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Pressure mounting on Scholz as rival parties demand Germany sends weapons to Ukraine

WorldPressure mounting on Scholz as rival parties demand Germany sends weapons to Ukraine

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Chancellor Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the climate-friendly Greens and the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP) formed a three-way ruling coalition less than five months ago. When sworn in, an unprecedented energy turnaround, fewer arms exports and a boost in Germany’s minimum wage were just a few of the plans of the power-sharing alliance. Then, its priorities drastically changed on February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. The leader of Europe’s top economy is now facing growing calls to ramp up aid for Kyiv – particularly through heavy weapons.

The coalition committee is gathering on Tuesday, April 26 in a meeting that is expected to see the Greens and CDU at odds with Mr Scholz’s SPD over the party’s reluctance to boost military support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is determined on submitting a motion on weapons exports that could expose further failures in the traffic-light alliance.

Friedrich Merz, the party leader, confirmed on Friday he would ask the parliament to vote on a motion calling for “immediate” deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

He said: “If the government isn’t going to deliver, then the Bundestag needs to deliver.”

Olaf Scholz

Scholz is under growing pressure over his hesitance to provide heavy arms to Ukraine (Image: Getty)

If the Greens and the FDB were to back the motion, it would throw the young government into a deep crisis and lead, worst-case scenario, to the collapse of Mr Scholz’s position.

In the latest sign of national and international scrutiny of Mr Scholz’s indecisiveness over the arms issue, German defence company Rheinmetall has taken matters into its own hands in deciding to export Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

The company has requested approval for the shipment — it would be the first one from Germany containing heavy weapons — from the country’s national security council, without which the Marder deal cannot go ahead.

Rheinmetall’s move is set to force the Chancellor to take a clear stance on whether or not heavy weapons can be sent directly from Berlin to Kyiv.

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Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht wrote in a letter to the ruling coalition last week that export requests to Ukraine “will be checked with absolute priority”.

She said: “After coordination in the cabinet, they will be decided the same day as a general rule.”

As Ukrainian pleas for heavy weapons intensified following Moscow’s launch of the battle for the Donbas, a territory seen as better suited for tank battles than the areas around Kyiv, where much of the fighting had taken place before last week, Berlin announced it would provide ammunition and training for heavy artillery.

The training and ammunition are for the PzH 2000, a self-propelled, rapid-fire artillery system the Netherlands is sending to the war-torn nation, according to a senior government official.

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Europe's avoidance of arms embargo on Russia

More severity has been called from the West to Russia (Image: Daily Express)

They also said training could be provided either in Poland or Germany, but not in Ukraine because of ongoing attacks from Russia.

At the same time, hinting at the backing of proposals like Rheinmetall’s, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock vowed “if partners deliver artillery that we can no longer deliver, we will help with training and maintenance”.

Another pressing topic at Tuesday’s committee meeting is the party membership of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has received calls to quit the SPD after he made clear he had no intention to relinquish his seats on the boards of Russian energy companies.

Mr Schröder, who was Germany’s head of government from 1998 to 2005, presides over the board of the Russian oil company Rosneft and is chairman of the shareholder committee of pipeline company Nord Stream.

Stepping down from these posts “would have been necessary to rescue his reputation as a former and formerly successful chancellor”, Saskia Esken, co-leader of the SPD, told the German public broadcaster Deutschlandradio on Monday.

She added: “Sadly he hasn’t followed that advice.”

While Germany’s links with Russia have put it in a tricky spot when it comes to issuing sanctions to the aggressing nation, Mr Schröder showed no sense of guilt over the ties he continues to nurture.

The Social Democrat, in a piece published in the New York Times over the weekend, is cited as suggesting he would resign from his board seats only if Russia chose to turn off gas deliveries to Germany – which he claimed “won’t happen”.

In the interview with the US paper, the Social Democrat went as far as to defend his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said of the dictator: “The image that people have of Putin is only half the truth.”

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