Germany plans to send its sought-after Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to bolster the country’s war effort, Der Spiegel reported Tuesday night, according to unnamed sources. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to deliver the main battle tanks after “months of discussion,” the German news outlet’s exclusive report said.
The German parliament will debate the controversial issue on Wednesday morning. The decision to send them would mark a milestone in the West’s support for Kiev, following days of intense pressure on Berlin from some of its NATO partners.
DailyExpertNews contacted the German government for comment on Tuesday night, but received no response.
The report comes shortly after US officials revealed on Tuesday that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine. Germany had indicated to the US last week that it would not send its Leopard tanks unless the US agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine would provide Kiev’s armed forces with a modern and powerful military vehicle ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive. It would also be a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to equip Ukrainian troops with high-tech combat systems as Russia’s ground war nears its end of a year.
Germany had resisted a growing drum of Western pressure to ship some tanks to Ukraine, with new German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius repeatedly calling for more time and insisting the move would have advantages and disadvantages for Berlin.
Warsaw upped the ante on Tuesday when it formally requested permission to send its own Leopards, a move Berlin had previously said it would not block.
Several European countries also own some leopards, and Poland had made an effort to re-export them to Ukraine, even if Germany was not on board. But Scholz and Pistorius’ decision was considered crucial because the tanks are German-made and Germany usually controls their exports and re-exports.
A Polish official told DailyExpertNews on Tuesday that, to their knowledge, Berlin had not yet formally notified Warsaw of a decision to allow the leopards to be sent to Ukraine.
The German army owns 320 Leopard tanks, but is not disclosing how many are combat-ready, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman told DailyExpertNews earlier.
Several high-tech combat systems have been pledged to Ukraine since the turn of the year amid a renewed wave of Western military aid. The US last week finalized a massive military aid package for Ukraine totaling about $2.5 billion worth of weapons, including Stryker combat vehicles for the first time, while the UK and a number of EU countries have agreed to send tanks .
Pistorius, who became Germany’s defense minister on Thursday, saw his early days in the job dominated by key allies’ efforts to join that trend by shipping leopards to Ukraine. Germany, in turn, sought guarantees that the US would also send its own tanks.
But some leaders’ frustration came out after a Berlin summit last Friday ended without a deal to send Leopards, with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting time” by failing to reach a decision.
The Leopard 2 tank would be a powerful combat vehicle for the battlefields of Ukraine.
Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun and a 7.62mm machine gun; it can reach speeds of 70 km/h (44 mph), or 50 km/h off-road, making maneuverability one of its most important features. And there’s all-round protection against threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called for countries to stop bickering over whether or not to send the tanks.
“We have spoken hundreds of times about the shortage of weapons. We can’t rely on motivation alone,” he said during a virtual appearance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last week.
In a clear swipe at Germany’s slowing down, Zelensky added: “There are times when there is no reason to hesitate. When people say: I’ll give you tanks if someone else does.”
Russia, meanwhile, had tried to threaten Germany as it deliberated. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was asked at a regular press briefing about Moscow’s reaction if Berlin approved sending tanks, said relations between the two countries “are already at a pretty low point”, adding that there are currently “no substantive dialogue with Germany or with other EU countries”. and NATO countries.”
“Of course, such deliveries do not bode well for the future of relations. They will leave a menacing trail, ”Peskov said.
Previous military aid, such as the US HIMARS missile system, has been vital in helping Ukraine in a series of successful counter-offensives in recent months.