In the defensive war against the Russian invasion, Ukraine is pushing for battle tanks. But the federal government has not yet delivered any German Leopard 2 tanks – and has not given its partners official permission either. This not only triggers a shaking of heads among the opposition.
Ukraine has sharply criticized Germany’s continued hesitation in supplying Leopard main battle tanks. “Every day of delay means death for Ukrainians,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak on Saturday, without explicitly naming Germany. The Baltic States jointly demanded that Berlin deliver Leopard tanks immediately. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has already announced that Ukrainian soldiers will be trained on Leopard tanks in Poland.
“Global indecisiveness” on the issue of main battle tank supplies “kills more of our people,” wrote presidential adviser Podoliak on Twitter, adding to Kiev’s western allies: “Think faster.” In a joint message from the Baltic States, which is rare in this form, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics wrote on Twitter that Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania called on Germany to “immediately deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine”.
This is “necessary to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine and quickly restore peace in Europe,” Rinkevics wrote. As the “most powerful state in Europe”, Germany has “a special responsibility in this regard”. Internationally, other partners were disappointed by Germany. “It’s like acid eating through trust layer by layer,” a senior NATO diplomat told CNN on Friday.
At the meeting of the Ukraine contact group at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate on Friday, no decision was made on the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine. However, the participants in the Ukraine meeting promised numerous other armaments to ward off the Russian attack.
Before the meeting in Ramstein, Poland and other EU and NATO countries had agreed to provide the Ukrainian army with German-made Leopard tanks. However, the federal government would have to give the green light for this.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Reznikov told the US foreign broadcaster Voice of America, countries “that already have Leopard tanks can start training missions for our tank crews”. With regard to Leopard deliveries from Germany, Resnikov stated that he hoped that Germany would make a decision after “internal consultations”. He is also in contact with the new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) and is “optimistic”.
According to numerous military experts, modern main battle tanks would be a significant advantage for Kyiv – especially on the front in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is currently returning to the offensive after severe setbacks in the autumn.
Politicians from both the coalition and the opposition are disappointed that the federal government has not yet made a decision to deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. “Unfortunately, Germany just failed,” said FDP defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann on ZDF. Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) also reacted dissatisfied. “I would have wished that the German government had already cleared the way for the delivery of Leopard tanks this week,” she told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Sunday editions). “These are urgently needed in Ukraine.”
CDU foreign affairs expert Kiesewetter told the “Augsburger Allgemeine” on Saturday that the result of the Ramstein meeting “is unfortunately a further isolation for Germany”. All partners had been waiting for a decision on the Leopard issue, but Kiesewetter criticized the federal government as hesitating and refusing to take the lead. “Russia will be pleased with the publicly apparent cracks among partners in Ukraine support.”