What are the advantages of buying off-theshelf equipment from the United States?
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has shown that we must be able to act quickly. This especially includes rapid procurement. We can only achieve this if we buy what is commercially available. This does not contradict cooperative capability development and we are not renouncing our common goals and commitments, for example in PESCO. It just means facing certain realities: there are current threats and we must take measures to counter them today. Rapid procurement of commercially available goods where necessary, and joint capability development within the EU framework where possible, are two approaches that are complementary and essential to our credibility.
However, some of the capability requirements we have defined for the Bundeswehr are either only met by U.S. products at present or the capabilities can only be procured in a timely manner in the United States. We consider procurement from our partners and friends in NATO a completely normal process. This is one of the reasons why we want to give our partners and friends, especially the United States, a range of opportunities to participate in EU initiatives.
Beyond the immediate need for more weapons, how can the European defence industrial base be maintained and strengthened?
As laid out in the Strategic Compass, all 27 Member States have decided to strengthen the EU’s defence technology and industry base, both on the demand side and the supply side, to make it more competitive in the long-term and in a sustainable fashion. The EU already has defence initiatives such as CARD, PESCO and the European Defence Fund (EDF). We are looking to further improve the coherence of these initiatives and make better use of the incentives that are on the table. With this in mind, we welcome the defence investment gap analysis published in May 2022, to which EDA contributed substantially. We are involved in the Defence Joint Procurement Task Force and we are making constructive contributions to the design of other proposed instruments, for example European Defence Industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act (EDIRPA). As long as those are designed properly, I am hoping they will provide impulses to strengthen the EU’s defence technology and industry base.
How best can Germany and the EU work together to ensure Ukraine’s defence forces continue to modernise?
Our joint efforts have succeeded in strengthening Ukraine, enabling it to counter Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression. I am deeply convinced that it would have been virtually impossible to ward off Russia’s attack on Kyiv without our joint support. In addition, our sustained military support, including anti-tank, artillery and air defence systems, was instrumental for Ukraine in regaining control of Kharkiv and Kherson.
Germany plays a leading role by supplying Ukraine with weapons and equipment from Bundeswehr stocks and in close cooperation with our partners in industry. For example, we provided Ukraine with the most modern IRIS-T air defence.
We will continue our support for Ukraine, but we must also remain realistic, seeing as this will also significantly impact our own forces. As the Bundeswehr’s stocks reach their limits, we have been working more closely with our partners in industry in order to support Ukraine with materiel sourced from the defence industry. In doing so, we are able to ensure Germany’s continued military support for Ukraine. Our international partners are in a similar situation.
I feel that we have reached a defining moment in our support for Ukraine, one in which close international coordination will be essential. We are already seeing the positive effects of this coordination at the European level. A case in point is the harmonisation of the software packages for the PzH 2000 howitzers provided to Ukraine in a joint effort by Germany and the Netherlands. This starting point should also guide our future cooperation and development at the European level: fewer granular individual solutions and more interoperable and interchangeable systems. Another important step is the decision to set up the EUMAM Ukraine. EUMAM Ukraine establishes a framework for providing thorough training to Ukraine’s armed forces, which will also have a positive impact on our continued support and future cooperation.
Do you see any end to the war in Ukraine?
Ukraine and Russia could initiate negotiations as early as tomorrow if Russia were to put an end to its aggression and withdraw its armed forces to its own territory.
I was in Ukraine a few weeks ago and saw with my own eyes the destruction and the suffering inflicted mainly on defenceless and non-participating civilians. It is an atrocity to terrorise the Ukrainian citizens with constant attacks on critical infrastructure that is necessary for the survival of the population, especially in the coming winter months.
In a nutshell: If Russia understands that we will not abandon our support for Ukraine and that we will not allow Russia to drive a wedge between us and Ukraine, it will be more likely that peace becomes possible.