As a first step, Germany wants to support Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks in the war against the Russian attackers. This was announced by government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Wednesday in Berlin. The aim is to quickly assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks.
For their part, European partners would provide tanks for this purpose. The federal government will issue the appropriate permits for this.
The support package also included training, logistics and ammunition. The tanks are said to come from Bundeswehr stocks. “This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We act internationally in a closely coordinated manner, ”said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
For months Ukraine has been demanding western-style main battle tanks to fight the Russian attackers. The first official request to the federal government came just a week after the start of the war at the beginning of March last year. The front line in eastern Ukraine has hardly moved in weeks. With the battle tanks, Ukraine is now hoping to get back on the offensive and recapture more territory. At the same time, an offensive by Russia is feared for the spring.
It is expected that the US tank plans will also become more concrete on Wednesday. According to US media, the Americans want to provide Ukraine with around 30 M1 Abrams tanks. However, according to the Washington Post, it will likely be months, if not years, before the Abrams tanks see action in the war. According to the newspaper, it is unlikely that the vehicles will arrive in Ukraine in the spring, when the Russian offensive or a counter-offensive by Ukraine to recapture Russian-held areas is expected.
So far, the USA had emphasized that it did not consider an Abrams deployment to be sensible for practical reasons. Chancellor Scholz has always emphasized how important it is to him to make the decision about such a delivery of new quality weapons.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted cautiously to the reports of tank deliveries on Tuesday evening. The discussions must now lead to decisions, he demanded. “Decisions that really strengthen our defenses against the (Russian) terrorists.”
As a production country, Germany plays a key role in the issue of Leopard delivery. If armaments are sold to other countries, end-use clauses are always built into the contracts. This stipulates that the federal government must agree to the transfer to third countries.
Scholz has been under pressure since Tuesday because of an official export application from the Polish government. Poland has been putting pressure on Germany for a long time in the discussion about the supply of main battle tanks. The week before last, President Andrzej Duda announced that Ukraine would be given 14 Leopard main battle tanks. It is now clear that the federal government will approve the Polish export application.
Of the 14 European countries that have Leopard tanks, in addition to Poland, Finland and the Netherlands have also clarified their readiness to supply main battle tanks. On the other hand, the Czech Republic announced on Tuesday that it did not want to give up the Leopard 2 main battle tanks in favor of Ukraine, which Germany had promised in the course of a ring exchange. “It is now not possible to send the Leopards on because we need these tanks for our security,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told dpa.