Germany U-turns over tanks, saying it will send Leopard 2s to Ukraine

Germany has announced that it is prepared to send 14 of its personal tanks to Ukraine and to permit others to achieve this, in an U-turn from its earlier place.

Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz introduced on Wednesday that Germany will present Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks out of its personal Bundeswehr (German armed forces) shares.

In a authorities assertion, Scholz stated that Germany would proceed to enhance navy help for Ukraine and would supply the Ukrainian armed forces with Leopard 2s as a "result of intensive consultations that took place with Germany's closest European and international partners," in accordance to a NBC News translation.

"This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability. We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally," the chancellor stated.

Germany stated its aim was to "quickly assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine. As a first step, Germany will supply a company with 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from Bundeswehr stocks. Other European partners will also hand over Leopard-2 tanks. The training of the Ukrainian crews is to begin quickly in Germany, the statement noted.

"In addition to coaching, the bundle will additionally embody logistics, ammunition and system upkeep," it added.

Germany said it will issue the appropriate transfer permits to partner countries that want to "shortly ship Leopard 2 tanks from their shares to Ukraine."


The decision to allow the export of German tanks to Ukraine comes after months of deliberation. Berlin is seen to be wary that Moscow could perceive the provision of tanks as an escalatory step. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said as recently as Tuesday that Germany had to assess the situation further, as well as evaluate its own tank inventory, industry stocks and supply logistics and maintenance.

Germany was also reportedly reluctant to deliver its own tanks unless the U.S. did the same, with the two failing to reach an agreement at a defense summit held at the Ramstein Air Base last Friday.

Reports emerged late Tuesday that Chancellor Scholz was ready to agree to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, while the Biden administration was potentially prepared to provide a couple dozen M1 Abrams tanks.

Russia has already slammed the prospect even in the absence of a White House announcement, with Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov describing the move as a "one other blatant provocation towards the Russian Federation."

"If the United States decides to provide tanks, it will be unimaginable to justify such step utilizing arguments about 'defensive weapons'," he said on Telegram Wednesday, adding that American tanks would be "destroyed [just like] all different samples of NATO navy tools."

Ukrainian frustration

Ukraine has had to tread a fine line with its international allies over the issue of tanks, aware that its ability to fight Russia largely depends on weaponry from NATO partners. But it is also frustrated at the lengthy time it has often taken allies to approve weaponry provisions for Ukraine.

Kyiv has repeatedly pleaded for tanks from its allies, arguing it needs them to defeat Russia, particularly to combat Moscow's anticipated spring offensives. Up until now, only the U.K. had heeded Ukraine's call, agreeing earlier in January to send 14 of its own Challenger 2 tanks.

Ukraine has coveted Leopard 2 tanks, which run on diesel, are relatively easy to maintain and are readily available from Ukraine's neighbors, such as Poland. Warsaw on Tuesday sent a request to Berlin, asking permission to re-export 14 of its own Leopard tanks to Kyiv.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that allies needed to make a decision on the tanks, especially as the country prepares for a "new wave of Russian aggression" in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is intense.

"There is a number of discuss tanks. About the trendy tanks that we’d like. And about how this deficit will be crammed. A whole lot of efforts, phrases, guarantees," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday.

"But it is vital to see the truth: it will not be about 5, or ten, or fifteen tanks. The want is larger. We are doing what is critical day by day to fill the deficit … However, discussions have to be concluded with selections. Decisions on actual strengthening of our protection," he said.

M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles sit atop flat cars in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of Fourth of July displays of military prowess in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. Leah Millis | Reuters

There are high hopes that the provision of modern Western battle tanks to Ukraine could shift the war momentum in Kyiv's favor, as have done other weapons, such as the U.S.-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS).

"The battle in Ukraine will show that tanks nonetheless matter — and Leopards will outclass their Russian counterparts," John T. Watts, a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security said in emailed comments Wednesday.

"In actuality, there are few programs that may present the mixture of fireplace, safety, and maneuver {that a} tank can … The provision of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, if employed competently and successfully — and I’m assured that they will be — will reveal simply how efficient, highly effective, and significant a functionality the trendy battle tank nonetheless is," he noted.

"The refined and efficient armor design, superior optics, and cutting-edge crew coaching that make up the trendy Western principal battle tank system is a really totally different beast than the Soviet-era tools and coaching being employed by the Russian aggressors."

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