Leopard delivery: End of a deadlock: German main battle tanks for the Ukraine

After much hesitation, the decision was made: Germany will deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to do the same.

Leopard delivery: End of a deadlock: German main battle tanks for the Ukraine

After much hesitation, the decision was made: Germany will deliver Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to do the same. The German press agency learned this on Tuesday in Berlin from coalition circles. "Spiegel" and ntv had previously reported about it. According to "Spiegel", it is planned to equip at least one company with the Leopard 2A6 version from Bundeswehr stocks. This would require 14 of the weapon systems.

For months Ukraine has been insisting on the delivery of Western-style main battle tanks to fight the Russian attackers. The first official request 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 hopes to get back on the offensive and recapture more territory. At the same time, an offensive by Russia is feared for the spring.

The former Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, welcomed the planned delivery to his country - and immediately made further demands for modern fighter jets. "Hallelujah! Jesus Christ!" he tweeted, "And now, dear allies, let's build a strong fighter jet coalition for Ukraine, with F-16s and F-35s, Eurofighters and Tornados, Rafales and Gripen jets - and everything you can deliver to Ukraine." Melnyk is now deputy foreign minister in his country, which was invaded by Russia about 11 months ago.

Praise and criticism in Berlin

The chairwoman of the defense committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), told the dpa in Berlin: "The decision was tough, it took far too long, but in the end it is inevitable. That Germany will allow its Leopard 2 tank to be delivered by partner countries releases and also delivers itself is redeeming news for the battered and brave Ukrainian people."

Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt tweeted in English: "The leopard is freed!" She wrote: "Now hopefully he can quickly help Ukraine in its fight against the Russian attack and for the freedom of Ukraine and Europe." The chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (Greens), told the editorial network Germany (RND): "Of course it would have been better to make the decision faster, especially for Germany's reputation in Europe. But better late than not at all." Hofreiter expressed almost the same wording in the "Rheinische Post".

Union faction leader Friedrich Merz welcomed the decision, but at the same time accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of hesitation. "So the image of a driven person who has hesitated for too long remains," he told the dpa.

The AfD in the Bundestag, on the other hand, described the decision as "irresponsible and dangerous". Faction leader Tino Chrupalla explained: "Germany is in danger of being drawn directly into the war. Our armed forces are being further plundered by the delivery of tanks from Bundeswehr stocks."

Left faction leader Dietmar Bartsch also criticized the decision. "The delivery of Leopard main battle tanks, which lifts another taboo, potentially takes us closer to World War III than towards peace in Europe," he told dpa.

Scholz has been criticized for weeks on the issue of Leopard deliveries - he is accused of being too hesitant. There was also resentment in their own coalition. The government justified its actions, among other things, with the risk of escalation and the necessary international coordination.

Poland wants to deliver 14 out of 247 tanks

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 the Polish government's official export application. 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. In total, according to the Ministry of Defense, Poland has 247 Leopard 2 tanks in three different versions (A4, A5 and PL). They were bought in 2002 and 2013 in two tranches from the Bundeswehr stocks for a total of around 200 million euros.

Germany is already delivering weapons

Germany has been supplying arms to Ukraine since the beginning of the war. Since then, heavy artillery pieces and air defense systems have been delivered, among other things. She has already promised Marder armored personnel carriers, which are significantly less powerful than the Leopard 2.

Last year, the Bundeswehr still had 312 Leopard 2 tanks, but not a single model of the older Leopard 2A4 version, as they are to be handed over by Poland.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had always emphasized that he only wanted to act together with the USA when providing qualitatively new weapon systems. It was the same with the provision of multiple rocket launchers or armored personnel carriers. And indeed, reports came out of the US on Tuesday that US President Joe Biden is now considering the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks after all.

The Wall Street Journal reported an announcement of the commitment of "larger numbers" of M1 Abrams to counter Russia's war of aggression could come later this week. Biden promised Scholz in a phone call last week that he would have such a delivery checked, the paper reported, citing unnamed sources. The US government did not confirm the reports on Tuesday.

The United States had previously emphasized that providing the Abrams tanks was not practical for practical reasons. The US tanks would have to be transported across the Atlantic, maintenance was more complex and they consumed too much fuel, according to the Defense Ministry.

Poland wants a broad coalition

Poland wants to form a European coalition to supply main battle tanks. So far, however, only Great Britain has promised to supply Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Of the 14 European countries that have Leopard tanks, only Poland and Finland have so far publicly signaled their willingness to sell some of their tanks. On Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was also open to making 18 Leopard 2 tanks leased from Germany available to Ukraine. "We leased them, which means we can buy them, which means we can donate them," he said in an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (Wednesday) and some other international media in Brussels.

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 after a meeting with Scholz in Berlin.

The Czech Republic made dozens of Soviet-designed T-72 main battle tanks available to Ukraine last year. The federal government promised the government in Prague 14 Leopard 2 tanks and one armored recovery vehicle as part of the so-called ring exchange. The first Leopard was delivered last December.

Even before the decision was made, the Kremlin had warned that German-Russian relations would deteriorate further if the German government agreed to the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks. "Such deliveries do not bode well for the future of relations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.