He was half pulled, half sank – is the tank deal really a success for Olaf Scholz? What can be learned from this historic decision. And what not.

Possibly the most important sentence this time came from Andrijk Melnyk, who was much reviled in Germany: “A tank double-boom from the Federal Chancellor.” now to send leopards to the war victims.

The double of Melnyk’s military double whammy is having convinced the Americans to send their own Abrams main battle tanks to the Ukrainian front. In fact: The Americans – more precisely the military leadership – had refused to deliver the Abrams – with flimsy arguments, more on that in a moment.

If there were no American tank deliveries, no German tank deliveries – Olaf Scholz had opened this deal. It was a high risk, and Germany will probably have to pay a price for it. The risk is that with this maneuver American loyalty to the alliance, of which there is no doubt, is nevertheless called into question. Indirectly, yes, but undoubtedly. Why?

Scholz’s “logic” went like this: If the Russians escalated in response to German Leo deliveries and attacked Germany, however, it would only be clear with the American Abrams delivery that the Americans would protect Germany from Russia. The explosiveness results from the reverse conclusion: Without US Abrams, there would be no more American protection for Germany.

It is not yet possible to find out exactly how it was, and maybe it will be years from now. Did the Americans push the Germans or did the Germans push the Americans? And what game did Poland play? Who was informed about what and when? And: Did Russian threats play a role in all of this – or not?

Each of these questions is important, and each answer yields strategic conclusions. It’s all the more painful when, as a journalist, you have to write down that you don’t know, or that you don’t know exactly enough.

What can be said is that the initial American refusal to supply Abrams was flimsy. The justification, for example, that the Abrams does not fit logistically because it runs on aviation fuel, was a smoke candle. Firstly, the Abrams also runs on diesel, just like the leopards, in Australia, and secondly, the Poles have ordered Abrams, 366 pieces, 116 used and 250 new. Why should Abrams work in Poland but not in Ukraine?

What else can be said is that the Americans, although they deliver by far the most, are also hesitant, not least with the Abrams. They have delivered defense missiles to the Ukraine with only a short range – 80 instead of 300 kilometers. The goal behind it: to prevent Ukraine from attacking military targets on Russian territory.

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The Washington Post also recently reported that Americans and Ukrainians were intensively discussing Crimea. Are you to believe that the Russians would prevent the Ukrainians from recapturing the strategically important peninsula with nuclear missiles? The Ukrainian goal of “completely” ousting the Russians from territory occupied in violation of international law does not seem to be as natural for the Americans as it has been publicly claimed.

What can also be said: Scholz wanted to keep Biden in the game, more than that: keep it in the game as a demonstrative leader. There are mutliple reasons for this. One is so that Germany is not primarily responsible for the Western Allies in Ukraine. The second, that the Russians know that too. But Germany has to pay a price for that too, and so does Scholz:

Its claim to be “leading power” has been settled. Not only that: the claim that Europeans should all organize their own security together has also been dismissed. Germany’s security and the security of Europeans from Russian aggression is guaranteed by America. The leading power is the USA, and will remain so for years, if not decades.

You can find that comforting or unsettling. “Europeans” will find it unsettling, “transatlantic” reassuring. In any case, the war in Ukraine teaches us that the Europeans cannot defend themselves as long as there is no European army including European nuclear missiles. That sounds martial and it is.

Scholz will now say he did what was necessary. He has that too. However: very late and under pressure. The Chancellor can justify the delay. Since the beginning of the war almost a year ago, neither Germany nor the USA has gone “all in”. From day one, the tactic was trial and error – deliver something and then see how the Russians respond.

This can also be studied in the short history of main battle tank deliveries, which took place on an ascending defensive-offensive line. First the cheetah was sent to Ukraine, then the marten, then the leopard.

Scholz’s tactics have a double price: his hesitation fueled doubts among the allies in Eastern Europe, Poland and the Baltic States about Germany’s reliability as an ally. Scholz, who still wants to be European, drives the East Europeans into the arms of the Americans.

What one can finally conclude is that if this is Scholz’s success, it was his second success since the beginning of the war. The first is the final document of the recent G-20 summit, which not only condemned nuclear war, but also the threat of it. The Russians signed the document – and the Chinese, which is certainly also due to Scholz’s urging. Even if it is in the self-interest of the Chinese, who want to continue trading intensively with western countries.

Conclusion: Late, but still – Ukraine is being helped to help itself. And thus us too.