Germany agrees to send heavy weapons to Ukraine after a major political U-turn

The commitment to supply the Cheetah air defense systems was announced by Defense Secretary Christine Lambrecht during a meeting of international defense officials at the Ramstein US Air Force base in Germany on Tuesday.

“We decided yesterday that we will support Ukraine with anti-aircraft fire systems … which is exactly what Ukraine needs now to secure the airspace from the ground,” Lambrecht said during the meeting at the base.

This is important as it is the first time Germany has agreed to supply this type of heavy weapon to Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion. The cheetah systems were phased out of active service in Germany in 2010.

Opinion: Germany's military U-turn is a turning point in Europe's history

Germany initially opposed calls for arms supplies to Kiev, agreeing only to provide humanitarian aid and medical equipment. That approach was in line with Germany’s decades-long policy of not supplying deadly weapons to the crisis zone.

A few months before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, the then new German government agreed to include the restrictive arms export policy in its coalition agreement.

But under pressure from allies and the German public, the government was forced to revise the rules. In late February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would begin supplying some weapons to Ukraine, even though at the time he insisted on calling them “defensive.”

He also announced that Germany would start pumping more money into its own armed forces.

The first such investment was publicly confirmed last month when Germany announced it would buy 35 US-made F-35A fighter jets.
The cheetah air defense system is armed with two 35 mm cannons.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that while “other partners are now supplying artillery” to Ukraine, Germany would “help with training and maintenance.”

Baerbock said Germany could not supply additional weapons as the country had no weapons, it could “supply quickly and without delay right now.”

She added that Germany had chosen not to publish all the weapons it had previously sent to Ukraine, but said: “We have supplied anti-tank weapons, Stingers [air defense systems] and many other weapons that we have not talked about in public, “the minister said.

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