Warrior Women of the North put Germany's Putin puppets to shame
ANDREW NEIL: How Warrior Women of the North put Germany’s Putin puppets to shame
After two months of prevarication and excuses, the German government at last agreed this week to send some heavy armour to Ukraine — the kind of military equipment its forces need as they now face the Russian military across a broad front in eastern Ukraine, where big artillery will make a difference.
Better late than never, you might think. Except that the 50 Gepard (German for cheetah) anti-aircraft vehicles it has approved first saw service in the 1960s and, despite several upgrades, haven’t been part of the German army’s arsenal for over a decade.
The defence company that had kept them in storage wanted to send them to Ukraine in February. But Chancellor Olaf Scholz blocked that — until this week, when he finally bowed to pressure from Nato allies and powerful voices inside Germany.
How big a boon the Gepards will be to Ukraine’s military remains to be seen. Military experts say it’s a complicated weapon that requires months of training (five months, for example, when the Romanian army acquired it), a constant stream of spare parts — and ammunition from Switzerland, which the Swiss have not yet agreed to send.
After two months of excuses, the German government agreed to send some heavy armour to Ukraine after Chancellor Olaf Scholz (pictured) finally bowed to pressure from Nato allies
No wonder Ukrainians feel Germany’s heart is not quite in its efforts to arm them with the weapons it desperately and quickly needs.
Yet it’s only just over two months since Scholz made an historic speech to the German parliament which was hailed at the time as a watershed. In an address which lasted just under an hour, as Russian armour and troops poured across the border in an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the recently elected chancellor laid waste to Germany’s long-standing policy of cosying up to the Kremlin.
He promised billions more for defence to end the hollowing out of Germany’s military, support for sanctions against Moscow and even weapons for Ukraine. When he sat down, 16 years of Merkelism — the pro-Russian approach of his predecessor, Angela Merkel — lay in tatters.
It was all the more remarkable coming from a chancellor whose Social Democrat party had always been in the vanguard of rapprochement with Russia — a policy known as Ostpolitik, which dates back to the early 1960s.
Yet in the aftermath of this supposed watershed, Scholz was nowhere to be seen. It was almost as if he’d gone into hiding.
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen and Estonian leader Kaja Kallas (pictured) hardly preside over military superpowers but both have done more, proportionately, to help Ukraine than Germany
Later, we learned that he was personally going through the list of weapons Kyiv was requesting to remove every item of heavy equipment that might make a difference in Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion.
But if Berlin was reluctant to arm Ukraine, it was also in no rush to stop itself funding President Putin’s war machine.
The German government was adamant that there was no question of it not buying Russian oil and gas, which means billions continue to pour into the Kremlin’s coffers to pay for the invasion. At one stage Scholz surfaced to say Germany could not ‘go it alone’ on the supply of heavy weapons, which was a strange excuse since other Nato allies were already sending them to Ukraine.
Sympathetic commentators reminded us that Scholz was in coalition with the Greens, who dabbled in pacifism, and had to accommodate the Left of his own party, which still had a soft spot for Ostpolitik despite Russian barbarities in Ukraine. But the Greens let it be known they were in favour of sending heavy weapons and the Left kept their heads down. Another pathetic excuse bit the dust.
Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte (left) plans to end Russian gas imports before the year is out, even though it is poorer and far more vulnerable to Russian bullying than Germany. Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen pictured right
Germany’s international reputation has taken a terrible battering during this delay and dither. The country has used the 77 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany to become one of the world’s greatest and richest democracies.
But today, across European capitals, admiration has been replaced by exasperation. The loss of political capital in Nato and the European Union is palpable.
Instead of leading from the front, Europe’s most powerful country is always bringing up the rear.
Die Welt, one of Germany’s most respected newspapers, calls Scholz’s failure to follow through after his watershed speech as ‘the most dangerous miscalculation in the history of the Federal Republic’.
It’s a crisis for the whole German political establishment, since all of it — Left, Right and centre plus big business and trade unions — has been implicated in the sorry mess that Germany’s long-standing complicity with the Kremlin has become.
As perhaps Germany’s most egregious Putin puppet, former chancellor Gerhard Schroder, recently confessed: ‘We were all at it for 30 years.’ As chairman of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and board director of oil giant Rosneft, he has been filling his boots with Russian energy company treasure for years — and still is.
The German establishment has been more vociferously critical of Brexit Britain than of Putin’s Russia. Now it’s paying the price for its Kremlin complicity. Schroder’s great mate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is Germany’s head of state. His ties with Moscow are so extensive that Kyiv has declared him persona non grata. Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin refuses to be in the same room as him.
The contrast between Germany’s political leaders and the female leaders who have been dubbed the Five Warrior Women of the North could not be starker — or more refreshing. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania are all led by smart, feisty women who’ve been fiercely critical of Putin from even before the invasion and robustly supportive of Ukraine since.
Christine Lambrecht, Germany’s defence minister, hugs Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov during a summit to discuss supplying arms at Ramstein air base today
Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte plans to end Russian gas imports before the year is out, even though it is poorer and far more vulnerable to Russian bullying than Germany.
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen and Estonian leader Kaja Kallas hardly preside over military superpowers but both have done more, proportionately, to help Ukraine than Germany.
Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson agreed to send Ukraine — and has already delivered — more than 10,000 anti-tank weapons the moment Russia invaded.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in Saint Petersburg in April 2022
Her Finnish counterpart, the youthful Sanna Marin, has skilfully steered her historically neutral country towards Nato membership.
There are now clear majorities in Finland and Sweden for joining Nato. Marin and Andersson will begin the membership process this summer.
When it’s completed Sweden and Finland will join Denmark and Norway, already Nato members, in being able to deploy 250 state-of-the-art fighter jets between them on Nato’s northern flank. Sweden will also bring advanced submarine capabilities.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz finally bowed to pressure from Nato allies and powerful voices inside Germany this week and agreed to send some heavy armour to Ukraine
It will be hugely reassuring for the Baltic states. It’s a consequence of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine I doubt he ever foresaw. It’s a significant strengthening of Nato defences where it has been vulnerable.
Germany needs to learn from these Warrior Women of the North. ‘Never again’ has been the German mantra since it escaped from its Nazi past. In the post-war years it has always lived up to that.
But today Russian soldiers are raping and murdering Ukrainians as they reduce their towns and cities to rubble while Germany still buys the Russian oil and gas which pays for Putin’s barbarous capabilities.
The decision to become increasingly reliant on Russian hydrocarbons was entirely of Germany’s own making. It was not forced to go down this route. Important voices at home and abroad warned Germany not to do it. They were ignored. It was a terrible mistake with huge geopolitical consequences that are now tragically unfolding for all to see.
Germany will supply 50 Gepard, German for cheetah, anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine to help in the Russian invasion
Even at the cost of some pain — though nothing to what the Ukrainians are enduring — it is incumbent on Germany that it puts matters right, starting with the extensive arming of Ukraine and the speedy implementation of a Russian oil and gas embargo.
In a sign that it is finally feeling the heat, on Wednesday Berlin dropped its objection to a full Russian oil embargo by the EU —as long as it would be given time to find alternatives to Russian supplies.
It was a welcome first step, albeit a begrudging one. Now it must move forward on reducing its dependency on Russian gas. Ukraine and the members of Nato deserve no less.
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