International concern about Chancellor Olaf Scholz's (SPD) hesitation on the tank issue is growing. Several EU states criticized the federal government at the meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, sometimes very clearly.
Poland announced that it would ask Germany for approval for the delivery of Leopard-type main battle tanks made in Germany to Ukraine - but made it clear that if necessary it would also want to deliver Leopard 2 tanks in a small coalition without permission. "If the Germans are not in this coalition, we will still move our tanks along with others to Ukraine," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Poznań on Monday.
In order to supply German-made tanks to other countries, approval from the federal government is required. At a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) dodged the question of whether the federal government would quickly approve an application for the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks from other countries to Ukraine. In Brussels on Monday, she merely explained why she believed a decision was needed.
Putin has not deviated from his plan to destroy Ukraine, said the Green politician. "That's why it's so important that we as the international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine." In an interview she had previously said about the Polish plans: "We have not been asked and (...) if we were asked, we would not stand in the way of it." Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said: "If such an application were made in Germany, which is not the case at the moment, then there are well-established procedures in which such a request is answered. And we all adhere to them."
Necessity of German deliveries
However, Poland also sees the need for German deliveries. "They have more than 350 Leopard tanks in action and about two hundred in stock. That's why they can really help Ukraine today, fighting Ukraine, because there this fight also means fighting for security, for peace in Europe," Morawiecki said.
"We have to overcome the fear of conquering Russia," Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in Brussels. "What is stopping us is the fear of what will happen if Russia loses this war." His Latvian colleague Edgars Rinkevics said of the German role: "Being big also brings great responsibility. But at this point I believe that there are no good arguments why main battle tanks and anti-aircraft systems cannot be provided."
The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Telegram on Monday evening that his country needed "several hundred" main battle tanks for the intended reconquest of the areas occupied by Russia: "Every tank that is capable of fighting must be on our front today." Without a victory for Ukraine, with a return to the 1991 borders and punishment of Russia, there will be neither stable development nor a clear world order.
The Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Irina Scherbakowa is also demanding more heavy weapons for Ukraine from Germany and the EU. The war that Russia had started can only be stopped by military means, "as much as you don't like to hear that in Germany," Scherbakova told the "Badische Latest News" and the "Badisches Tagblatt".
300 Leopard tanks required
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said to Berlin that "we know (...) that every serious decision has always taken time." He is confident that in the end you will end up where you have to end up. It is important that Ukraine can defend itself when the Russians launch a spring attack. According to him, 300 Leopard tanks would be needed.
In a letter to Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, dozens of British MPs also called for the delivery of the main battle tanks. "We understand the historical reasons for the reluctance to provide German and German-made tanks," the Sun newspaper quoted the letter as saying. "However, at this moment of extreme urgency, we urge you to reconsider your position."
According to the Moscow news agency Interfax, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the back and forth between the EU countries over the Leopard tank shows the "nervousness" there. "First of all, the Ukrainian people will pay for all these actions, for this pseudo-support," said Peskov.