BERLIN (AP): Germany aims to supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers to Ukraine in this year’s first quarter, the government said Friday.
Officials gave more details of the plan, which marks another notable shift forward in Germany’s weapons deliveries to Ukraine, after Germany announced its intention to send the Marder APCs following a phone call between Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday.
“These 40 vehicles should be ready in the first quarter already so that they can be handed over to Ukraine,” Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, told reporters in Berlin. Germany plans to train Ukrainian forces to use the vehicles, and Hebestreit said experts expect that process to take around eight weeks.
Germany has already given significant military aid, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and an IRIS-T surface-to-air missile system, with three more of those set to follow this year.
Scholz has long been wary of pressure to supply the Marder and other, heavier Western-made vehicles such as tanks, insisting that Germany wouldn’t go it alone with such deliveries. Officials noted that other countries hadn’t supplied any. But this week, France, the U.S. and Germany all announced plans to send comparable armored vehicles that fall short of tanks.
Germany last year championed deals in which eastern NATO allies sent familiar Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine, with Germany in turn supplying those countries with more modern Western-made equipment.
Hebestreit said there had been talks with the U.S. and others since mid-December on how to support Ukraine going forward. He said the possibility of supplying Soviet-produced equipment is “slowly coming to an end,” while the situation in Ukraine is changing with massive Russian strikes on infrastructure and fighting could increase when the weather warms up.
Ukraine and a number of German lawmakers inside and outside Scholz’s governing coalition also have called for Germany to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks. Advocates of delivering the Leopard were cheered by the move on Marder APCs and vowed to keep pressing the point.
But Hebestreit said that battle tanks weren’t an issue in Thursday’s call between Scholz and Biden. He said Germany will stick to its principles of supporting Ukraine as strongly as possible, while not going it alone on weapons supplies and ensuring that NATO doesn’t become a party to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Germany also said Thursday that it will follow the U.S. in supplying a Patriot air defense missile battery to Ukraine. That was at the request of the U.S. and also is expected in the first quarter, Hebestreit said.
It comes on top of Patriot systems that Germany has sent or plans to send to Slovakia and Poland.