German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has only one condition for sending “Leopard 2” tanks to Ukraine. He argues that the decision to provide more arms support to Ukraine should be taken in cooperation between allied states. These developments indicate that the rivalry between Germany and the US regarding the security of Europe has deepened.
From this point of view, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views it received from Suzanne Loftus, Research Fellow at Quincy Institute’s Eurasia Program, in order to evaluate the latest developments regarding Germany’s sending of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and its geopolitics impacts.
- How do you evaluate the Scholz Government’s latest decision about not to deliver “Leopard 2” tanks to Ukraine? What is Germany’s main concern here?
Germany’s main concerns on providing the Leopard 2 tanks are both political and economic. That being said, there are sharp internal divisions within Germany concerning this issue as well. Many in the foreign policy elite want to send in the tanks, whereas the public is culturally averse to militarism, given Germany’s historical legacy. Also, sending the tanks/approving their re-export would escalate the war in Ukraine, which could prompt a Russian retaliation. The Germans did say they would send these tanks if the United States send their Abrams tanks – so as not to be the only country sending such level of offensive weapons. Essentially, Germany wants a political cover for an action it knows will be controversial at home. Just moments ago, AP released a piece stating that the US would switch course and send in Abrams. Germany is now likely to approve the delivery of German Leopard tanks to Ukraine. There are also economic concerns regarding Germany’s military industrial complex and its fear of losing market shares. It wants to minimize the likelihood that the US will backfill Polish and other European Leopards with Abrams. However, it will end up agreeing to sending Leopard 2s only once it has maximized the likelihood that it will be able to sell more tanks.
- What are the main areas of disagreement between the US and Germany? Can you explain the reasons?
Their main areas of disagreement include German reluctance to spend more on defense in Europe (it does not meet its 2% of GDP goal for NATO), trade between the US and Europe, and the way they approach China. The US wants Germany to take more responsibility for the defense of Europe and to take a more hawkish stance on China. Germany wants fairer trade with the US. Currently the US Inflation Reduction Act is negatively impacting the German economy. Germany does not view China as an existential threat the way the US does, but as more of a systemic challenger and strategic competitor. That being said, it continues to want good trade relations with China in the interest of its own economic prospects whereas the US is starting to decouple from China little by little.
- Can we argue that Germany does not support the US enough in its China policy and therefore does not receive support from the US when it comes to defending Europe?
Germany and the US differ on their China policy but have come to more of a convergence on the Chinese threat than at any other time. But I would not say that has anything to do with US support for the defense of Europe, which is one of the US’s top priorities. The NATO alliance is very solid and the US continues to support its allies in Europe despite what their stance on China may be.
- Do you think that Germany can cooperate with Russia and China within the framework of multipolarity and Eurasian solidarity?
It could. But the war has fundamentally altered the prospects for this. The war would have to end and sanctions would have to be lifted for Germany to be able to cooperate with Russia. It continues to have good trading relations with China, but so long as the war goes on, I do not see Germany cooperating with Russia since it will prioritize the transatlantic relationship and stay unified with its western allies. If the war ends, Germany might take a different stance on how to approach Russia than the Baltic states and Poland for example, and may wish to return to “business as usual.”
Dr. Suzanne Loftus
Suzanne Loftus is Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute’s Eurasia program. She specializes in Russian foreign and domestic policy, nationalism and identity, and strategic competition between the great powers. Prior to arriving at the Quincy Institute, Suzanne worked for the Department of Defense as Professor of National Security at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. Suzanne obtained her PhD in International Studies from the University of Miami, where she also taught classes in international relations and security studies. Prior to that, she worked at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and the private sector. She speaks French, Spanish and Russian.