According to unanimous media reports, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is ready to allow the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine - but only under certain conditions. According to information from the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", Scholz made it clear in a telephone call to US President Joe Biden that Germany could only deliver if the US in turn provided Ukraine with Abrams battle tanks. Biden had apparently not yet made a decision in the conversation on Tuesday.
The "Bild" newspaper, citing government circles, also reported that Scholz wanted to allow both German Leopard deliveries and NATO partners - even if the USA also made Abrams tanks available. According to the report, Scholz is concerned that Europe and the USA only give battle tanks to Ukraine together so that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot split NATO.
The Chancellery did not want to comment on the reports in the evening. On Wednesday, the European Parliament asked Scholz to clear the way for the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks. The Chancellor should "without further delay" set up a consortium of countries that can provide such tanks, according to a motion that was approved by a large majority in Strasbourg on Wednesday. Shortly before the West discussed further military aid in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate on Friday, the pressure on Scholz to make a decision increased further.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects Ramstein to send the message that Ukraine is getting "more ongoing support, heavier weapons and more modern weapons." It is a fight for one's own values and democracy, he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the international community of hesitating too long. "The time that the free world needs to think is used by the terrorist state (Russia) to kill," Zelenskyy said in a video speech.
Scholz sticks to his line in Davos
At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, the chancellor did not indicate any trend. He again pointed out that Germany, together with Great Britain and after the USA, is already one of the largest arms suppliers to Ukraine, which has been attacked by Russia. "We will continue to be such a big supporter," he promised. Germany will deliver weapons as long as it is necessary.
Scholz confirmed that he would only decide on new steps together with the allies. He explicitly named the USA and France. We want to continue to avoid a war between NATO and Russia.
Scholz is on the lever
This Thursday, after being sworn in, Scholz' new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) will be the first to discuss further support for Ukraine with his US colleague Lloyd Austin in Berlin. 20 countries worldwide have the modern Leopard 2 tanks, which are produced in Germany. The federal government must therefore approve any transfer of these tanks - no matter from which country. This is usually stipulated in the sales contract. That means: Scholz is in charge of delivering the tanks to Ukraine.
Poland and Finland have already agreed to make Leopard 2 available to the European network. Great Britain has announced that it will supply other types of main battle tanks to Ukraine. However, their Challenger 2 are comparable to the Leopard 2.
At the request of the Greens, the European Parliament's request to Scholz was included in a report on the common security and defense policy. This has no legal binding. However, the fact that a head of government of an EU country is asked to do something by name in such a report is considered unusual - especially since the request was submitted on the initiative of the Greens, who are part of the federal government.
"The pressure on the German federal government to finally allow the deliveries of Leopard 2 tanks is also growing in Europe," commented the CDU foreign politician David McAllister (CDU) on the decision. He stressed that on October 6 the European Parliament voted in favor of supplying main battle tanks to Ukraine.
Ukraine will Panzer
Loud calls for main battle tanks came from Ukraine again. Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk told the news portal "t-online" that he expected Pistorius to act "much more decisively and quickly" than his predecessor Christine Lambrecht (SPD). Germany must deliver "battle tanks, fighter jets, warships, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, anti-aircraft defense and of course sufficient ammunition".
Wladimir Klitschko, brother of Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, wrote to Pistorius on Twitter: "We in Ukraine are counting on you being serious about the sentence: "Ukraine must win this war!" That's all that's important to us now and we need it one thing above all: Leopard II tanks!". The Ambassador of Ukraine in Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, joined the demand in "Münchner Merkur" and criticized that Germany apparently does not have a long-term strategy for deliveries, but "always only thinks from day to day".
Former Bundeswehr General Hans-Lothar Domröse expects the restraint in Berlin to be abandoned. "I expect that the federal government will make the commitment to deliver Leopard main battle tanks at the meeting of Ukraine supporters on Friday in Ramstein," Domröse told the newspapers of the Funke media group. "I assume that they will not only allow the European partners to send the battle tanks, but also add "Leos" from the Bundeswehr's stock - maybe in the low double-digit range." In this way, a total of around 100 Leopard tanks could be delivered to Ukraine from Europe.
Tanks are considered important for recapturing occupied territories. The Leopard 2, on the other hand, is considered one of the most effective main battle tanks in the world. The Ukrainians want to use him to break through opposing lines in what has recently been a rather static trench warfare.