As news began to emerge that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was planning to visit Kyiv together with two other European leaders — French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi — Melnyk posted a photo on Twitter of five tanks, together with the following message to the German government: “Why do you deny the Ukrainian army access to these Marder infantry fighting vehicles available immediately from Rheinmetall, as the Ukrainian forces were bleeding to death before your very eyes?”
Shortly thereafter came an update. “The people of Ukraine expect that during his visit to Kyiv Chancellor Olaf Scholz will announce that he is bringing with him a new relief package of German weaponry, which absolutely should immediately include the deliverable Leopard-1 tanks as well as more Marder armored infantry fighting vehicles,” Melnyk told the dpa news agency.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously called for more dispatches of additional and quicker consignments of Western weapons. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, was quoted in Germany’s mass-circulation tabloid Bild as saying: “What we need from the three leaders of the most important countries are tougher support sanctions and weapons as quickly as possible.” Both have stressed their conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions extend far beyond Kyiv.
There are now high expectations for a visit by the Italian, French and German leaders, especially because the latter has taken his time to make an appearance in Kyiv despite having been officially invited to visit the Ukrainian capital. In April there was a reported diplomatic snafu due to the Ukrainian government being displeased with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s earlier soft stances toward the Kremlin — which the president acknowledged as mistaken.
The uncomfortable situation only began to calm after Steinmeier and Zelenskyy got together to clear the air. Even then, however, Scholz demurred: “I’m not going to line up and become one of those people who’ll do anything for another quick photo op,” he was quoted as saying in mid-May.
In the meantime, Conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz beat the reluctant chancellor to Kyiv. He was in turn followed by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, of the Green Party. But by that time the likes of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had also visited, promising further military and economic support via a worldwide alliance.
British, American, and Eastern European politicians were quick to come up with the goods: more weapons. Scholz, meanwhile, continued warning of a third world war and refused to send heavy weapons until increasing pressure from Washington forced his hand. The chancellor then promised, alongside tanks and howitzers, the Iris-T air defense system and four multiple rocket launchers. So far, however, it seems that all that has been delivered is some light weaponry and munitions.
“It’s time for deeds to follow words,” says Henning Hoff of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “Ideally, he would have joined the French president’s visit to Kyiv after Emmanuel Macron was re-elected. That would have been a strong signal of solidarity and support. But better late than never.” Now, Hoff says, the time has come for the chancellor to “correct that failure,” and address the delivery of the promised missile launchers and air defense systems.