The Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Melnyk is now also demanding the delivery of a submarine to Ukraine – but NATO is currently ruling this out. Why is that?

After the West promised to supply main battle tanks to Ukraine, demands for fighter jets quickly followed. Now the desire for submarines is getting louder and louder in Ukraine. This is where Germany comes into play again.

Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister, put the delivery of a German submarine up for debate on Twitter. Because Thyssenkrupp is building one of the best submarines in the world – the example of the class 212A. The goal: to drive the Russian Black Sea Fleet off the Ukrainian coast. However, NATO is currently excluding the delivery of submarines to Ukraine. Why is that?

Warships have played a major role since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Because Russian warships have unrestricted control over important parts of the Black Sea from the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol. This allows the Russian armed forces to fire cruise missiles from their submarines at Ukrainian territory from a safe distance.

Ukraine, on the other hand, lacks the military means to oppose the Russian Navy. Only smaller boats are currently available in Ukraine. Even if Ukraine can already look back on a number of successful offensives – such as sinking the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet or reclaiming Snake Island.

The delivery of a submarine would open up new opportunities for Ukraine. Submarine expert Johannes Peters told Der Spiegel that a Ukrainian submarine would weaken the Russians. “The Russians would have to act much more cautiously with such precision strikes, since they would always have to reckon with a Ukrainian underwater attack if a cruise missile were launched,” said Peters.

But this also creates some problems. First, one boat would not be enough for the Ukrainians to turn the balance of power in the Black Sea, says Peters. In addition, fuel, provisions and maintenance would also have to be provided.

Further problems would arise with the delivery of the German submarine class 212A. The non-nuclear submarine is the most modern and quietest in the world. The special thing about the German example: They are relatively small and have excellent maneuverability, according to the Bundeswehr website. In addition, the submarine is the first in the world to be able to sail for up to two weeks without an external air supply. Melnyk’s wish is therefore understandable.

However, this also leads to the second problem, because the German model is anything but easy to use: According to Peters, it could take years for Ukrainian soldiers to be technically and operationally trained to use it successfully. Because the training is much more complex than with tanks – and the crew of a 212A consists of 28 soldiers. In addition, Germany lacks the opportunity to train Ukrainian submarine crews, according to Sebastian Bruns, a naval expert at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, on the “ RND ”.

A third problem: it would not be possible to send a submarine to the Black Sea for a handover to Ukraine. Because for this, the Turkish President Erdoğan would have to open the straits for all warships – so Russia could also strengthen its fleet there.

What should also play a role: NATO would be weakened by the delivery of a German submarine. Because the six specimens of class 212A are required for important safety-related tasks. In an emergency, the U-boats in the Baltic Sea should reconnoitre possible targets. The German naval forces represent a unique selling point that NATO as a whole does not want to do without, security expert Peters told the “Spiegel”.

Bruns also ruled out the delivery of a German submarine. So he says to the RND: “It is simply inconceivable that a German crew, a German boat or a German warship drives into the Black Sea and says: Here is the key, now you can drive”. The naval expert, on the other hand, recommends ordering smaller warships for Ukraine from the industry. This would support Ukraine faster and better.