Despite international pressure, Germany has not yet decided whether to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine or to accept donations of Leopard tanks from other countries. More armoured vehicles and air defence systems were agreed to be supplied at a meeting on Friday to coordinate military donations for Kyiv. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had previously made a direct request for advanced tanks to counter Russia. The foreign minister of Poland expressed disappointment in Germany for its reluctance to send tanks.
“It is not a matter of making a decision to arm Ukraine to fend off Russian aggression. Actual Ukrainian blood is being spilled. This is what happens when you delay Leopard deliveries. The time for action is now, “An online post by Zbigniew Rau. While the West has pledged billions for other weapons, Ukraine was hoping for Germany to contribute tanks.
The Leopard 2 tanks made in Germany are what the Ukrainians are after because they are more durable than the Russian T-90 tanks being used in the invasion and require less maintenance. President Zelensky estimates that his country needs about 300 of the estimated 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks in the world in order to defeat Russia. However, until Berlin gives the green light, other countries like Poland and Finland, who want to supply German-made Leopard 2s, are unable to do so due to German export laws.
Although Ukraine does have tanks, they are Soviet-era relics that are prone to breakdown and lack modern features like reinforced armour and laser rangefinders. The government realises that fielding a sizable force of western-supplied armour is its best, and possibly only, chance of fending off the massed assault Russia is expected to launch in the coming months. In a video address on Friday night, Mr. Zelensky said, “There is no alternative to supplying our country with tanks.” “Each arrangement must be carried out as quickly as possible – for our defence.”
According to reports from earlier this week, Germany has decided to provide the tanks if the United States agrees to send its advanced M1 Abrams tank. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking after a meeting of 54 countries at Germany’s Ramstein air base on Friday, said Berlin wasn’t waiting for the United States to take the initiative. “This idea of unlocking is not an issue in my mind,” he said.
Mr. Austin said, “They are a reliable ally, they have been that way for a very, very long time, and I truly believe that they will continue to be a reliable ally going forward,” in reference to Germany’s broader contribution to the defence of Ukraine. To reporters, he said, “I don’t have any announcements to make on M1s [Abrams tanks] and you heard the German minister of defence say that they’ve not made a decision on Leopards.” The United Kingdom, for one, has pledged to send 14 Challenger 2 tanks.
With some hesitance due to concerns about the Abrams tanks, the United States this week announced new support totaling over $2.5 billion (£2 billion), some of which will be used to purchase armoured vehicles. An additional 59 Bradley armoured vehicles, 90 Stryker personnel carriers, and Avenger air defence systems were among the promised supplies from the Pentagon.
In addition, after a Thursday meeting in Estonia, nine European countries pledged increased assistance of their own. Among them were:
- UK – 600 Brimstone missiles
- Denmark – 19 French-made Caesar self-propelled howitzers (cannon)
- Estonia – howitzers, ammunition, support vehicles and anti-tank grenade launchers
- Latvia – Stinger air-defence systems, two helicopters, and drones
- Lithuania – anti-aircraft guns and two helicopters
- Poland – S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 pieces of ammunition
- Czech Republic – produce further large calibre ammunition, howitzers and APCs
- Netherlands – support expected to be detailed on Friday