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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Arms Deliveries: Why Ring Swapping Doesn’t Work



Status: 07/20/2022 09:18

With the so-called ring exchange procedures, Ukraine must be supported with arms. But so far, no exchange has been made. An agreement with Poland could even fail once and for all. How is it possible ?

By Uli Hauck and Kai Küstner, ARD Capital Studio

What is the so-called Weapon Ring Swap?

Critics have accused the German government of not supporting Ukraine enough with weapons. With a ring exchange procedure, Germany wanted to increasingly and indirectly deliver heavy weapons to the country. Three partners are involved in the ring exchange, as the federal government intends to implement it: Germany as donor country, “exchange partner” and Ukraine as recipient country. Ukraine will be supplied with Russian or ex-Soviet heavy weapons. For example with tanks from NATO countries in Southern and Eastern Europe. More specifically, the federal government is in negotiations with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece. Their stocks must be replenished with German equipment.

Why does the federal government rely on ring trading?

The argument of the traffic light coalition was very early that the Ukrainians were the best at handling Soviet-made tanks, that they did not need to be thoroughly trained and that they had the spare parts for it. At the same time, it is also clear that the Federal Government and in particular the Chancellor want to prevent German battle tanks or armored personnel carriers from being used in Ukraine at all costs, i.e. ” Marder” or “Leopard”.

There are many reasons for this – one can only speculate which ones are decisive: that German tanks should never again fire on Russian tanks was one of the lessons of the Nazi past and of the Second World War. Furthermore, there are concerns that Putin sees direct tank deliveries as crossing (or rather rolling over) a red line and leading to a dangerous escalation.

Officially, reference is often made to a – verbal – agreement between NATO partners that no one has yet delivered such Western war equipment. That is why it would also be extremely unpleasant for Germany if Spain insisted on exactly this and really wanted to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Whether that will happen is not yet certain.

What ring exchange procedures have been performed so far?

Not one. Almost three months ago, the German Bundestag decided by a large majority that the federal government should also support Ukraine with heavy weapons. So far, however, only seven self-propelled howitzers have been delivered from Bundeswehr stocks to the Federal Government’s current weapons list on the Internet. In addition, the German arms industry should start delivering anti-aircraft tanks “Gepard” by the end of July.

However, the weapon deliveries focus on the process of exchanging rings. Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic have already delivered T-72 main battle tanks and BMP1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. The German government then announced that it would make 15 Leopard 2 tanks from industrial stocks available to its NATO partner, the Czech Republic, as compensation. But the exchange of rings is not yet complete, just like with Poland, Slovakia, Greece and Slovenia.

Why is it so long?

The short answer is: because the ring exchange countries are generally not satisfied with the German offer. This is illustrated by the example of Slovenia. It is the first country with which negotiations began in April. Berlin offered the “Marder” infantry fighting vehicle and the “Fuchs” armored personnel carrier in exchange for Slovenia’s supply to Ukraine of combat tanks and armored personnel carriers (T72 and BMP1) – both of which are being phased out by the Bundeswehr and are around 50 years old.

Instead, Slovenia had in mind the new infantry fighting vehicle “Puma” and the main battle tank “Leopard” – that is, more modern equipment. There is a similar “ring exchange struggle” with the other partner states. This is why the rings are still unfinished semicircles.

By the way, another oddity: the Bundeswehr denied Ukraine the armored personnel carrier “Fuchs” on the grounds that the operational readiness of the troops would be threatened – but it is ready to hand it over to Slovenia.

What about negotiations with Poland?

According to Polish sources, during the first two months of the war of Russian aggression, the country delivered up to 240 T-72 tanks and several dozen armored vehicles to Ukraine. The neighboring country is considered a major arms supplier and supporter of Ukraine.

As early as May, Polish President Andrzej Duda criticized the German government for not providing a military replacement for the tanks in the near future. At that time it was said that Poland wanted the last German Leopard tanks. And even then, the talks were seen as deadlocked.

According to information from ARD Capital Studios ultimately fail. In a TV interview this week, Poland’s deputy foreign minister said there was “no real offer from Germany that could be considered”. According to foreign CDU politician Roderich Kiesewetter, the federal government recently offered Poland 20 retreaded Leopard 2 tanks. From April 2023, one tank will be delivered per month and from October, three tanks per month will be delivered. Apparently not enough from Poland’s point of view. However, the negotiations have not yet officially ended.

Meanwhile, it became known that Poland had received the first of a total of 366 Abrams main battle tanks from the United States.

What criticism is there of the ring exchange procedure?

Critics do not subscribe to the phrase “Good Ring takes time”: Germany’s reputation and credibility with its allies, especially in Eastern Europe, would suffer if things were to drag on like this, warns the ‘Union. Moreover, many opposition politicians, but also some at the red light, do not understand why Germany does not supply Ukraine more directly with modern equipment from its own stocks instead of old Soviet equipment: if our freedom is defended there and Russia is not allowed to win this war, the argument is that Ukraine should receive all imaginable military support.

But Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht keeps pointing out that Bundeswehr stocks are now depleted. However, the latest letter from Defense Committee Chair Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann to Olaf Scholz made it clear that some members of the coalition government would also like to see more speed in the delivery of weapons. With which she received a very clear rebuff from the Chancellor.


Source www.tagesschau.de

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