russia and Ukraine are “still far from negotiations,” he said, because “Putin still believes in the ability to dictate peace.”

Moscow accuses Berlin of militaristic turn reminiscent of 1945

In its reaction to the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, the Kremlin used the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the USSR – June 22, 1941 – to link this tragedy to the German decision. “Official Berlin jeopardizes the results of many years of efforts by Russia and Germany to overcome post-war enmity, hostility and distrust between our peoples,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, accusing the German Chancellery of militaristic approach and promoting “anti-Russian mass psychosis,” which recalls “events preceding May 1945”, reports Javier G. Cuesta from Moscow.

The 2,000 armored howitzers already in Ukraine mark the first delivery of German heavy weapons to the country since the start of the Russian invasion almost four months ago. Ukrainian Defense Minister Okeksiy Reznikov thanked his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht for the delivery on Twitter. In a speech before the Bundestag, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz responded, without naming them, to criticism of his hesitation in sending war materials. “Germany is doing everything possible to help Ukraine,” he said.

This model is the most modern artillery system of the Bundeswehr, the German army. The howitzer is mounted on an armored tank-like chassis that has high mobility in any terrain. Hit targets at a distance of 30 kilometers. Seven of the Panzerhaubitze 2000 left Germany and another five from the Netherlands with permission to export from Berlin.

In recent months, the German government has been heavily criticized, first for not committing to send heavy weapons, and then for its delay in delivering them. Berlin offered various explanations, from the lack of materials in its own arsenals to the difficulty in maneuvering some models, requiring weeks of special training. On Tuesday, after much secrecy, Olaf Scholz’s chief executive released a list of all military equipment that has been sent to Ukraine since the offensive began. The delivery of armored howitzers marks the first batch of modern weapons currently used by Western armies and not from the old arsenals of the Soviet Union. Until now, Berlin’s priority has been an exchange with the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, so that they send their Soviet tanks to Ukraine, and the Bundeswehr supplies them with German ones in return.

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