The big decisions at the meeting of the NATO contact group in the US military base in Ramstein have not materialized. The hoped-for signal to Ukraine is missing – Leopard main battle tanks are still not being delivered. That could have fatal consequences.

The big hit at the third meeting of the NATO contact group in the US military base in Ramstein did not materialize: Chancellor Olaf Scholz has still not given the green light hoped for from Ukraine for the delivery of German Leopard tanks. The USA also does not want to deliver their Abrams. So was the meeting for nothing?

At least there was no lack of big tones about cohesion: “I’ve never seen the world as united as it is here,” said Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces. A comprehensive package is put together, billions are invested. It aims to send the message that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot win the war.

Weapons and ammunition worth 2.5 billion dollars come from the USA alone with air defense systems, which means another 59 Bradley tanks, 90 Stryker armored vehicles, Avenger air defense systems and thousands of rounds of ammunition. For its part, Germany is putting together a spring package with additional weapons and ammunition, including up to 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, a further seven Gebhard anti-aircraft vehicles, and the Patriot air defense system with the associated ammunition – war material worth one billion euros.

Nevertheless, there are cracks in NATO’s demonstrative unity. Because others are braver. Support has been announced from Great Britain and France. Modern battle tanks come from there. “Time is of the essence,” warns NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He assumes that the war will end at the negotiating table – but that requires a strong position on the battlefield. So why is Scholz hesitant to give his approval for the export of Leopard tanks?

“There are good reasons for the delivery, there are good reasons against it,” says the new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who as one of his first official acts at least has it checked how many Leopard tanks could be delivered to Ukraine if the Chancellor consent granted. A test that Pistorius’ predecessor Christine Lambrecht apparently never commissioned.

Didn’t she because Scholz never seriously considered extradition? Or because she lacked the foresight for the office? The external impact of this gap in knowledge could not be more fatal: Eleven months after the start of the war, the German government is unable to say how many main battle tanks are actually available.

Scholz is approaching the delivery of main battle tanks – will this make Germany Putin’s target?

On the one hand, Scholz’s hesitation is probably due to the desolate state of the Bundeswehr, which would be in a bad position if it were to defend itself. With ammunition that would only last a few days and soldiers are not adequately equipped for winter operations. And with Puma main battle tanks, all of which fail after just one year.

Of the 100 billion special fund that the chancellor himself insists on managing, only armaments contracts worth ten billion euros have been concluded so far. Decisive action in wartime looks different. According to estimates by defense experts, it will be at least a decade before the Bundeswehr is able to fight again – with decisive action and long-term planning.

The fact that Germany took over the leadership of NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force this year, which has to be ready for action within 48 hours, makes things even more difficult.

Above all, Scholz wants to prevent the image of a divided NATO from emerging. But it’s too late for that. It seems that Scholz wants the USA at his side. But their Abrams tanks are unsuitable for the Ukraine – technically too complicated and with an enormously high energy consumption. The reluctance of the USA is understandable.

While Germany is still hesitating, others have long since made the decision to send main battle tanks. Because the Leopard tanks, which are widespread in Europe, are manufactured in Germany, larger deliveries to Ukraine are still missing. Experts believe the leopards may be decisive for the war in Ukraine.

And the moment to use them could hardly be more favorable. Putin’s hopes of a quick war have long since been dashed, and he seems to be slowly reaching his own limits. The modest territorial gains over the past few months show that Russia does not have endless resources. But new recruitments of reservists have been announced. It is not without reason that Putin visits his country’s armaments companies to secure supplies of ammunition. New offensives are planned.

But that also means that the next few weeks may be more important than ever. How well Ukraine is equipped today with weapons and ammunition, with armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft equipment is decisive for tomorrow’s defense capability. Otherwise, Putin will do everything in his power to attack Ukraine until it is unable to defend itself.

The air raids by Russian forces, which continue to increase in intensity, speak for themselves. The longer Europe waits, the smaller the chance for Ukraine.