Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (both SPD) have reiterated their opposition to the delivery of combat aircraft to Ukraine.
During a visit to the Bundeswehr Operations Command in Schwielowsee near Potsdam, Pistorius said that considerations as to whether the Bundeswehr had to hand over aircraft were "hypothetical questions" to which he did not answer. "And by the way, as far as I know, the Chancellor said everything that needs to be said," said Pistorius, who found out about the Bundeswehr's foreign missions.
Scholz had previously criticized the ongoing discussion about the possible delivery of fighter jets from Chile. "It is idiosyncratic that this debate is being held. Some people have to ask themselves: Why is he asking the question when it is about helping the Ukrainians," said the SPD politician on Sunday evening (local time). Now a serious debate is necessary and not "an outbidding competition (...), in which perhaps domestic political motives are in the foreground instead of supporting Ukraine".
The debate over the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine has been going on since last week - since several Western countries decided to provide the country attacked by Russia with battle tanks. The federal government wants to sell tanks of the Leopard type and has also given other countries the option of supplying the tanks produced in Germany.
"Everything has really been said about it now"
In view of the new debate, Scholz warned in Santiago de Chile that an issue as important as arms deliveries must be about the matter and about rational considerations. Shortly after the war began, he and US President Joe Biden ruled out no-fly zones because that would have led to a conflict between Russia and NATO. "Such nonsensical requests" as the deployment of ground troops were also rejected. "Everything has really been said about this - including me."
Ukraine demands fighter jets. The USA and some other countries consider delivery to be possible in principle. SPD leader Saskia Esken had not expressly ruled out the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine. When asked whether she ruled out the delivery of combat aircraft, Esken said on Sunday in the ARD "Report from Berlin": "It is very important that Germany and that NATO are not a party to the war." At the same time, it is important for Germany to make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin with every decision "that we reject Russian aggression."
Pistorius is considering an earlier Bundeswehr withdrawal from Mali
The Operations Command in the Henning-von-Tresckow barracks in Schwielowsee leads the Bundeswehr contingents abroad. The largest and most dangerous operation is currently in Mali, West Africa. The withdrawal from the country, with whose military government there have recently been repeated disputes, is to begin in the summer.
Pistorius is considering an earlier withdrawal of the Bundeswehr from Mali. "Staying in Mali until May 2024 makes no sense at all under the current conditions," Pistorius told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Tuesday). In November, the federal government decided to withdraw and made its stay until May 20024 dependent on the Bundeswehr not being prevented from using drones again for a longer period of time. The last time the drones flew "before Christmas," said Pistorius. "If our soldiers cannot leave the camp or can only move within a small radius because the drones are not allowed to fly, then they are not fulfilling their mission. And then this operation is a waste of money and time."
Pistorius also visited the Forest of Remembrance, a memorial built from groves of honor from the operational areas and dedicated to those who died in the Bundeswehr. Previously, he spoke in video conferences with soldiers on foreign assignments and missions. He was very impressed, said Pistorius, and praised the professionalism, calmness and competence of the men and women "in assignments that are sometimes anything but easy". He wants to see what's going on as soon as possible. That's why there will be "further visits to Ukraine, then to deployment contingents from the Federal Republic of Germany."