Artillery vehicle

Germany to help Ukraine with artillery ammunition and training

Olaf Scholz at a press conference in Berlin on May 12, 2021. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg)

Germany will provide Ukraine with ammunition and training for heavy artillery as Chancellor Olaf Scholz comes under pressure to support more efforts to push back Russian forces.

The training and ammunition are for the PzH 2000, a rapid-fire self-propelled artillery system, which the Netherlands is sending to Ukraine, according to a senior government official. The training could be conducted in Poland or Germany, but not in Ukraine due to ongoing Russian attacks, said the official, who asked not to be identified as talks between NATO allies and the Ukraine are confidential.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who led calls for heavy armament for Ukraine, confirmed during a trip to Riga on Wednesday that Germany would help with artillery training and maintenance , but declined to provide further details. A government spokesman declined to comment at a regular press conference when asked about the Bloomberg report.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under intense pressure, including from members of his own ruling coalition, to increase military support for Ukraine by sending heavy weapons such as tanks.

He told reporters after a video call with the Group of Seven and other NATO allies on Tuesday that Germany had enlisted the country’s defense contractors to help boost arms deliveries to the Ukraine after exhausting the available stocks of its own armed forces. He also said it was important to deliver readily available and effective weapons for Ukraine’s defense, a statement echoed by Baerbock on Wednesday.

Germany has made available 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for Ukraine to buy what it called “more complex systems that can have a long-term impact”. These would include “systems that Ukraine urgently needs, especially in the east to protect against Russian artillery fire”, she said in Riga after talks with her Latvian counterpart. .

She pushed back against suggestions that Germany has been slow to respond to Ukraine’s arms requests.

“Germany delivered Stinger anti-tank systems and much more without ever talking about it at length in public so that these deliveries could be done quickly and safely,” she said.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner told Bloomberg TV that Germany was “open” to delivering additional weapons, but if done in conjunction with its allies, its ability to defend NATO territory is not affected and Germany is not directly involved in the conflict with Russia. .

The senior government official said that instead of directly offering heavy equipment, Germany would provide tanks and armored vehicles to Eastern European countries that are ready to send Soviet-style equipment to Ukraine , which the soldiers there already know. The question of which NATO allies in Eastern Europe will supply Ukraine is still being negotiated, the official said.

Baerbock said the government had approved plans to supply armored vehicles to Ukraine but had nothing in stock to send immediately. She confirmed that Germany would support allies who send older weapons by replacing this equipment.

“That’s my understanding of foreign policy,” she said. “Don’t make quick promises you may not be able to keep, but be honest about what you are able to do in the moment and be creative about how you can support others.”

“We as Germany are doing what we can immediately and paving the way for other contributions we can make in the future,” she added.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics was also asked about the perception that Germany is not working hard enough to help Ukraine, and said he saw Berlin as “a trusted partner”.

“I would like to emphasize that all NATO and EU member states, including Latvia and Germany, have done their utmost to provide what they have,” he said. “Germany is a trusted friend and ally. We are doing a lot, but we need to do more.”