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Will Germany Send Tanks to Ukraine?

Poland has requested permission to give tanks to Ukraine and has vowed to send them with or without German agreement.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz listens to explanations during a joint cabinet meeting presenting Franco-German industrial projects at the presidential Élysée Palace in Paris on Jan. 22.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz listens to explanations during a joint cabinet meeting presenting Franco-German industrial projects at the presidential Élysée Palace in Paris on Jan. 22.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz listens to explanations during a joint cabinet meeting presenting Franco-German industrial projects at the presidential Élysée Palace in Paris on Jan. 22. BENOIT TESSIER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at deliberations over German tank exports, Japan’s declining birth rate, and corruption investigations in Ukraine.

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Germany’s Deliberations on Tanks Continue

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at deliberations over German tank exports, Japan’s declining birth rate, and corruption investigations in Ukraine.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Germany’s Deliberations on Tanks Continue

When the week began, it looked like German tanks might finally make their way to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last week that Germany would only allow German tanks—known as Leopard 2 tanks—to make their way to Ukraine if the United States also sent American tanks to Ukraine. But then, speaking on French television, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday night that, while Poland had not yet asked if it could send Leopard 2 tanks, “if we were asked, we would not stand in the way.”

On Monday though, the line changed again. A government spokesperson said a request would first have to be discussed and decided by Germany’s Federal Security Council. On Tuesday, Warsaw formally applied for permission, and Berlin confirmed it had received the request. Polands prime minister also made it clear that the country would still look to send tanks as part of a “small coalition” if denied.

The tanks may very well eventually make their way to Ukraine. But the back and forth has brought broader frustrations with Germany to the fore.

“Chancellor [Olaf Scholz] isnt really explaining himself,” Sophia Besch, a Europe fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Foreign Policy. “He said he doesnt want to isolate Germany, but what hes doing, of course, is effectively isolating Germany.”

“They want to adhere to their own timelines,” she added. “Their definition of leadership rejects anyone imposing anything on them. … They underestimate the damage that is being done in the process.”

Germany has actually been one of the biggest contributors of aid to Ukraine, third in terms of individual countriesoverall commitment, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. But the back and forth on deliveries like this one, Besch said, leaves the country’s allies perceiving it rather differently.

Rachel Rizzo, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center, agreed that “the support Germany has shown Ukraine has been laudable. It’s also been part of a strong Western coalition, which is key.”

Nevertheless, episodes like this one—however it is resolved—“really [call] into question whether, in the long term, Germany will actually be able to deliver on many of the steps it will inevitably have to take to be a real leader in this space,” she wrote in an email, adding, “I have my doubts.”


What We’re Following Today 

Japanese premier warns birth rates put country at brink. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned that Japan’s declining birth rate is threatening the country’s ability to function and that it is a case of “now or never.” Japan is estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 births last year. Japan now has the world’s second-highest proportion of people over age 64 (behind Monaco). Japan’s neighbor, China, finds itself in a similar situation, with the population declining for the first time in six decades.

Writing in the Financial Times, writer Yuan Yang offered one explanation: “[L]ike women the world over, Chinese women are no longer so willing to birth and bring up children.”

Corruption cases in Ukraine. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has come under scrutiny as investigations into government corruption are being carried out in Ukraine. There are two ongoing probes, both related to war profiteering, according to Politico Europe. One involved the country’s ministry of defense allegedly purchasing military rations at inflated prices. Reznikov has called the charges a smear campaign.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, vowed: “This week will be a time for appropriate decisions. I don’t want to announce them now, but it will all be fair. In each situation, we will analyze everything in detail: the issues related to energy and procurement, the relations between the central government and the regions, everything related to procurement for the military.”

EU ministers sanction Iran. European Union ministers announced sanctions on more than 30 Iranian individuals and groups, deeming them responsible for “brutal” repression of protesters. Some units and individuals in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were targeted but not the IRGC as a whole—despite the wishes of some European governments. According to Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, however, that can only happen if a court in an EU country found the IRGC guilty of terrorism.


Keep an Eye On

Lavrov in Africa. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in South Africa on Monday, where, in a press conference in Pretoria, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor defended the joint military exercises South Africa will hold with Russia and China next month, saying, “All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide.” Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, on her own African tour, stressed the importance of restructuring Zambia’s debt burden with China.

Babis backpedaling. Andrej Babis, former Czech prime minister and current presidential candidate, has found himself on the defensive in the last few days before Friday’s presidential runoff. During a debate Sunday night, Babis, perhaps trying to differentiate himself from his opponent—former army chief Gen. Petr Pavel—said he would refuse to send Czech troops if NATO allies like Poland or the Baltic states were attacked. “I want peace. I dont want war. And in no case would I send our children and the children of our women to war,” he said in remarks that were broadcast on state television.

This inspired some pointed responses. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Monday, “If ever Czech freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity were challenged by an outside force, Lithuanians would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Czech people.” Babis later backtracked, saying his statement was “distorted.” Pavel is currently leading in the polls.


Monday’s Most Read

The World Economy No Longer Needs Russia by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian

Is Cold War Inevitable? by Michael Hirsh

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse by Alexander J. Motyl


Odds and Ends 

Wolves in Belgium. The Brussels Times reports that, in addition to hosting the permanent representatives of 27 EU member states, the country is now home to an estimated 24 wolves—a community that might be seeking enlargement. A new pack is reportedly on the way.

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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