The Germans Are the Germans’ Best Friends

The editors of the Wall Street Journal remark on the Germans’ refusal to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine:

Representatives from 50 governments met Friday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and the U.S. on Thursday announced $2.5 billion in new U.S. aid to Ukraine, including more air defenses and infantry vehicles. Sounds good, but the bigger news is what didn’t make the cut: Tanks. The Germans have refused to send their Leopard 2 tanks, or even to let other European militaries such as the Poles send some of theirs. Leaks out of the U.S. say Germany has demanded the U.S. supply its own Abrams tanks as the price of Leopards.

Berlin’s tank refusal is a self-inflicted wound. Many Americans think the U.S. has to foot too much of the bill for NATO, and on this episode they have a point. It’s an open question whether Berlin will even follow through on meeting its NATO commitments and spend 2% of its economy on defense. Unlike the Japanese, who are stepping up against a regional threat, Germany still refuses to lead after an invasion in its own neighborhood.

Once again my explanation for German behavior has prevailed while the claims of NATO unity founder.

We need to recognize that our foreign policy goals are inherently contradictory. We can’t “keep Germany down”, assume primary responsibility for European defense, and have strong, reliable allies who are capable of defending themselves (not to mention their neighbors) until the cavalry arrives. The more we stand up, the more they will stand down. The more they are able to follow their own policy goals, the more they will.

3 comments… add one
  • Andy Link


    Remember all the people saying last summer that Russia had finally united NATO and woken up the Germans?

    In reality, nothing much has changed, and it should be clear that it’s unlikely that Germany will change.

    As I’ve been saying for some time now, the only way to get Germany and other NATO countries to burden share is for the US to stop subsidizing their defense. It would be expensive, but closing down our remaining bases in Germany and moving some of their functions elsewhere in Europe should be seriously considered.

  • bob sykes Link

    It’s not just tanks per se.

    NATO tanks weigh in around 62 to 75 tons, wheres Russia and legacy Soviet tanks come in under 50 tons. Ukraine simply does not have the infrastructure to support Abrams, Leopards, or Challengers.

    In part that is literal. Most Ukrainian roads and bridges won’t support a 70 ton tank. Ukraine also lacks pontoon bridges for river crossings that would support a 70 ton tank.

    Besides that, Ukraine needs both tank transporters to get them to the front, and tank recovery units to retrieve damaged tanks. Soviet legacy equipment won’t move the heavier NATO stuff.

    The Abrams needs regular engine swap outs, and the US would have to provide the facilities in Ukraine to do that. To say nothing of fuel supply for the Abrams. In Iraq, the US had to set up refueling stations close to the front, which would have been easy targets for a competent opponent.

    Did you remember that there was a least one large-scale mutiny among American transport companies that were told to move unescorted through “Indian country”?

    And then there is the issue of air superiority. Tanks, fuel dumps, transports need air cover. That means F-16’s and F-15’s.

    When its all added up, Ukraine needs the actual presence of complete NATO armored divisions and air squadrons, manned by NATO soldiers and airmen.

    The brouhaha over a few dozen tanks is a smoke screen. No serious person thinks the NATO tanks would make any difference to the outcome, nor would they even survive a week or two.

  • steve Link

    Just a minute. All of the Trump fanboys told us he had solved this and they were definitely, really for sure going to spend 2% this time because he is the best deal maker of all time. This was wrong?


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