Ramstein, the Decisive Meeting That Was Not

Ruth Ferrero-Turrión

4 mins - 23 de Enero de 2023, 07:05

This week's meeting of NATO's Contact Group on Ukraine and the decisions that will be taken there have had the world staring intently at Ramstein Air Base. The choice of location should leave no one indifferent, a military base inaugurated in the 1950s, designed by the French, built by Germans, and occupied by Americans and famous for having been the site chosen by Washington in 1983 to deploy the Pershing II missiles capable of reaching Moscow that triggered the so-called Euro-missile crisis that would end with the fall of socialist Helmut Schmidt and the rise of Helmut Kohl. 

This high-level meeting was intended to dispel doubts as to whether or not the Europeans were prepared to up the military ante by sending one of their crown jewels, the German-built Leopard 2 tanks, to the front line. Sending offensive combat tanks alone, even though it would not change the course of the war at this point in time, has become a symbol of the level of military involvement that Europe, and more specifically Germany, is willing to go regarding a Ukrainian victory. These were the arguments used by Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defence, when he graphically argued that this was not the time to slow down, but to increase the support given to Ukraine, as this was likely a decisive moment for the outcome of the hostilities. Thus, the provisional outcome of this meeting does not seem to have been satisfactory for practically anyone, provided that there is still no concrete response regarding the shipment of these tanks, and Scholz is holding firmly to his position despite the enormous pressure he has faced since the beginning of the invasion.

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Criticism, of course, has not been long in coming. Some see this position as conservative: they do not have faith in the German chancellor's proposal in March, Zeitenwende, in these changing times, and speculate that the reason for this decision is that Germany hopes to resume trade and energy relations once the war has concluded. Therefore, the less confrontation with Russia, the better. Others simply make a historical reading— the sight of German tanks again facing the Russians brings back nothing but bad memories for Scholz. There are also those who want to divide European positions between those, such as France and Germany, who simply want peace, regardless of Ukraine, and those who seek justice and want Moscow's final defeat.

Be that as it may, the truth is that Germans are seldom asked what they themselves think about this issue, and perhaps that can give us a clue. And yet, there are several surveys that give some ideas. According to one survey conducted by the DPA News Agency in December 2022, 45% of Germans would be against sending battle tanks, compared to 33% in favour. Interestingly, 52% believe that diplomatic efforts are not enough to address the war. In another poll conducted by ARD-DeustchlandTrend in early January, it was clear that Germans are reluctant to see the delivery of arms, with 41% of respondents saying on 5 January that the military support given so far to Ukraine was already sufficient.

Some will argue that this is precisely what Moscow is looking for, paralysis and division, and that therefore one should not pay attention to what the opinion polls say, just as one should not listen to Habermas— perhaps they are all contaminated by Russian disinformation. Maybe they are right, but then who should Scholz listen to: Moriawezcki, Lloyd Austin, Zelenski? In any case, it is essential to reflect on the objective to be achieved by sending the Leopards, because it is important not to be deceived: these tanks are not going to make Russian troops leave Ukrainian territory. Therefore, no victory, no peace negotiations, only a chronic prolonging of the war, a scenario that the champions of Russian destruction do not contemplate, and which is, however, by all accounts, the most likely scenario. On one hand, we should start seriously considering this possibility and see how to being working on the reconstruction and democratisation of Ukraine while simultaneously thinking about how to rebuild relations with Russia, because Russia is not going to disappear. And in this context, Scholz's prudence could perhaps be a starting point.

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