After weeks of pressure from international allies, Germany has announced it will send 14 German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other NATO countries to send more German tanks to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia. The announcement came after the United States agreed to also send a shipment of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. For more, we speak with lawmaker Sevim Dağdelen, a member of the Left Party in the German parliament who says the majority of the German public wants more diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. “It concerns me a lot that many so-called progressives in the United States are supporting this line by the Biden administration to push Germany more and more into this proxy war,” says Dağdelen.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Germany has officially announced it will send 14 German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other NATO allies to send more German tanks to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia. Germany made the announcement after the United States reportedly agreed to also send 30 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. In a statement, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, quote, “This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally,” he said. Germany will also provide training and ammunition for the tanks.
Scholz had faced intense pressure in recent weeks from Poland, the United States and other European nations to approve the tanks, despite concern by many in Germany that it could lead to an escalation of the war in Ukraine and retaliation by Russia. The head of the Left Party in Germany’s parliament warned the move, quote, “potentially takes us closer to a Third World War than in the direction of peace in Europe.”
Supporters of the decision include NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has repeatedly urged NATO members to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine.
JENS STOLTENBERG: The only way to lasting peace is to make it clear to Putin that he will not win on the battlefield. Therefore, we must provide heavier and more advanced systems so that Ukrainian forces are able to repel the Russian forces, not only to survive, but to win, take back territory and prevail as a sovereign independent state in Europe.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by a member of Germany’s parliament, Sevim Dağdelen, a member of the opposition Left Party, elected to the German parliament in 2005 and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She’s also a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. She’s joining us from Havana, Cuba, where she’s visiting as part of a delegation organized by the Progressive International.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. For people in the United States, they might particularly not understand what this controversy is about, for some people. Can you talk about what the decision means today, the announcement, to send these Leopard tanks to Ukraine but also allow other countries, like Poland, who have these tanks, and in Scandinavia, to be able to send them to [Ukraine], as well, getting them originally from Germany?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, hello, Amy. And thanks for having me.
This decision, sending battle tanks to Ukraine from Germany and giving the decision that Poland and others can send Leopard 2 German tanks to Ukraine, is a historic wrong decision. And it comes only because of the pressure, the heavy pressure, of the United States Biden administration, we have to say. Several months ago, Chancellor Scholz, in the German parliament, in the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it is a red line. It’s a line of escalation, sending battle tanks from Germany to Ukraine. That would cross a red line. But the pressure now was too heavy, too strong from the Biden administration to send Germany in the frontline of this war. And it was the pressure of the coalition partners, the Greens and the liberals — they are actually the neocons in this coalition in Germany. They officially said that they would breach the coalition if these battle tanks, Leopard 2, wouldn’t be sent by Chancellor Scholz to Ukraine. That was the problem.
And we are now in a very bad situation, because I think it’s a wrong decision, historic wrong decision, because it’s against the majority of the population in Germany. According to new polls in the last — in the recent days, the majority in Germany is against sending battle tanks to Ukraine. The majority is in favor for more diplomacy, for a negotiated peace in Ukraine.
And the other thing is, the 31st of January will be the anniversary, the 80th anniversary, of the battle in Stalingrad. And every family in Russia lost loved ones in this battle in Stalingrad. And you do not have to be a prophet to know that sending German tanks against Russia in this proxy war of the United States will have a way more mobilization in the Russian society in this war. So, that means you have the opposite impact what you want actually within Russia towards this war. And this is why it is historically so wrong to send battle tanks.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sevim Dağdelen, I wanted to ask you — here in the United States, the mass media are even more warlike than the government, constantly pressing the Biden administration to provide more aid and increasingly lethal aid to Ukraine. I’m wondering: What is the situation in Germany in terms of the media’s impact on your government leaders? How are they portraying or depicting the need for more armaments for Ukraine?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, you know, we have a really extremely warmongering atmosphere in Germany, caused by the media, the mainstream media, as well. And it was interesting. I was, in March or in April last year, in the United States, in Washington, D.C., and representatives of the State Department, of the Pentagon and the National Security Council, they all said that the German media made such a great work in Germany to push the German new government for the Zeitenwende, for 100 billion euro for militarization and sending weapons and arms to Ukraine. And I think, you know, it must be something wrong if representatives of a third state, like in the United States, are saying the German press is working well.
The problem is, the German mainstream press is so much involved, incorporated within the Atlantic Council, transatlantic think tanks and so on. So, many editors, mainly the main editors, or chief editors, are corporated in these transatlantic think tanks. And that’s the problem. We have the policy of interest of the United States. And I believe it’s not even the interest of the population of the people in the United States. It’s the interest of an elite, of neocons in the United States, who are having, obviously — obviously — having the position that Europe is like Latin America for the United States in the ’70s, and a continent where you can do what you favor is what you please. And that’s really a problem.
And obviously, it is a good business to have a war in Europe for the U.S. fracking industry and for the military-industrial complex in the United States. And this is also a concrete example with sending tanks to Ukraine. Sending tanks from Germany and the German tanks, the Leopard 2, is also in the interest of the United States military-industrial complex, because their thesis, if they get lost, the Leopard 2 tanks, the modern — the most modern weapon system in Europe, we do have, in tanks system, then they can supply their own tanks, because, you see, the other thing is, Scholz failed — Amy Goodman just announced Scholz failed in his demand towards the United States to send also tanks, battle tanks, to Ukraine, because, according to The Washington Post, it can take several years, up to several years, to send the U.S. tanks.
So they’re pushing us, the Germans, into this fire, into the frontline of this fire, especially regarding their own interests, supplying their own military-industrial products, and to have the situation that Germany and Russia, for good, have no relations at all. I mean, that was in the past. When you see the books of Brzezinski and so on, of many think tankers in the United States, it was always an aim by the United States elites to destroy the relationship between Germany and Russia. And this is my concern, because yesterday, last night, already the Green foreign minister in Germany, Annalena Baerbock, started to say, officially, we are fighting a war against Russia, she says. That means we are in a war already against Russia. And that concerns me a lot. And it concerns me a lot also that many so-called progressives in the United States are supporting this line by the Biden administration to push Germany more and more into this proxy war and, yeah, taking the risk that it can have an extension to the Third World War.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted —
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: And the problem is —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned —
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: — having Third World War in a continent like Europe will not affect you in the United States, 8,000 kilometers away from Europe. It will affect our people in Europe.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned also the fracking industry in this proxy war. Most Americans are not aware of the enormous profits that are being made by U.S. natural gas companies as a result of this war, and the impact it’s having on the energy needs of Europe. Could you talk about what’s happening in Germany in terms of gas prices and the necessities for heating there?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, we have the — according to the new publications by several economic institutes in Germany, we have a real loss of wages of about 5%. So, it’s a concrete 4.7%. It’s the biggest loss in real wages in — the biggest loss in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany since 1945. People cannot afford to pay their rents, to pay the gas prices, the energy prices, the petrol. And they can’t afford even to pay for food. That’s the problem. Two million people, the first time in history in Germany last year, they had to go to the public food services to get food, and this in one of the most economic powerful countries in the world. So, we have a really loss in the majority of the population.
And on the other side, we have a huge profit on the side of the companies, more than 100 billion profit made by the industry of energy and oil companies and all the big companies, as well. And the fracking industry from the U.S. is a big profiteer of this crisis, as well, of the sanctions. You know, it is all caused by the sanctions against Russia, these energy sanctions. And it doesn’t harm Russia. The Russian Gazprom firm, the company, made in the first half of 2022 more than 40 billion just profit. Just profiting. And the same at the end of the year. So they are profiting from this war. The only one who is suffering is the population in Europe, because of the sanctions, because the sanctions are turning into an economical war against our own population.
And the fracking industry from the United States, they are sending now tanks of their dirty gas from the United States, which is against the climate, as well. And the thing is, one tank, they can get profit up to 200 million or 300 million euro. There is no limit at all, because just on the way from the United States to Europe, the prices can rise. So, they are making a lot of profit, because the need for Germany for this gas is approximately that you would need more than 1,100 tanks per year. And I can’t see that we can afford this to pay to the United States, in comparison to the cheap and less dirty gas from Russia.
AMY GOODMAN: Sevim Dağdelen —
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: That’s a really huge problem for the German population.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about Germany’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius’s comments just before we went to air. This is what he said.
BORIS PISTORIUS: [translated] I believe that this decision is historic, because it is being made again in a coordinated manner, because it is being made in a highly explosive situation in Ukraine. And that is why the decision deserves respect. But, of course, it also deserves the respect of everyone who is concerned that this war will continue in this way and that we will possibly suffer more from it at some point than we would like today. … But one thing is clear: We will not become a party to the war. We will make sure of that.
AMY GOODMAN: If you can respond to what the new defense minister said, right? The previous defense minister, Lambrecht, she was —
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Lambrecht.
AMY GOODMAN: — ultimately forced to resign. And if you can talk about this controversy and also respond to the division of progressives, from the United States to Germany, those that say, “Do not feed the military-industrial complex,” and those that say, “If Ukraine doesn’t get these heavy weapons, Russia will succeed in taking more land”?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, I really have to warn: All these illusionists, all these people who are fantasizing about a victory against Russia, they are underestimating Russia like Napoleon and Hitler did in the past. And, you know, it’s a nuclear — the most powerful nuclear power in the world. And there is no way to win a war, a conventional war, against such a nuclear power. And this is the dangerous part of this discussion, that, on the one hand side, they all are saying that President Putin from Russia is insane and he’s crazy and he’s a monster and whatever, and they’re trying to demonize him, like they did in the past with Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi or anyone else they wanted to put down — and the thing is, they say he’s crazy, but, on the other side, they say, “Well, it’s a bluff. We don’t think that Putin is so irrational to use nuclear weapons.” I mean, come on. We cannot seriously debate of using nuclear weapons, because if they will be used once, it’s the end of the human civilization, at least in Europe, maybe not in the United States, but in Europe definitely. And that makes me really worried about it, this debate.
And the other thing is, the former minister, Ministry of Defense in Germany, Christine Lambrecht, she was so much under pressure from the neocons in Germany, the Greens, the liberals and the mass media. They put her a lot of under pressure to resign, because they wanted to replace her with a more transatlantic warmongerer than she was for them. She was not enough warmongering. And Pistorius was a, surprisingly, decision made by Chancellor Scholz, but, unfortunately, he is disappointing, as well, because he is not acting according to the will of the majority of the population in Germany, that says more diplomacy for a negotiated peace rather than sending battle tanks. He is now saying, “Well, we’re sending battle tanks in cooperation with our allies.”
And I have to say, very frankly, the United States has no allies. The United States is just interested in their own interests, and they are just interested in vessels. And that’s the point. Poland and so on, all the other countries who were pushing Germany and Chancellor Scholz to say yes to the Leopard 2 tanks, they are also doing exactly that what the United States want from them. That’s the thing. The United States is pushing them into the front and saying them, “Please do this,” and then they’re putting the pressure and creating an atmosphere of pressure to the German government, because of the German history, two times. Two world wars started from Germany with the attacks against Russia or, respectively, Soviet Union. And now we are sending again tanks against Russia, against Moscow. And our new foreign minister, I mean, she actually says that Pistorius is wrong, because she actually said last night, “We are in a war against Russia.” She said that, literally.
So, that means I am very concerned that this is not the last decision taken by, because sending the Leopard 2 tanks, they are not a game changer. In the long term or in the medium term, they will not change anything on the ground in Ukraine, because Russia will react. And the problem is, now the nationalist government in Ukraine already demanded from Germany and from the NATO states really massive combat aircraft systems, helicopters, Tornadoes, Eurofighters. And that makes sense. It’s understandable from the point of the Ukraine government to put NATOmore and more into this war to help them to survive. But I do think that it’s not a military game changer, sending the tanks, but it will be a political game changer to put NATO states like Germany more and more into this war against Russia. But we do need more diplomacy to end this killings, this senseless killings. Whoever wants to send more weapons to Ukraine is in favor of more killings in Ukraine.
AMY GOODMAN: Sevim Dağdelen, we want to thank you very much for being with us, a member of the opposition Left Party in Germany, Kurdish German member of parliament, also a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, speaking to us from Havana, Cuba, where she is there as part of a delegation of Progressive International.
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