Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again pushed back against demands in Germany and from Ukrainian officials for fighter jets to repel Russia’s invasion, urging Western nations not to join a “bidding war” for sophisticated weapons.
Last week, Germany announced it will deliver its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after weeks of pressure from NATO and European Union allies.
“The fact we’ve only just made a decision [on sending tanks] and already the next debate [fighter jets] is firing up in Germany – that just seems frivolous and undermines people’s trust in government decisions,” said Scholz in an interview with the German newspaper Tagesspiegel on Sunday.
“I can only advise against entering a bidding war over weapons systems.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk has pressed Germany for dozens of its Tornado combat aircraft, and urged the international community to join a “fighter jet coalition” for his country.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again asked Western nations to provide his country with more high-end weapons systems in his daily address on Saturday. Zelenskyy specifically mentioned the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).
“There can be no taboo in the supply of weapons to protect against Russian terror,” said Ukraine’s leader.
Russia last week condemned the delivery of NATO battle tanks to Ukraine, calling it “direct and growing” evidence of United States and European involvement in the war.
The German leader also said he will continue to phone Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressing the importance of maintaining an open channel of communication in order to find an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Scholz said the tone of the conversations was “not impolite, but our perspectives are of course completely different”.
“And I will continue to phone Putin — because we have to keep talking to each other,” he said.
The last phone call to Putin was at the start of December. The Russian leader said at the time that the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and called on Berlin to rethink its approach.
The conversations, Scholz said, were often about “concrete issues” such as prisoner exchanges, Ukrainian grain exports, and the fate of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
“For me it’s important that the conversations keep coming back to the main point: how does the world get out of this terrible situation? The condition for that is clear: the withdrawal of Russian troops,” Scholz said in the interview.
Scholz also warned that NATO should not be dragged into a war with Moscow.
“A German chancellor who takes his oath of office seriously must do everything to ensure that Russia’s war against Ukraine does not turn into a war between Russia and NATO,” he stressed, adding he will not “allow such an escalation”.
The Leopard 2 announcement, followed shortly afterwards by a US pledge of M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv, infuriated the Kremlin.
“For now, there are no agreed talks [with Scholz] in the schedule. Putin has been and remains open to contacts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Germany is the second-largest donor of military hardware to Ukraine after the US, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, ahead of other European powers such as France and Britain.
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