Did Olaf Scholz make the Panzer decision alone? Baerbock’s office caught off guard

The Foreign Office was surprised by the chancellor’s sudden tank decision. This emerges from a document that is available on t-online.

Suddenly everything happened very quickly. Germany was no longer on the brakes. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) decided last week to deliver German Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. As a result, international criticism of the Chancellor fell silent and the traffic light coalition also calmed down in the debate.

Current research by t-online on the Chancellor’s tank U-turn shows one thing above all: Scholz’s rethinking was a surprise, even for parts of the federal government.

Sought-after war machine: The Leopard II can do that. (What: t-online)

The end of the tank blockade came as a surprise

The Federal Foreign Office in particular was caught cold by the Chancellor’s armored advance. The Ministry of Annalena Baerbock (Greens) had sent a communiqué to all German missions abroad shortly before the decision was made. The document is available exclusively to t-online.

This includes language regulations, such as how German diplomats should officially justify the German hesitation in the tank question.

The federal government has not yet made a decision on the issue of supplying main battle tanks from Germany. Within the international coalition of supporters of Ukraine, there is still a need for discussion on the question of the possible delivery of Leopard 2 (or 1).

“Lines to take” from the Federal Foreign Office (January 24, 2022)

According to information from t-online, the Federal Foreign Office sent these communication aids for diplomats around 5 p.m. on January 24 – i.e. on the day of the Panzerwende – via an internal communication platform. So an hour after it was already leaked that the US government is considering the export of Abrams main battle tanks and an hour before Germany gave up its blockade on the Leopard 2. According to t-online information, the letter was approved by State Secretary Andreas Michaelis, the new German ambassador in Washington chosen by Baerbock.

The letter goes on to say that the federal government wants to make this decision “considered” and “balanced”. There is no talk of an early decision. There was also no decision from the federal government in the morning on the approval for other countries to export Leopard tanks made in Germany, which the Federal Foreign Office reached in good time. The status in the Foreign Office: It will be checked.

Quotation Mark

Poland has on 24.01. applied for permission to re-export Leopard main battle tanks manufactured in Germany to Ukraine. The Federal Government will examine this with the necessary urgency and decide on it in accordance with the tried and tested procedures and areas of responsibility.

“Lines to take” from the Federal Foreign Office (January 24, 2022)

As early as the afternoon, these language regulations were no longer valid and the Federal Foreign Office officially withdrew them. A new version had to be worked out and sent out again.


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Was Scholz’ Panzerwende planned?

The document is proof of how suddenly the tank decision must have been made. The export of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine was not yet a matter for the federal government to make a decision on the morning of January 24. On the contrary.

Particularly explosive: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced on January 22 in an interview with the French TV channel LCI that Germany would not block deliveries of Leopard tanks by alliance partners. This push happened without the backing of Scholz and the federal government. You can find out more about the dispute between Baerbock and Scholz here.

“War against Russia”: Annalena Baerbock’s statement irritates the network. (What: t-online)

The decision on the German Panzerwende was finally made on January 24th in the Federal Security Council. The Foreign Office did not seem to have expected this. Instead, at the same time, it was apparently still forced to find desperate reasons for the German hesitation. Ultimately, the language rules were no longer really needed.

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