The Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once quipped, “Nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other options.” No other statement from history can better describe the German government’s sudden decision to deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. After months of hesitation—more like borderline resistance—Chancellor Olaf Scholz has finally agreed to send the Bundeswehr’s most powerful tool to the aid of the embattled Ukrainians, but only after facing increased pressure from other NATO allies.
The German chancellor had indeed exhausted all other options—or excuses. Scholz first claimed that he would not do it unless there was international support—so Poland, Finland, and the United Kingdom all pledged to send tanks of their own—yet Scholz ignored them. Then Scholz hid behind the fact that the major German arms conglomerate Rheinmetall said it couldn’t supply Leopard 2 tanks until at least 2024. Finally, in the most farcical of excuses, the German leader claimed to have met a Polish jogger who told him he was afraid that sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine would cause an escalation in the war—so he could not send them.
The effort Scholz put into not delivering tanks—and not allowing other nations to send their Leopards—would have been laughable if it weren’t so concerning. Yet, now that he has finally come around, he will be lavished with praise. Praise that, frankly, is unwarranted: While he dithered, Ukrainians senselessly died on the battlefield.
Western European media outlets and a steady stream of politicians are already congratulating Scholz for his decision, often awkwardly avoiding the long road that it took to get there. This is especially true of German media, which has treated the issue as being a matter of strong resolve by the government.