Germany has been lukewarm with the idea of sending heavy offensive weapons to Ukraine ever since the Russian invasion started on February 24. It appears it has not delivered the weapons it had pledged to Ukraine prior, putting it in some international hot water.
According to documents obtained by the German broadsheet Welt, Germany had only supplied Ukraine with two arms deliveries from March 30 to May 26, leading many to think that Germany’s Olaf Scholz was sweet-talking his way out of sending arms to Ukraine. These two shipments reportedly included anti-tank mines and other small arms such as hand grenades, spare parts, radios, and detonating cords, withholding any heavy weapons to Ukraine.
So let’s take a step back. What has Germany pledged to give Ukraine but, so far, has not delivered them?
First, we have the Gepard (Cheetah in English) anti-aircraft gun known for its twin 35mm guns. SOFREP picked up on this announcement last April when Germany announced that it would be supplying some 50 Gepard anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine in what was a major policy shift. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced that it would donate these heavy weapons during the opening remarks of the US-led defense meeting at Ramstein.
“Yesterday, we decided that Germany will make the delivery of ‘Gepard’ anti-aircraft tanks possible to Ukraine,” Lambrecht said in April.
In response, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomed the move, saying that he “especially welcomed” the major decision by the Germans.
“I wanted to especially welcome a major decision by our German hosts as Minister Lambrecht announced just today that Germany will send Ukraine some 50 Cheetah (Gepard) anti-aircraft systems,” Austin said.
The Ukrainians badly need these anti-aircraft guns as they have struggled in the past to defend against Russian bombing campaigns. These guns can be used to destroy airborne targets of up to 11,500 feet (3,500 meters) and light-armored ground targets.
However, the Swiss blocked the transfer of the ammunition for the Gepard, leaving it useless if it were to be sent to Ukraine without ammo. According to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), it vetoed the transfer of ammunition as Germany received two requests for the 35mm ammunition and 12.7mm ammunition, citing Swiss neutrality. Germany was most certainly aware of Swiss regulations on the transfer of ammunition sold to them and a good faith offer to send these Gepard vehicles would have included clearing their transfer along with the Swiss-made ammunition before making it offer public. From where we sit, it looks like the Germans dishonestly made the offer in public knowing full well it would not go through.
On May 10, SOFREP also reported that Germany would send over some howitzers to Ukraine. Specifically, it would send 7 Panzerhaubitze 2000 (PzH) 155mm caliber howitzers with a range reaching up to 35 miles (56 km).
Germany has about 110 of these self-propelled guns in their inventory and is sending just 7 of them to Ukraine. The Dutch are also sending 5 units they bought from Germany. This means 12 in total. A battalion of self-propelled guns is generally 12 guns with accompanying support vehicles. That really is very little and unlikely to change the outcome of the war in the way that 50 units might.
Most recently, Germany also pledged to donate their IRIS-T Air Defense System to Ukraine after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated pleas from the international community for weapons that can help them defend against Russian missiles. The IRIS-T is a short to medium-range surface and air-to-air missile similar to the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles carried on US and NATO fighters. Its max range is about 16 miles, which seems like a lot but at supersonic speeds, an approaching aircraft can cover 16 miles in about 90 seconds. The IRIS-T with its radar mounted on a truck can also track and shoot down incoming cruise missiles and its radar can calculate the launch location of incoming rockets. All that said, the IRIS-T barely qualifies as “heavy” weaponry and is purely a defensive system.
Germany has not said, how many they will be sending but we’d bet its going to be just 2-4 units, enough to say they did something without doing enough to actually make any difference.
During this time, German Chancellor Scholz also pledged that it would be donating an unspecified number of multiple rocket launchers.
These promises are all well and dandy, but time is of importance here for Ukraine. Germany making these headline-grabbing announcements that it will provide these weapons several weeks down the road, which will require several weeks of training to operate and employ means as much as two months may pass before they are finally provided, if at all. The 7 units they are sending are also in storage due to drawdowns in German military spending, so they are the oldest in their inventory, the “rats” that need to be reworked and repaired before they can return to action.
But, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. What have they really delivered so far?
Last February, it supplied Ukraine with some 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems. It also donated some Panzerfaust 3s early on in the war. Last April, it sent 100 machine guns, 100,000 hand grenades, 2,000 mines, 5,300 explosive charges, and 16 million rounds of ammunition for assault rifles and heavy machine guns.
For the delivery of the IRIS-T and the MLRS, we can give that a pass for now as that announcement is relatively new, but the situation for the Gepard and the howitzers is not ignorable. Ukraine has also requested tanks from Germany, which Germany did grant. We cannot know for sure as the statuses of these deliveries and requests are considered “classified.” But Scholz and Germany have said that the Gepards were not yet delivered as they “had to be prepared” and that the Ukrainians have to be trained to use them.
Germany will supply Ukraine with IRIS-T air defence systems.
Chancellor Scholz said IRIS-T was 🇩🇪's most modern air defence system. It would put 🇺🇦 in a position to strengthen defences of cities from 🇷🇺 strikes. This is in addition to ring exchanges with 🇩🇪 tanks sent to 🇨🇿+🇬🇷. pic.twitter.com/IWWC6JGAg9
— German Embassy London (@GermanEmbassy) June 1, 2022
Welt reported that the training for the Ukrainians to use these weapons would start on June 13 and end on July 22, so that means delivery would not happen till June or July. More so, what happened with the ammunition problem? Did the Swiss happen to reverse its decision? We’re not so sure at this point, but if they were to deliver the Gepards, one would assume the ammunition would come along with it.
To Germany’s limited credit, it has been working with other countries for them to send weapons to Ukraine. Germany told Poland that if it provided Ukraine with Polish T-72s Germany would replace them with Leopard 2 tanks. They were also involved with the deal of Slovenia donating M-84 tanks to Ukraine, with Germany promising to replace them with Marder APCs.
But apparently, Germany has not held up its end of the deal with Poland and is not returning calls and emails about providing the promised Leopard 2’s to Poland, prompting Polish President Andrzej Duda to hurl some shots toward Scholz and Germany for foot-dragging and not honoring the deal that was agreed upon.
“If we were supported by our German allies with tanks to replace those ones we gave to Ukraine, we’d be very grateful,” he said. “We had such a promise. We hear Germany isn’t ready to fulfill [it].”
With the IRIS-T now being pledged to Ukraine, will Germany follow through with its other promises? Is it going to deliver the IRIS-T in a timely fashion? Is it going to heed the other requests Ukraine has made?
Only time will tell, but right now, Sholtz and Germany seem to be trying to have it both ways, offering token assistance to Ukraine to gain favorable press in the appearance of being a NATO country supporting Ukraine while also being able to tell Putin, “Relax, we aren’t giving them enough to make any difference in the battle.”