June 26, 2024

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Berlin took the historic step of arming Ukraine.  But many Germans are uncomfortable

Berlin took the historic step of arming Ukraine. But many Germans are uncomfortable


The biggest moment in Ukraine’s war happened this week hundreds of miles from the battlefield. After days of diplomatic pressure from its increasingly exasperated NATO allies, Germany announced Wednesday that it would send Leopard 2 tank to Ukraine, a potentially pivotal step in the conflict that could tip the balance decisively in Kyiv’s favour.

The United States and a number of European countries will also provide advanced battle tanks to the Ukrainian forces. A spring offensive from Moscow is expected, but Ukraine’s battle to regain its territory from Russia will soon be boosted by the arrival of the Russian Federation Western powerful and modern weapons.

But the reactions were mixed on the streets of Germany. From concerns about how to escalate the war now to the belief that her government is doing the right thing, people seemed to disagree about whether the decision was the right one. The country is divided along party lines, generations and geography.

Those CNN spoke to preferred to be identified by their first names only. Manuel, a 29-year-old German national who lives in Berlin, told CNN he feared the decision could inflame Moscow and exacerbate the nearly year-old conflict. I don’t think Russia would attack any NATO member, at least for now. But I would be worried about even more severe retaliation, directed against Ukraine and its people.

For trained carpenter Eric, 27, from Paderborn in western Germany, it is important to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. However, he is also concerned that providing Kyiv b Leopard 2 tank It can create more problems than it solves.

“The deployment and use of the Leopard 2 is a huge asset to the Ukrainian war, but we have to face the fact that this has obstacles and political consequences as well.

“In addition to logistics, the Armed Forces of Ukraine need to be trained to handle and maintain the Leopard 2,” Eric added. “It is most likely that this will not happen in Ukraine, which means that NATO and Germany will once again directly intervene in the war.”

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He considers his government’s move a “major intervention” in the war between Russia and Ukraine. He believes that “deploying tanks and training Ukrainian forces can be considered and turned into a declaration of war by Germany and NATO at any time.”

Barbara, a 59-year-old librarian from West Germany, understands Chancellor Olaf SchultzGermany’s reluctance to bow to international pressure yet believes that Germany should stay out of the conflict wherever possible. “I do not agree to send all this war equipment to Ukraine,” she told CNN. “We do a lot of civilian assistance, so when it comes to war, it’s good to be reluctant.”

For others, the need to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression outweighs the negatives. Another German, who identified herself as Sybil, said: “For me, it is a big problem that many people lose their lives, and therefore I will try to give my understanding to the delivery of tanks, especially since lawyers say that this is not the case.” Against international law and I believe that Russia does not respect any laws in our world.

After months of hesitation, the German government announced Wed It will respond to Kyiv’s calls for high-tech Leopard 2 tanks, after weeks of pressure on Berlin by some of its NATO allies.

This move was accompanied by an announcement by US President Joe Biden that he was providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks, which reflected the administration’s resistance to providing Kyiv with highly advanced but heavy-maintenance vehicles.

Hours after Germany and the United States revealed their plans, Russia launched dozens of missiles at Ukraine, indicating Moscow’s anger at the developments, indicating that it would aim to harm Ukraine’s resolve amid a race to introduce new tanks into the battlefield.

A public opinion poll conducted earlier this month also highlights the difference in German attitudes. A Deutschlandtrend poll conducted by the public broadcaster ARD on January 19 asked the respondents the question: “Should Germany deliver heavy battle tanks like Leopard to Ukraine or not?”

The results showed that 46% of the Germans support sending such tanks, while 43% oppose them.

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Clear differences of opinion can be seen between East and West Germans as well as the younger and older generations.

The survey showed that there is more support for sending heavy combat tanks in the western states of Germany, where he supports the delivery of tanks every second, while in the former communist countries, 59% rejected the idea.

For Eric, this geographic division makes sense. East Germany has a high proportion of right-wing citizens and the AfD party [far-right party Alternative for Germany] Voters, and a different history with Russia because of the occupation after World War II, and thus greater distrust of political decisions.

Age also plays a factor, according to the survey, older generations are more likely to agree to send tanks. About 52% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that Germany should not hand over tanks.

The clearest split was political. A high percentage of supporters of Germany’s left-leaning Green Party – 61% – agreed to hand over. The result was less pronounced among Schulz’s left-wing Social Democrats, with only 49% in favor.

The largest refusal to deliver heavy battle tanks came from AfD supporters. 84% of them refused to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s decision, condemnation from AfD leader Tino Chruppala was clear as he called the move “irresponsible and dangerous”.

“Germany is in danger of being drawn straight into war as a result,” he wrote on Twitter.

People in Berlin protested in favor of sending heavy battle tanks into Ukraine on 20 January.

Librarian Barbara acknowledges that her country has a “difficult history” while Berliner Manuel believes that since the end of World War II Germany has adopted a “strong anti-militarist culture” which is now deeply ingrained in the German psyche.

He made it clear that “any direct or indirect participation in the war is not left without discussion.”

While it is true that modern Germany was reluctant to become involved in international conflicts on the back of disarmament after World War II, the country adopted a sophisticated approach to security and military policy in the aftermath of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

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The new approach came amid accusations from Berlin’s western allies that they are relatively slow to provide support to Kyiv – in part because of its dependence on Russian gas.

Political figures in Germany also influenced the debate this week.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, Member of Parliament and deputy leader of the centrist German Free Democratic Party (FDP), called Germany’s decision to supply the Leopard 2 “daunting, but inevitable”.

She added that the decision would come as “a relief to the brave and mistreated Ukraine”.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly stressed the need to deliver heavy battle tanks including the Leopard 2, believing it will provide a powerful fighting vehicle for Ukraine, and bolster its forces ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive.

German lawmaker Ralf Stegner, a member of Schulz’s Social Democratic Party, spoke critically of the “Free the Panthers” hashtag that appeared on social media, a tongue-in-cheek expression advocating the deployment of tanks on the battlefield.

“People talk about ‘free the tigers’ as if they were zoo animals. It is very dangerous to treat it as if it were a social media event,” he told German TV channel Phoenix.

Stegner wondered if the tanks could radically change the course of the war in Ukraine’s favour, or just lead to a protracted conflict and more devastating civilian casualties.

“We need to look at the end; we need to ask what’s next? We made the decision with the Marder (infantry fighting vehicles). Once that was done, the discussion about battle tanks immediately started. How do we go from here? Does the war really shorten, or They only lead to more war deaths?”

Stegner concluded, “Ultimately, the history books will show whether [the decision] Was he right or not. ”

ARD-Deutschlandtrend interviewed 1,211 German citizens eligible to vote. The survey was conducted from January 17-18, 2023. Data is weighted to represent sociodemographic factors and voting trends. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus two points.