After months of discussions, the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine is drawing near. According to media reports, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is now ready to do so - but only under certain conditions.
According to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and the "Bild" newspaper, 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 its own Abrams battle tanks.
The head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, called the delivery of Leopard tanks to Kyiv overdue and a "moral obligation". However, according to a survey commissioned by the dpa, the population in this country continues to be predominantly skeptical about this plan.
US Secretary of Defense in Berlin
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Berlin on Wednesday evening to discuss further support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. This Thursday morning he meets the new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), who will be sworn in in the Bundestag in the morning and then take over official business.
"Bild" reported, citing government circles, that Scholz wanted to allow both German Leopard deliveries and NATO partners - if the USA also made their Abrams tanks available. As a result, the Chancellor is concerned that Europe and the USA only give battle tanks to Kyiv together so that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot split NATO. The Chancellery did not want to comment on the reports in the evening.
According to reports, the USA is preparing new large arms deliveries to Ukraine. The news portal "Politico" reported on Wednesday, citing informed circles, that the United States is considering, among other things, the delivery of Stryker wheeled armored personnel carriers. The US is not currently expected to approve deliveries of its own Abrams main battle tanks, the report said. The reason is the extensive maintenance and training on the battle tank. There was initially no official confirmation of this.
Advice on further military support
This Friday, the defense ministers of several dozen countries will meet at the Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate to discuss further military support for Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the meeting to send a signal that "more heavier weapons and more modern weapons" are available for Ukraine.
The delivery of western-style main battle tanks will play a central role in this. Great Britain has already announced it, Poland and Finland are ready to do so in the European association. Germany plays a key role because the Leopard 2 tanks are produced here. The federal government must approve any transfer of these tanks, which are owned by 20 countries.
The Leopard 2 is considered one of the best 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.
Heusgen speaks of "moral obligation"
Heusgen criticized that the battle tank delivery had been delayed. "When we see the terrible suffering the Russians are causing in the occupied territories, then there is also a moral obligation when it comes to battle tanks," he told the German Press Agency. President Vladimir Putin is not moving an iota from his policy. "And then you just have to say: Unfortunately, this man only understands the language of hardness."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly confirmed that the West is hesitant to deliver arms. At the moment it is particularly important to anticipate Russia's military mobilization, he said on Wednesday. "The supply of Western battle tanks must anticipate the next invasion of Russian battle tanks."
In Germany, too, there were renewed demands from the opposition Union, but also from the coalition partners FDP and Greens, to quickly deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. Pistorius must work to ensure "that we finally make Leopard 2 available to Ukraine," said Green politician Anton Hofreiter to the t-online portal. The FDP defense expert Alexander Müller told the "Handelsblatt" that the German industry must now quickly get the order to repair older Leopard 1 battle tanks that are in stock.
The deputy chief of the defense committee, Henning Otte (CDU), told the editorial network Germany (RND). "The most urgent question now is: Will Germany deliver battle tanks? I hope Pistorius can prevail against Scholz and not remain the Chancellor's vicarious agent like Ms. Lambrecht." Former Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) resigned this week.