Thunderbolt from Berlin: Kyiv gets 100 state-of-the-art self-propelled howitzers! Great news, but the truth is, the weapons are years too late for the war against Russia.

100 self-propelled howitzers 2000 for the Ukraine – that sounds as if the knot has burst in Berlin and Kyiv is finally getting heavy weapons. In fact, it’s more complicated. Because these howitzers don’t exist, they have to be built first. Manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) is allowed to produce these weapons for Kyiv, no more and no less. A separate decision has yet to be made about exporting to the Ukraine. But that is not necessary, the first assembly should go to the Ukraine in 2024, the whole batch should be ready in 2027.

Not for this war

What does that mean? These weapons play no role in the current combat operations. Even if the fighting drags on, it is unlikely that it will continue into 2024-2027. So the howitzers reach a post-war Kyiv. Above all, the deal has a political dimension, Berlin is getting rid of the reputation of the eternal brakeman. And instead of the mini quantities of the systems supplied, there is suddenly an impressive number in the room.

How to rate that? Systems delivered today will eventually be lost in the war. So it is clear that Ukraine will continue to need weapons in the future. And it makes sense that countries that have little to give today could then focus on being able to deliver in the years to come. The deal also shows that things take time and that procrastination is not always involved. Kyiv is said to have asked in April, now the offer has been completed. It will take years to complete delivery. And one cannot blame the chancellor for that.

Money is only spent once

At first glance that is correct. On the second less. It is naïve to think that aid to Ukraine is infinite, in fact there is a finite pot available. If 100 self-propelled howitzers are financed from this pot, that is a huge sum. The howitzers will cost 1.7 billion euros. This money is raised, whether directly or indirectly, by the German taxpayer. And this sum will only turn into fighting power in the distant future. The whole deal is useless in the current fighting, but it assumes that Kyiv is victorious in this war. Because if there is a peace according to Putin’s terms, he will ensure that a remaining rump Ukraine will definitely not be allowed to get any self-propelled howitzers from the West.

Tomorrow, tomorrow just not today!

Irrespective of this optimistic assumption, one may ask whether it would not be wiser to spend these 1.7 billion on systems that can be procured sooner. All of the ring exchange models have not proven themselves. The idea was that states with functional heavy weapons would deliver them to Ukraine and later receive other armaments from Germany in return. However, no agreement could be reached, especially on the question of the relationship between delivery to Kyiv and compensation by the Federal Republic of Germany. It would be wiser if Berlin bought new and used armaments on the world market and then delivered them promptly to the Ukraine. The pre-war price of a completely modernized T-72 main battle tank was around 1.8 million euros. Theoretically that would be almost 950 pieces. This number is hard to find, but it illustrates what you can get for the money on the international arms market. Then you would buy a hodgepodge of weapons around the world, but they would still be in use in 2022.

To put it bluntly, if more states delay their military aid until after the war, Kyiv will certainly not be able to win. Nothing better can happen to Putin.