Scholz Gets US Tank Pact He Wanted and a Bucketload of Criticism

Chancellor Olaf Scholz managed to secure the broad international alliance he wanted before sending German battle tanks to Ukraine, but the tortured process to get there may have hurt his reputation.

Amid signs that Russia is amassing troops and weapons for a fresh offensive, Scholz left the Ukrainians hanging for more than two weeks as he stared down the US and brushed off the increasingly strident demands from his European partners to allow German-made Leopards to be delivered to the war zone. He finally consented on Wednesday after wringing an agreement from President Joe Biden that the US would also send its tanks.

Almost a year after Scholz promised that the Russian invasion would bring about a historic turning point, or ‘Zeitenwende,’ for Germany, the outcome shows that the 64-year-old chancellor can get his way on the world stage. But it also raises questions about his priorities, and whether Germany can be counted on to lead.

“Scholz’s long hesitation has damaged Germany’s reputation as a reliable partner,” said Marina Henke, director of the Berlin-based Hertie School’s Centre for International Security. “It raised doubts about the extent to which Scholz is really serious about his promised ‘Zeitenwende’.”

Scholz defended himself in comments to public broadcaster ZDF late Wednesday. “I say very clearly and sharply, that it would have been irresponsible to act differently.”

After a frustrating meeting on Friday at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, failed to produce a deal, Scholz got the US to agree to supply M1 Abrams tanks, joining Challengers from the UK. Germany will send 14 Leopards in a first step, and the Netherlands is considering supplies as well. Poland and Finland are also set to be part of the mix that ultimately aims to deliver more than 100 tanks to Ukraine.

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