100 Panzehaubitze 2000 self-propelled artillery mounts for Ukraine – it sounds as if Berlin has finally cast aside indecision and is handing over heavy weapons to Kyiv. In fact, everything is more difficult. Because these howitzers do not yet exist, they still need to be made. The Krauss-Maffei Wegmann companies gave an order for the manufacture of these guns for Kyiv – that’s all for now. Nothing more, nothing less: we start production. And on the export of howitzers to Ukraine, in general, a separate decision should be made. But this is still far away, the first batch should go to Ukraine in 2024, and the entire batch is planned to be produced by 2027.
Not for this war
What does it mean? This weapon will not have time to participate in the defense of the independence of Ukraine. Even if the fighting there drags on, it is unlikely that they will last until 2024-2027. That is, if howitzers arrive somewhere, then only in post-war Kyiv. This deal is primarily of political importance: thanks to it, Berlin will get rid of the reputation of the eternal brake. After the mini-quantities of systems already delivered, a solid figure finally sounded.
How should this be evaluated? The artillery systems being supplied now will someday be destroyed by the Russians – this is obvious. Therefore, it is clear that Ukraine will need weapons in the future. For this reason, it makes sense that countries that can give even a little today will concentrate their efforts on deliveries in the coming years. The deal also shows that such things take time, and it is not always a matter of bureaucratic red tape. They say that Kyiv was asked in April, and now the offer has only been finalized. Years will pass before the end of deliveries. And for this you should not scold one chancellor.
Money will only be spent once
At first glance, this is correct. On the second – not so much. It is naive to think that assistance to Ukraine will last forever, in fact, there is a limit to everything. To finance these 100 howitzers, a huge amount is needed. They will cost 1.7 billion euros. This money will be directly or indirectly received from German taxpayers. And only in the distant future will they turn into a strike force in the hands of the legitimate Ukrainian government. The current deal is useless for today’s fights, but it does suggest that Kyiv emerges victorious from its ordeal. Because if the peace is concluded on Putin’s terms, then he will make sure that the country that remains from Ukraine does not have the right to receive howitzers from the West.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, not today!
Regardless of this optimistic baseline assumption, it begs the question, would it not be wiser to spend this 1.7 billion euros on systems that could be obtained in the near future. The circular exchange of weapons models did not justify itself. The idea was as follows: states that have ready-to-use heavy weapons supply them to Ukraine, and a little later they themselves receive something else from Germany. But on the question of what ratio should be the deliveries to Kyiv and compensation by Germany, unity was not achieved. It would be wiser if Berlin bought new and used weapons on the world market and delivered them to Ukraine soon. The pre-war price of a fully modernized Soviet T-72 tank was approximately 1.8 million euros. Theoretically, 1.7 billion euros could buy 950 pieces. One problem: there may not be in Eastern Europe so many tanks donated by the Soviet Union to their former socialist “friends” tanks. Nevertheless, it is clear that with the allocated money you can buy a bunch of weapons on the world market, and not wait for the execution of an order for the German defense industry. And this bunch of weapons would have been used already in 2022.
Now let’s be quite frank and tough: if even more states postpone assistance to Ukraine to an indefinite future, then Kyiv will definitely not be able to win. And Putin only needs this.