More Guns Please: Germany Should Stop Being ‘Small-Minded’, Hand Over More Arms, Says Ukraine

01 February 2023, North Rhine-Westphalia, Augustdorf: Two Leopard 2A6s drive around the tr
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A controversial Ukraine diplomat has not minced his words in demanding more equipment, saying Germany has been “small-minded” in its approach to Ukraine and that more tanks need to be donated immediately, as well as German fighter jets and warships.

One-time Ukrainian ambassador to Germany and now minister in Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs, diplomat Andriy Melnyk is becoming known for his undiplomatic approach to brow-beating Western countries for more military equipment, and his latest comments serve to underline that approach. Speaking in an interview with German news network RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) — which is owned by the ruling Social Democratic Party — Melnyk castigated Germany for sending too little equipment too late.

Had Germany treated sending equipment to Ukraine with the same urgency last year as it does now, the diplomat said, “Then the course of the war might have been different. So much time wasted.” But even what is being sent now is insignificant compared to Melnyk’s plan for taking German military equipment to Ukraine wholesale. Asked by the publication about the fact that Germany was now sending Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks, he gave his thanks but made his view clear that: “unfortunately, it has to be said that this is far from sufficient.”

The 18 Leopard 2s so far sent to Ukraine “are a good first step” but were nothing compared to the ten new tanks he claimed Russia could bring to the front lines every day. Melynk pointed out that the 18 German tanks represented just six per cent of all the Leopard 2s in the German army, stating clearly that he expected Germany to do better. Getting to a shopping list of other desires, Melnyk pointed out that Germany hadn’t donated any Fuchs or Wiesel armoured vehicles, and nor had it made any progress on his previous demands for major military equipment.

Melnyk said:

In addition to tanks, Ukraine has also asked for Western fighter jets. So far nothing has happened in Germany. Are you still in discussion with the federal government about this? Of course, the topic should remain at the top of the agenda… We have to talk about combat aircraft like the Eurofighter, also about German warships… The Germans, too, have a moral duty to make a massive contribution to ensuring that the Ukrainian counter-offensive is a real success.

In all, Germany’s failure to hand over western fighter jets, divisions of tanks, and even a whole warship meant the country hadn’t been thinking sufficiently strategically. Saying it was in Germany’s interest to prevent future wars in Europe by defeating Russia now, the diplomat reflected: “The Germans should no longer think small-minded, but set strategic course.”

This is far from the first time Melnyk has made strident demands of Germany for military equipment, going well beyond the current frame of reference for what kind of equipment may be on the table. As reported in January, Melynk was asking for a recently decommissioned German warship and even advanced submarines.

While Germany’s attitude to Ukraine arms supply has certainly changed, having started from the position of being one of Europe’s most reluctant nations to supply arms in the wake of Russia’s invasions to becoming one of the first to supply battle tanks, there are other issues at hand. While Germany is not a minnow in terms of defence spending, as a proportion of GDP it lags behind in the NATO alliance and has historically under-invested in equipment and capital expenditure.

This has left military leaders in Germany — which has long suffered a reputation of having little serviceable equipment actually ready for use — warning that even the relatively modest donations to Ukraine so far have left the cupboards “bare” and the country in a position where it would struggle to defend itself.

Nor would Melnyk’s comments be received so well in all nations, perhaps, given his appointment to the foreign ministry last year prompted protests from neighbour and EU member state Poland. The Polish government lodged the protest over Melynk’s previous support for Second World War era partisan leader Stepan Bandera, whose supporters killed thousands of Jews and Polish civilians. He was briefly even an ally of Adolf Hitler before being later thrown into a concentration camp.

Bandera is seen as a hero by some in Ukraine, and the massacre of Jews and Poles at the hands of his followers questioned, minimised, or denied. Russia uses his status in Ukraine as evidence that the country is infested with neo-Nazis: Bandera himself was assassinated by Russia’s KGB with cyanide in 1959, as his Ukrainian ultra-nationalism was seen as a threat to the Soviet Union.

Melynk for his part said of his support for Bandera last year: “Bandera was not a mass criminal against Poles and Jews. That’s what I say, and I can repeat it. I will not distance myself from this. And that’s it”. The Polish Secretary of State said: “it is unacceptable and in no way can we accept politicians who introduce such a narrative into the public space”.


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