NATO’s Willing Members vs. Germany


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech in front of a Leopard 2 tank in Bergen, Germany, October 17, 2022.



Photo:

FABIAN BIMMER/REUTERS

German Chancellor

Olaf Scholz

declared last year his commitment to bolstering the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Scholz last week demonstrated that he’s now one of the main impediments to NATO unity as his vacillations over military aid to Ukraine force Germany’s allies to create their own coalitions of the willing.

The main event was Friday’s summit at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which failed to dislodge Mr. Scholz’s opposition to new tank deliveries to Ukraine. Mr. Scholz’s refusal to provide Leopard 2 tanks or to allow anyone else to send them has exasperated Washington, as we noted over the weekend, and is damaging Germany’s reputation.

It has also prompted other NATO members to form their own coalitions of the willing. The United Kingdom, Estonia and seven other European countries last week issued the Tallinn Pledge deepening their support for Ukraine. Their offer extends from maintenance for military equipment (Czech Republic) to anti-aircraft guns (Lithuania) to Challenger 2 tanks (the U.K.)

Poland, meanwhile, says it might send some of its stock of German-made Leopard 2s with or without Berlin’s permission. This would constitute a breach of Warsaw’s commitment to abide by German export restrictions, and would deepen a split with Berlin that has developed owing to Mr. Scholz’s dithering on Ukraine aid. But in the context of NATO members’ efforts to support Ukraine, Germany is the outlier here, not Poland.

More specifically, Mr. Scholz is the outlier. Many other leading German politicians, some from within Mr. Scholz’s Social Democratic party (SPD), support sending Leopards and other military aid directly to Ukraine. Foreign Minister

Annalena Baerbock

of the Green Party on Sunday said Poland could soon secure German permission to send its tanks.

But a final decision, on approving Polish tank shipments or anything else, rests with Mr. Scholz. His party, with a pro-Russia wing that persists even after Russia’s depredations, remains divided on aid for Ukraine and Mr. Scholz is governing as if he thinks this is his biggest problem. But while he leads Germany from behind, Germany risks getting left behind by NATO allies who know Ukraine can’t wait forever for Berlin to get its act together.

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