Munich Security Conference shows unity on boosting Ukraine's war effort

Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns of war spilling over, including the dangers of Iran taking the next nuclear step

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video link during the opening of the 59th Munich Security Conference in Germany. EPA
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Germany led a show of support for Ukraine in its war against Russia on Friday by calling for countries to transfer as many tanks as possible to the front line, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said supporters must “hurry up” to end the conflict.

The Ukrainian President told the Munich Security Conference that his country's David and Goliath struggle against the invading forces was still dependent on the backing that he pleaded for in person last year in Munich, days before the invasion.

“Delay has always been and still is a mistake,” the Ukrainian leader said. “We need to hurry up. We need speed — speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery, speed of decisions to limit Russian potential.

“There is no alternative to speed because it is the speed that the life depends on.”

Mr Scholz said it was wise to prepare for a long war, and that giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the message that Ukraine's allies were united and supporting Kyiv the best they can was the surest way to ending the aggression.

Calling the Russian war uncharted territory in which a nuclear power was pursuing a war of aggression against its neighbour, Mr Scholz said caution took priority over hasty action so that unity between allies is preserved.

Having been criticised for slow decision making on approving tank deliveries, Mr Scholz noted other European countries had not followed through.

“All those who can supply battle tanks must now do so,” he said. “Germany is now canvassing for this.”

Mr Zelenskyy warned of the conflict's fallout beyond Europe when he said that the implications of Iranian drone supplies to Moscow's forces was spilling over into nuclear threats.

In return for “lethal Iranian drones” in the skies above Ukraine, Mr Zelenskyy said it was possible the world would face an “enriched-uranium regime”.

“No one of us wants to let the region of the Middle East face this,” he said.

In a wide-raging address, French President Emmanuel Macron said there was a spectre from the nuclear sphere that had emerged from the war.

“There is a nuclear aspect of this matter, non-verbalised questions in this war, and nuclear issues are one of these,” he said.

Noting that Russia was always going to be a European country, Mr Macron said the nations of the region had to make a credible commitment to end the colonial mindset that had led to the launch of the attack on Ukraine.

“We must provide help so that Ukraine itself launches a counter-offensive, which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities and its people,” he said.

“We must collectively be credible because it’s the only way to make Russia come back to the negotiating table."

Germany is now opening up a test for European countries that pressured it to free up tank supplies. Only Germany and Portugal have so far committed to sending the more modern A6 version of the Leopard 2 tank, while Poland is leading efforts to put together a 31-tank battalion of the older A4s.

Updated: February 17, 2023, 4:40 PM