The tank debate is being discussed primarily from a military perspective – but US armament policy interests could also play a major role for the hesitant chancellor. What is Olaf Scholz really about?
Traffic light coalition dispute and dissatisfaction from abroad: The German tank debate makes international headlines. Ukraine urgently needs battle tanks to defend itself against Putin’s war of aggression – but Chancellor Olaf Scholz is hesitant to deliver the Leopard 2.
The federal government has not approved the delivery of the main battle tank for other countries either. After all, there are sixteen countries in NATO and the EU that have the Leopard 2 and would partially supply it to Ukraine.
The tank delivery is discussed primarily from a military perspective – but armament policy interests such as money, power and influence for Germany and the USA could also play a major role.
The German government’s hesitant attitude has been met with great criticism both at home and abroad. At the defense ministers’ conference in Ramstein, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said there were good reasons for delivery and good reasons against. These would have to be weighed against each other.
The reasons for this are obvious: after all, without tanks, Ukraine cannot successfully defend itself. But what are the reasons against it? Time and again it is discussed whether Germany might cross Putin’s red line and become a war party. But with the Leopard 2 this does not seem to be the sole reason. Because Olaf Scholz does not want to release the delivery of the Leopard 2 to other countries either.
A reason that has hardly been discussed so far could have to do with the USA and its national interests. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes that the USA would just wait for the Europeans to deliver their Leopard 2s, because then the USA could offer their own tanks as a replacement. The tank debate would give the USA a unique opportunity to establish itself with armored vehicles on the European armaments market.
At the moment, Germany in particular is competing with them on the armaments market: With the Leopard 2, Germany has built the best tank in the world, but also one of the most expensive.
As early as the 1960s, the Americans founded the “Defense Security Cooperation Agency”, which has set itself the task of encouraging states to buy American weapons. International partners with the same weapons are easier to integrate into the US-led military coalitions. So if European countries now buy US weapons, the US can increase the quantities and thus reduce the costs.
The US can eventually use the additional revenue to improve and develop weapons – a great win for the Americans.
And these armament policy interests could also play a role for Olaf Scholz. So if Scholz now delivers Leopard 2, he will harm German armaments policy. However, if he does not deliver any battle tanks, he further promotes the already smoldering criticism of Germany and thus also damages German interests.
It’s not just about Germany’s economic loss. In addition to securing taxes and jobs, the armaments industry is also a large part of foreign policy. After all, equipping the armed forces of another state creates trust and at the same time economic dependency, according to the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”.
Every country that enters into a tank deal with the USA is a loss for the German armaments industry – and thus also reduces Berlin’s political influence. Now the question is what is more important to the chancellor.