This week’s pivotal event in the Ukraine conflict occurred hundreds of miles from the front lines. Germany declared Wednesday that it would send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a potentially crucial move in the war that might decisively swing the scale in Kyiv’s favor after days of diplomatic pressure from its increasingly irritated NATO partners.

Advanced combat tanks will also be sent to Ukrainian soldiers by the United States and several European countries. Moscow is anticipated to launch a spring onslaught, but Ukraine’s fight to retake its land from Russia will shortly be strengthened by the introduction of potent and contemporary Western armament.

But opinions varied on the streets of Germany. People’s opinions on the decision’s correctness appeared to vary, from worries about how the war may now escalate to confidence in their government’s actions. The nation is also divided along party lines, generational lines, and geographical lines.

Those with whom CNN spoke wished to be known only by their first names. Manuel, a 29-year-old German national who resides in Berlin, told CNN he was concerned the choice may inflame Moscow’s resentment and intensify the almost year-old crisis. “At least for the time being, I don’t believe Russia will attack any NATO member. But I’d be concerned about a stronger response, aimed at the people of Ukraine, he remarked.

Eric, a 27-year-old skilled carpenter from Paderborn in western Germany, believes it is critical to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. He worries, though, that sending Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev would actually make matters worse.

“The Leopard 2’s deployment and employment is a fantastic asset for Ukrainian warfare, but we must acknowledge that this comes with challenges and political repercussions.



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“The Ukrainian military forces need to be taught in the use and maintenance of the Leopard 2 in addition to logistics,” Eric continued. Since this is unlikely to occur in Ukraine, NATO and Germany will once more get more directly involved in the conflict.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, addresses the Bundestag after declaring that his country would send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, addresses the Bundestag after declaring that his country would send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
Picture Alliance/Getty Images/Michael Kappeler
He sees the action of his government as a “significant involvement” in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He asserts that Germany and NATO could at any time decide to declare war as a result of the stationing of tanks and the training of Ukrainian forces.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s resistance to caving in to pressure from abroad is understandable, but Barbara, a 59-year-old librarian from western Germany, believes that Germany should avoid getting involved in the war whenever possible. She told CNN, “I don’t agree with sending all this war weaponry to Ukraine. “We provide a lot of civilian assistance, so it’s beneficial to be relucant when it comes to the conflict.”

Others feel strongly that Ukraine needs assistance in the face of Russian aggression. Sybille, another German, said: “For me it is a great concern that so many people lose their lives and I would try to provide my understanding for the supply of tanks, especially as the lawyers state that it is not against international law and I think Russia does not follow any rules in our world.”

Following weeks of pressure on Berlin from certain of its NATO partners, the German government on Wednesday declared that it would comply with Kyiv’s requests for the cutting-edge Leopard 2 tanks after months of hesitancy.

The action was accompanied by US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would donate 31 M1 Abrams tanks, overturning the administration’s opposition to giving Kyiv the highly advanced but maintenance-intensive vehicles.

Numerous missiles were fired at Ukraine by Russia hours after Germany and the US revealed their plans, demonstrating Moscow’s anger at the events and suggesting that it would like to weaken Ukrainian determination in the race to deploy the new tanks.

Polls reveal a divided nation.
The disparity in German sentiments is also highlighted by a recent public opinion poll. Should Germany deploy heavy battle tanks like the “Leopard” to Ukraine? was the question that was posed to respondents in the Deutschlandtrend survey by public broadcaster ARD on January 19.

According to the findings, 46% of Germans supported sending such tanks, while 43% opposed it.

Between eastern and western Germans, as well as between younger and older generations, there were substantial disparities in thought.

Every two people in Germany’s western states supported the delivery of heavy battle tanks, according to the poll, however 59% of those in the former communist regions disapproved of the concept.

This geographical division makes sense to Eric. “East Germany has a high percentage of right-wing residents and AfD [far-right party Alternative for Germany] voters, and a different history with Russia due to the occupation after the Second World War, [leading to] a greater mistrust in governmental decisions,” he said.

Age also has an impact because older generations were more inclined to support sending the tanks, per the poll. In the opinion of 52% of people aged 18 to 24, Germany shouldn’t provide the tanks.

Political division was the most obvious. 61% of Green Party supporters in Germany, a left-leaning party, approved of the delivery. Only 49% of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) members favored the outcome, making it less obvious.

Supporters of the AfD were the ones who strongly opposed the supply of heavy battle tanks. A sizable 84% of them opposed sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Following Wednesday’s decision, co-leader of the AfD Tino Chrupalla slammed it, calling it “irresponsible and dangerous.”

As a result, he warned on Twitter that “Germany is in danger of being pushed directly into the conflict.”

On January 20, demonstrators in Berlin voice their support for sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.
On January 20, demonstrators in Berlin voice their support for sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.
Reuters/Lisi Niesner
History is important.
While Berliner Manuel thinks that after the end of World War II, Germany has developed a “strong anti-militaristic ethos” that is now profoundly ingrained in the German mentality, librarian Barbara acknowledges that her nation has a “tough history.”

Any involvement in a war, whether direct or indirect, is subject to scrutiny, he said.

In spite of the fact that post-World War II demilitarization has made modern Germany unwilling to engage in international conflicts, the government has changed its attitude to security and military strategy in response to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.

The new strategy was adopted in response to claims made by Berlin’s Western partners that Kyiv was receiving support rather slowly, in part because of its reliance on Russian gas.

“A relief for Ukraine’s mistreatment”
This week, political personalities in Germany also offered their opinions on the topic.

Parliamentarian and former deputy head of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Germany, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, called the choice to supply the Leopard 2 “arduous, but necessary.”

She continued by saying that the choice would be “a relief for a brave and persecuted Ukraine.”

In order to strengthen their forces in front of a potential Russian spring attack, Ukrainian leaders have frequently emphasized the need for the supply of heavy battle tanks, especially the Leopard 2.

Ralf Stegner, an SPD legislator from Germany, criticized the “Free the Leopards” hashtag that has appeared on social media, which is a light-hearted statement calling for the use of the tanks on the battlefield.

People refer to “Free the Leopards” as though it were a zoo. To treat it as if it were a social media event would be way too trivial, he told the German free-to-air television station Phoenix.

Stegner questioned whether the tanks would result in a protracted conflict and more terrible civilian casualties, or whether they would significantly alter the trajectory of the war in favor of Ukraine.

“We must think about the end and ask, ‘What comes next?'” With the Marder, we made the choice (infantry fighting vehicles). As soon as the statement was made, a discussion regarding battle tanks quickly began. What should we do next? Does it actually end the war sooner, or does it only result in more casualties?

“History books will ultimately demonstrate whether [the decision] was right or wrong,” Stegner said in his conclusion.

A total of 1211 German citizens who are eligible to vote were interviewed by ARD-Deutschlandtrend. Inquiries were taken on January 17 and 18, 2023. Data was weighted to reflect vote patterns and sociodemographic characteristics. The margin of error for the results is plus or minus two points.

By dhandi

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