Ukraine Arms Up In Ramstein For Counter-Offense, Berlin Denies Tank Support
The eighth meeting of the League for Ukraine at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany, shows a two-speed coalition.
On the one hand, in fact, there is a group of countries willing to rush – led by the United Kingdom and Poland – and to supply Kiev with weapons hitherto considered taboo, such as tanks and even F-16 fighters.
On the other hand, there are those who hold back, such as Germany. Despite pressure from the pre-summit, Berlin has not given the go-ahead for the export of its Leopard 2s, which Kiev is clamoring for.
However, the US has no interest in emphasizing the differences, if anything emphasizing the “unity and determination” of the coalition and noting that this “powerful” aid package will put Ukraine in a position to mount the “spring counteroffensive”.
In Ramstein – according to the count of the US Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley – “53 allies and partners” met and each of them made his contribution. A few hours after the start of the summit, which for the first time hosted a videolink speech by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, nine European countries in a joint statement gave life to the ‘Tallinn Pact’ with the commitment to donate to the Ukraine an “unprecedented” array of assets including “tanks, heavy artillery, air defense, munitions and infantry fighting vehicles”.
The group – which includes, in addition to Great Britain and Poland, also Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovakia – then promised to “urge” the other allies and partners “to follow suit”. A moral suasion which in Ramstein however broke down on the German ‘nein’. “We talked about the possible delivery of the Leopards” and “there are good reasons for and good reasons against,” said new German defense minister Boris Pistorius. “But there is no single opinion on the issue: the feeling that there is a coalition and Germany is an obstacle is wrong,” he stressed. However, Berlin has promised to deliver more weapons and equipment worth 1 billion euros in the spring.
The reluctance does not come from “fear” – this is Kiev’s accusation – but from the sense of “responsibility for Germany and for Europe”. That is the possible military escalation that the Kremlin threatens every other day as well. In fact, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov thundered, the West is “deluding itself” if it thinks that Ukraine can really win the war and the delivery of the tanks would only increase the risk of direct NATO involvement.
But the game didn’t end there. Zelensky thanked the allies for the new weapons but underlined that “there are no alternatives” to sending tanks and Warsaw swears that there are 15 countries willing to break the delay and that “the construction of the coalition” on the Leopards “will end with a hit”. “We don’t have time. Time is a determining factor. We must act quickly. We need defense and combat panzers. Every weapon counts”, he underlined in a video intervention.
US Defense Secretary
However, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III advised not to focus too much attention on “one vehicle” – namely the tanks – and said he was convinced that the 2.5 billion dollar package decided by Washington, especially in combined with the aid decided by the other allies, it will be sufficient (“if used appropriately”) to give Kiev an advantageous position on the battlefield to “recover the occupied territories”. Here, Milley was perhaps more pragmatic on this point: “It is difficult”, although not “impossible”, for Ukraine to be able to “expel all Russian forces from its territory” within 2023, if anything, progress can be made “substantial”. Those who then asked him whether the American veto on attacks against Crimea with US weapons had really been dropped found themselves faced with a no-comment: “We don’t discuss the rules of engagement in public”.
Austin still sounded the charge, as usual. “It is time not to give in, we will not delay and we will not hesitate to help Ukraine: this is a decisive moment for Kiev and for the whole world, it is about the future we want to give to our children and grandchildren”.
In the evening, Washington designated the Russian private military company Wagner (estimated at 50,000 in Ukraine) as a transnational criminal organization, announcing further sanctions next week against the mercenary company and its support network on various continents.
Defense Minister Guido Crosetto took part in the summit for Italy, guaranteeing support for Ukraine. “We need to move from words to deeds as soon as possible”. Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said it today in Ramstein. The minister explained that each nation will contribute by supplying military material (anti-missile batteries and land vehicles) to help the Ukrainian defense deal with the worsening of the conflict that is likely to occur in the coming months. Civilian material will also be sent, such as generators, tents and clothing.
“Every day is important to resolve the current crisis. We expect an escalation of the war in the coming weeks with an exponential increase in land attacks that will add to the missile attacks brought by Russia in the last period”, said Crosetto, recalling that the Russians have trained over 300,000 new recruits.
Crosetto assured that Italy will play its part during an interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of the Ramstein summit. “We will not leave you alone in the face of cowardly aggression. We are and will remain alongside the Ukrainian people in defense of democracy and freedom”, the minister told his Ukrainian colleague Oleksii Reznikov.
This article is originally published on .ansa.it