The defense ministers of 50 countries met at the US air force base in Ramstein on Friday to discuss aid for Ukraine. Germany wants to check the availability of Leopard 2 tanks. The USA does not yet want to deliver Abrams main battle tanks. All news in the news ticker.
Reading tip: You can read more about the war in Ukraine in the FOCUS online news ticker.
Military base – Is the Ramstein base really US territory? Does German law apply there?
Saturday, January 21, 2023, 1:13 p.m.: The foreign ministers of the Baltic countries have asked Germany to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine. “This is necessary to stop Russian aggression, to help Ukraine and to quickly restore peace in Europe,” wrote Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics on Twitter on Saturday – according to his own statements also on behalf of his counterparts from Estonia and Lithuania. “As a leading European power, Germany has a special responsibility in this regard.”
Despite considerable pressure from Ukraine and allies, the federal government has not yet made a decision on the delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Kyiv. On Friday, the allies met for a Ukraine conference in Ramstein, at which further billions in aid for the country attacked by Russia were agreed.
10:57 p.m .: The chair of the Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FPD), has sharply criticized the postponed German decision on the supply of main battle tanks to Ukraine. “At least a signal would have been right to give the partners the green light,” she said on Friday on ZDF’s “heute journal” with a view to the desire of countries like Poland to send their own Leopard-2 from German production to Ukraine deliver. However, they need a permit from Berlin for this.
“History is looking at us, and unfortunately Germany just failed,” complained Strack-Zimmermann. The communication, especially from Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on this issue was a “disaster”, because on the one hand Germany is massively supporting Ukraine, but the lack of a decision on the battle tanks gives a different impression. Scholz remains guilty of explanations. From their point of view, the new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) is “on the chain”, said Strack-Zimmermann. However, she is certain that the Leopard-2 will ultimately be delivered to Ukraine.
9:20 p.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to continue fighting for the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. During the talks, he heard a lot of understanding for the needs of Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia, said Zelenskyj in his video message distributed every evening in Kyiv on Friday evening. “Yes, we will still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks, but every day we make it more obvious that there is no alternative to choosing tanks,” he said.
At the Ukraine conference at the US air force base in Ramstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, no decision was made on the delivery of main battle tanks. Nevertheless, Zelenskyj was optimistic that he will receive the tanks. Not everything that was discussed in Ramstein was intended for the public, Zelenskyj said.
7.46 p.m .: After the meeting of Ukraine supporters at the US air base in Ramstein, the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk criticized the federal government for its blockade attitude in the delivery of battle tanks. “It is a huge disappointment that Germany ducked the subject of leopards,” said the former Ukrainian ambassador in Germany to the “Welt am Sonntag”. “The fact that you still want to weigh things up is nothing more than a disgrace.”
Berlin was wasting valuable time with “questionable salami tactics” in arms aid for Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia, criticized the government representative. At the meeting of the Ukraine contact group on Friday, representatives of 50 supporter nations of Ukraine met at the US base in Ramstein. They could not agree on the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
The new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) said on Friday in Ramstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, that he had arranged for an inventory of Leopard main battle tanks to be checked for possible delivery to Ukraine. With regard to an actual delivery, however, there is still “no uniform opinion” among the Ukraine supporters.
“What should you check, please?” Melnyk asked in an interview with the broadcasters RTL and ntv. By early March 2022, Ukraine had already realized how many tanks the Bundeswehr and the German armaments industry could supply to Ukraine. “I therefore call on the Minister of Defense to complete this examination very quickly in the next few days in order to finally enable the delivery of German battle tanks.” Ukraine needs “a huge tank alliance” to save human lives in Ukraine.
6:50 p.m .: US Chief of Staff Mark Milley still considers the chance of an early military victory for Ukraine in the war started by Russia to be low. From a military standpoint, it would be “very, very difficult” for Ukraine to drive Russian forces out of every inch of Ukraine and Russian-held territories this year, Milley said Friday after a Ukraine conference at the US Ramstein Air Force Base. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” he stressed, “but it would be very, very difficult.” He believes that this war, like many before it, will end at the negotiating table.
Massive combat operations are taking place and Ukraine has made some important advances. But the front line is very long and mostly static, Milley said. It is initially more likely that the focus will continue to be on defense in order to stabilize the front. And depending on how quickly the arms deliveries from international partners and the training of the Ukrainian military in new weapon systems progress, a significant counter-offensive by Ukraine is also possible in order to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible.
6:25 p.m .: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has defended his country’s and Germany’s decision not to supply heavy battle tanks to Ukraine for the time being. “It’s not really about a single platform,” Austin said Friday after a Ukraine contact group meeting at the US base in Ramstein, Rhineland-Palatinate. The US and its allies are “fairly successful” in providing Ukraine with the military capabilities needed in the war against Russia.
Austin referred to new military aid from the West for the Ukrainian armed forces. “It’s a very, very capable package,” the Pentagon chief said. “And used properly, it will enable them (the Ukrainians) to succeed.” Time is of the essence when it comes to arms shipments to Ukraine: “Now is a golden opportunity,” Austin said. “Between now and spring, whenever they begin their operation, their counter-offensive. That’s not a lot of time.”
At the same time, Austin emphasized that no decision had been made with regard to a possible delivery of US Abrams battle tanks – also known as M1 – or German Leopard 2 battle tanks. “I have no announcement on M1 and you heard the German defense minister say they haven’t made a decision on the Leopards yet.”
5:28 p.m .: “Russia has announced a mobilization of 300,000 soldiers – maybe they have to replace parts of it,” says Milley and then speaks of a “bloody war with high losses on both sides. At some point there will have to be negotiations.” That is the end of the statement.
5:26 p.m .: Milley is also “convinced that the Ukrainian armed forces have carried out at least two, if not more, successful offensives. So we’ll have to see how they cope with the new equipment. We have talked about the vision and will continue to pursue it,” said the chief of staff.
5:24 p.m .: “Germany is a reliable partner and has been for a long time. I’m sure they will continue to be.” Then there is a question about the US Abrams tanks – should they be supplied so that Germany could send Leopard tanks? Again he refers to the statement by Pistorius. “Maybe they heard that there was no connection between the Abrams and Leopard shipments, so that’s not a question,” counters Austin.
5:21 p.m.: “Putin has chosen this war. He could stop him today,” says Milley. Then there’s a question for Austin. Is Germany doing enough to stop the war? “Yes,” says Austin curtly. “But we can all do more.” Then he talks again about the German supplies, the training of Ukrainians in Germany by the Bundeswehr and the US forces stationed in the country. The US minister is clearly trying to praise Germany as an important partner.
5:19 p.m .: Austin also remains general in the further answers. A Real Answer to the Leopard Demand? none. Then Milley takes over and talks about the frontline in Ukraine. “The front line is very active,” he says – that’s nothing new. “We support Ukraine here. Militarily it will be very difficult this year to expel the Russians from the occupied territories. It won’t be impossible, but difficult.”
5:17 p.m .: The next question also goes in the direction of main battle tanks, especially Leopard. How Germany can still be seen as a reliable tank and how things will continue with Crimea is asked. “We have been very successful so far and have delivered a lot of things. It’s about supplying what’s needed,” Austin evades, drawing attention to the Stryker and Bradley tanks that the US is supplying, as well as tank supplies from other nations, such as the Marder, which Germany is supplying. “This is a very powerful package that will be very successful if used properly.”
5.15 p.m .: Now the round is open for questions. The first question immediately goes towards main battle tanks, which Austin didn’t mention. “Maybe they heard the statement from the German defense minister,” says Austin. He doesn’t say much more about it – a lot is repeated.
5:12 p.m .: Then he goes back to the aid package that US President Biden approved on Thursday and lists what it includes. “This package shows how determined we are to protect the Ukrainian people from indiscriminate attacks by Russia.”
5:10 p.m .: Now he hands over the floor to Chief of Staff Milley. “I had the opportunity to visit the training centers in Germany,” he begins and then praises the actions of the world in the Ukraine war. “I’ve never seen the world act as united as it is now.”
You can read more information on this topic on the next page.