Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, ending months of debate and deadlock. has met with a largely positive reaction in Germany – in particular on the stock market.
Shares in Rheinmetall, supplier of the Leopard 2′s 120mm smooth bore gun, jumped to an all-time high of €231 on Thursday, up 59 per cent in three months.
As it and Leopard maker Krauss-Maffei Wegmann juggle orders for new and refurbished tanks, Germany’s politicians and media commentators welcomed the Berlin decision as better late than never.
“The chancellor is right in one point: on tanks, it would have been a mistake to march ahead alone,” wrote the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine daily, noting that everyone would have their own take on whether Mr Scholz drove the tank debate or was driven by others and events. “One can only hope that the allies have learned from the tank imbroglio: not to fight in public and not to waste time that Ukraine doesn’t have.”
The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung was gloomier, suggesting the sticking plaster of Berlin’s tank decision was too small to “cover the great wound that Scholz has delivered to himself”.
By demanding US Abrams tanks as a quid pro quo for releasing German Leopards, Berlin had shown a lack of trust of its biggest Nato alliance partner, and revived the image of an insecure Germany at the heart of Europe, the Süddeutsche argued.
[ Scholz confirms Germany will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine ]
“To put hesitant partners under pressure there must be better methods than non-compliance,” it added. “This government has to have an interest in Russia’s defeat, otherwise this war will never end. Thus tanks must be delivered to give Ukraine a military advantage.”
Even the left-wing Tageszeitung, traditionally cautious all things military, welcomed the decision.
“Regardless of how the decision fell in the chancellery, in the end the right decision was made,” its lead article argued. “The German battle tanks will help Ukraine to hold its own against Russia.”
After Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the tank deliveries as “direct involvement in the conflict”, the Bild tabloid asked aloud on Thursday: “Will Putin declare war on us?” After consulting security experts, the answer was: “No”.
“Putin will, of course, threaten with all sorts of reaction,” Sergey Sumlenny of the European Resilience Initiative Centre told Bild. “But we know that his capabilities are considerably lower than he would have us believe.”
[ Olaf Scholz bows to pressure on tanks and shatters another German post-war taboo ]
On Wednesday evening, asked on public television if the tank deliveries made Germany a party to war, Mr Scholz replied: “No, in no way.”
A commentator in Die Welt daily joked grimly that it was difficult for Russia to declare war on Germany over tank deliveries given, almost a year after launching its “special operation”, Moscow had yet to declare war on Ukraine.
Germany’s lengthy tanks debate, and the chancellor’s cautious framing of his decision, appears to have restored political peace within the three-way coalition and satisfied leftists within his ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) who opposed tank deliveries.
SPD leftist Ralf Stegner said he was grateful Germany had a “level-headed chancellor” but criticised what he called the “instrumentalisation of arms” in the Ukraine debate: “I wonder where all this is going: what comes after battle tanks?”