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Germany seen as 'bad ally' in US amid standoff over tanks for Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius shakes hand with his US counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, at the Defence Ministry in Berlin on Thursday, Jan 19. (Reuters Photo)

Washington knows Berlin might be a "bad ally, but at least it’s America’s bad ally", according to an article in the German-owned Politico newspaper, pointing to an intensifying standoff between the United States and Germany over the Ukraine war.

The article published on Thursday cites a report in German media as saying that there has been a five-fold increase in the number of German soldiers declaring themselves as "conscientious objectors" in the wake of the Ukraine war, which began in February last year.

German army members reneging on the pledge they made is natural for a population that “has lived comfortably under the US security umbrella for more than seven decades and explains Berlin’s timidity”, it states.

Germany has become the NATO military alliance’s problem child since Russia launched its military campaign in Ukraine, delaying and frustrating the Western effort to get Ukraine the weaponry it needs, according to Politico.

One of the largest producers of main battle tanks in the world alongside the US, Germany has firmly refused to do so for months, claiming that providing Ukraine with Western tanks could trigger a broader war.

The defense chiefs of the US and Germany met this week at the US Ramstein air base in Germany to discuss the matter, with Berlin showing reluctance. 

It came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a plea by video link to leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, urging them to supply heavy tanks as the war escalates. 

"It has no hesitation about selling to authoritarian regimes, like those in the Middle East, where it does brisk business selling weapons to countries such as Egypt and Qatar," the Politico article notes, pointing to Berlin's reluctance in getting fully involved in Ukraine. 

Facts reflect that Germany’s conscience doesn’t really drive its foreign policy, its corporations do, it hastens to add.

Berlin is still hoping that Ukraine can patch things up with Russia so that Germany can resume business as usual and switch the gas back on.

Germany might end up sending tanks to Kiev but it will deliver a minimum number and only after exhausting every possible option to delay, the article said. 

"By virtue of its size and geographical position at the center of Europe, Germany will always be important for the US, if not as a true ally, at least as an erstwhile partner and staging ground for the American military."

Germany has so far resisted providing modern Leopard tanks to Ukraine, saying Western tanks should only be supplied to Ukraine if Kiev's other allies, particularly the United States, agree to do provide tanks of their own.

NATO countries across Europe have voiced their readiness to send German-made tanks to Ukraine, which are widely seen as the most suitable for Ukraine but await the green light from Berlin.

Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Since then, the US and other Western states have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems. Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that the delivery of weapons to Kiev would only prolong the war.

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