Markus Faber hoped that Germany would decide to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. he is convinced that proper weapons should have been provided to our state before February 24th. After all, most Germans also share the opinion of providing the Ukrainian military with the necessary weapons.
Markus Faber is the representative for defense policy of the ruling Free Democratic Party of Germany. He repeatedly came to Ukraine to see the horrors of the war with his own eyes and tell his colleagues from the German parliament about the Russian aggression.
In an interview forChannel 24, he explained why the Bundestag failed the vote on the supply of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, named the parties that categorically oppose the provision of any weapons to Ukraine and commented on the changes in the German Ministry of Defense.
The conversation with Markus Faber was recorded on January 20, when a meeting was held in the Ramstein format, the contact group on Ukrainian defense issues.
Germany should provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks
What do you personally expect from the Ramstein meeting?
I personally expect the German government to agree to the export of tanks for Ukraine, Poland and Finland. I also hope that Germany itself will join this and provide Leopard 1 and 2.
And how can this position of the German government on providing Leopard to Ukraine change? After all, earlier we heard the position of Chancellor Scholz, who negotiated with the Americans, and said that first the United States should provide Ukraine with Abrams, and then Germany would take its step.
Well, this is a bit different from what Olaf Scholz said. He said we need to work together. And NATO should have a common approach to the supply of battle tanks to Ukraine. So Germany's position is that it does not want to act on its own. But it turns out that others act independently – like Poland, Finland and France. Therefore, Germany cannot remain on its own in this matter, it must act together with partners.
And this is precisely the direction in which Germany is now moving. Of course, there may be some personal issues here, because we literally just got a new secretary of defense, so there may be changes now.
Interview with Markus Faber about the war in Ukraine: watch the video
Why did the Bundestag not vote for the supply of tanks to Ukraine
We will talk more about the new German defense minister and what is expected of him in his new position. But the Bundestag failed the vote on the supply of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, what was the problem with this vote? Why doesn't Parliament still have enough support to send these tanks to Ukraine?
In my opinion, support enough in the German government and in the parliament itself. The thing is that the procedure for voting in the German parliament is carried out in such a way that first the bill is presented to the parliament, then it goes to the committee, and then the vote takes place.
That is, yesterday (January 19 at the time of recording the conversation – Channel 24) we had the first hearing. Then it will go to the first committee – the defense committee, where I am one of the members. And then there will be discussions in the plenary hall and voting. Here we are not talking about the problem of the majority in parliament, because both liberals and conservatives support this project. Now we are trying to enlist the support of the Social Democrats. But I hope that everything should be decided by tomorrow (January 21 – Channel 24).
Important!On January 20, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said at a meeting in the Ramstein format that the Western allies had not yet reached an agreement on providing Ukraine with Leopard 2 main battle tanks. However, the German government continues to study this issue. Therefore, the decision to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks should be made by Berlin in the near future.
Leopard 2 Key Features/Channel 24 Infographic
And which German parties are categorically against providing any weapons to Ukraine? We are talking about armored vehicles and especially tanks.
There are two parties in the Bundestag that oppose the support of Ukraine: they are the far left, the former socialists and the far right, “Alternative for Germany” . They both support Putin and oppose support for Ukraine. In total, they have about 15% of the mandates in parliament. And more than 80% of deputies support Ukraine.
Therefore, the question here is when it is better to provide these tanks to Ukraine, exactly how much and how exactly we can most effectively do this together with our partners.
How German society reacts to assistance to Ukraine
That is, it cannot be said that Chancellor Scholz and German politicians believe that the transfer of battle tanks to Ukraine will lead to some kind of escalation, and is this not actually true?
This is really not true. But such postulates work very well in Germany, with its pacifist approach, which has been in effect since the end of World War II. And in order to change this approach, a lot needs to be done. There is also a certain generational issue here when it comes to legislators.
We are trying to change their perception of this issue and try to convince them that not everything can be solved by negotiations, especially when you are being attacked. This is a classic attack. Ukraine needs to protect itself, and we are working on it.
And how would you generally describe this difference between different generations of German politicians and in society? Do German youth view the situation differently than their parents and older generation?
If we talk about my generation of politicians, which is people aged 38 and younger, then we have an approach to a united Germany, which is part of the Western world, where France, Great Britain and other countries are our allies. And that democracies should be protected from dictatorial regimes.
But the older generation has a completely different opinion that Germany is still divided, that there are Russian troops here. Therefore, they are very cautious about this issue. The problem here is that they received their political education in times that are now irrelevant, but this narrative is still imprinted in their heads.
Let's talk about German society then. How do ordinary Germans feel about the transfer of tanks to Ukraine? And has overall support for Ukraine increased among Germans during this nearly decade-long war?
Over the past year, support has increased. From February to June-July, it was about 80%. And now support consists in the formulation of the question. If you ask if Germany should provide military assistance to Ukraine, then 75% of respondents will say – of course.
But if you ask if we should provide heavy tanks, then it will be 50 to 50. For example, in western Germany, the vast majority support the supply of tanks. But in the east of the country where I was born, and which was in the socialist camp, the majority there will say that no, we should not supply tanks. Therefore, in this matter, Germany is divided when it comes to the supply of tanks.
Why did Germany change the head of the Ministry of Defense
Clear. And how the attitude of the political elites has changed – from refusing to give any weapons to supplying armored vehicles, “Marders” and even tanks, a decision on which will be made either today or in the near future. What caused this change?
Germany has learned a lot in the past year. As I have noted, for decades we have had a very pacifist approach. And when the war broke out in Europe, it was a shock to German society and politicians. As you remember, our former defense minister started by providing Ukraine with 5,000 helmets, and now everything has turned into deliveries of hundreds of thousands of ammunition, howitzers, Gepard and so on, missile launchers, Marder armored vehicles waiting to be shipped. We have learned a lot and continue to learn, so now we have come to the delivery of German tanks to Ukraine.
We are very grateful for your help and support, especially for air defense equipment, Gepard, IRIS-T, they are very much needed. And why was Christina Lambrecht removed from the post of German defense minister? And will the new minister, Boris Pistorius, be more effective in this position?
Lambrecht became defense minister in 2021, when there were other times when Germany believed there were more or a less fragile peace despite the fighting, but still a peace. Then there was an approach to reforming our armed forces, modernization and reform. Ms. Lambrecht was previously Minister of Justice, so the question was more about her managerial qualities as Minister of Defense.
And now the vision has changed radically, the Social Democrats proceed from the fact that there is a war going on in Europe, there is a big security problem, and Germany should be part of the solution to this problem. That is why Boris Pistorius, the former Minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony, was appointed as the new Minister of Defense. And he is expected to provide more support for Ukraine and generally strengthen security.
Do you think that Germany has done enough to support Ukraine? And were these steps timely? Or perhaps more had to be done during those 10 months of war? After all, as you know, Ukrainian politicians led by President Zelensky have always called on Western countries to take more decisive and quick steps to help Ukraine. After all, we must respond to Russia's actions in order to keep the initiative in our hands. So could Germany have supported Ukraine more during these 10 months of war?
Yes, we should have started earlier. In November 2021, I tried to convince our coalition partners because when I returned from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Washington, all our colleagues from the Alliance countries said that the war could start in the winter. That's why I insisted that we need to do like Poland or the Baltic countries and support Ukraine.
But it didn't work to convince them, and I said – ok, so what does it take to convince you? And they said – when the war starts, then we'll talk. And so it happened. Even after the full-scale outbreak of hostilities, we began to support, but it was too late. Of course, we are now supplying you with shells and military equipment, this will continue, and, I hope, supplies will only expand.
Important mission in Ukraine: a deputy about a trip to the frontline regions
Yes, of course, we see these positive changes, changes in the worldview and attitude not only of German politicians, but also in other countries too. You recently visited Ukraine and even visited Bakhmut. Why did you decide to go to the front? You were also in Odessa and other cities. So what are your impressions of this trip?
I visited Ukraine for the fourth time. In October last year, I was in Kyiv, Kharkov and the Donbass, and the situation then was completely different than now. The purpose of my trip in January was to help the people living there for those who are fighting there. For Christmas, I wanted to bring help, so we took with us navigation systems for the Ukrainian airborne units. We also brought power banks, flashlights and something else.
But aid is one thing, and we wanted to get a clear picture of the humanitarian situation and talk about it here in the German parliament. To tell our colleagues what the situation really is and why Ukraine really needs MLRS systems and battle tanks, as well as air defense systems. Therefore, this time, after visiting Kyiv and Kharkov, I went to the tank brigade in Kupyansk, and from there to Liman, where I examined the destruction and devastation. Then I went to Kramatorsk and Zaporozhye, and also visited the villages around Zaporozhye.
After that, I went to Kherson, where I visited the prison where the Russians killed and tortured people. One of the Ukrainian police officers who was imprisoned there told how he was beaten and tortured for weeks, passing electric current through his body – they hung electrodes on his earlobes and on his scrotum. He managed to survive because Ukraine liberated Kherson, and liberated it with the help of tanks, which are so needed now.
I also visited the hospital in Kherson, which was repeatedly shelled. One of the shellings happened when I left. The experience was such, I must admit, but I told the Germans about it, that people in Ukraine live in such conditions for months, and suffer very much.Also, only about 70 thousand people remained to live in Kherson. I try to explain to the Germans that they all need help and that this cannot continue, this is not a normal situation that is happening in Europe today.
After the full-scale Russian invasion, millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee Ukraine, many of them are now refugees in European countries, and a significant number live in Germany. How important is the issue of Ukrainian refugees in German society now? How do you feel about this and how will you work with this issue in the future?
This problem is given attention to the German society. I spoke with refugees from Ukraine, mostly women, who came to my hometown of Steinmal. But refugees are not a problem in German society. Most Germans happily congratulate the refugees, because we know that they are fleeing the war. Yes, and the vast majority are women and children, because men are fighting at the front, and people in Germany understand this situation very well, so it is much easier to help. And this situation makes it impossible for the issue to be stigmatized, even by political extremists. Therefore, refugees from Ukraine are very widely supported.
Russian influence in Germany: how propaganda works
We are also grateful for this help from the Germans for our refugees who are now in your country, this is a very important step and help. And how does the war in Ukraine affect the attitude of the Germans towards Russia? How was it perceived before the war and how do Germans feel about Russia now?
The difference in perception depends on the geography – from the east and west of Germany. For western Germany, Russia is one of the countries that was once a super pusher, but is actually not doing very well now, especially when it comes to an economy that is increasingly slipping into a dictatorship and dependent on a power bloc. Russia is also perceived by the entire Western world, and its military power is weakening daily under the blows of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In the east of the country the perception is different. Soviet troops have been stationed there for decades in our cities. My parents' apartment was some 500 meters from the Soviet barracks, and when in the 90s all these troops climbed in, the Germans from the east were glad and did not want them back. Therefore, when we talk about the perception of Russia by East Germany, it is still respected and feared there, they do not understand that over the decades Russia has changed, and this is not the Soviet Union, but the terrorist country that we see now,
It's clear that everything here depends on the region – the eastern and western parts. How strong and powerful was the influence of Russia on part of the German politicians – we are talking about the huge money that Moscow spent on its agents of influence, on propaganda in different European countries. Was Germany able to overcome and get rid of this Russian interference in the information sphere?
I think we are still struggling with this. We blocked RT after they blocked Deutsche Welle in Russia. Some symmetrical approach. As for the first part of your question, we still have Russian influence in the information sphere, if we talk about YouTube or other social networks – Russia is very active there and spreads disinformation. I cannot say how Russia influences German politicians.
But I know for sure that she influenced former politicians from the Social Democratic Party. For example, former Chancellor Schroeder actually works for Russian oligarchs, but I hope such cases are rare among German politicians.
How the war will end: a politician's forecast
In your opinion, how the war in Ukraine will affect the future of Europe and the Western world. But how will this war in Ukraine actually end?
The impact of the war would be felt over the next decades. If Russia wins, then all the countries in Europe will be in danger, especially the small countries that have a border with Russia – Estonia, Latvia and others. They will be very scared and will increase defense spending. The security system in Europe will become weak, this cannot be allowed, thereforeUkraine is fighting not only for itself, but for the whole of Europethat is why we must help it not only morally, but also because it will only suit us all good.
How will it end? I think that in the spring the Russian mobilized units will try to launch an offensive, but it will fail. Ukraine will continue to do what it successfully did last summer and autumn – liberate the occupied territories, put pressure on the Putin regime, thus forcing the Russians to retreat from Ukraine and accept the Ukrainian terms of peace.
This is the best scenario that could happen by the fall of this year. But, unfortunately, it is unlikely. I think that the war will go on until the pressure in Russian society becomes so high that the dictatorship in Russia falls.