Poland asks Germany’s permission to send its Leopard tanks to Ukraine
A Leopard 2 battle tank at a military training in Munster, Germany, in 2019.
By MATTHEW MPOKE BIGG
Poland has formally asked Germany for permission to transfer its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Polish defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said Tuesday, and his German counterpart said Berlin would decide soon on whether it would send its own tanks.
“We are preparing our decision, which will come very soon,” the German official, Boris Pistorius, said, speaking at a news conference with Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of NATO. “We are looking into the matter, what the current status is regarding our Leopard tanks. It is not just a matter of counting our tanks — we know how many we have — it’s a lot more complicated than that.”
“It is often said that there is a lack of unity among the allies or that Germany is isolated, but that is not the case,” he added.
Germany’s reluctance to send Ukraine its Leopard 2s to Ukraine, or to approve the transfer of the German-made tanks from the many European countries that stock them, has frustrated some NATO allies as well as the government in Kyiv, which says that it urgently needs the equipment to stave off a potential Russian offensive.
Ukraine has been pleading for months for hundreds of modern battle tanks made by European allies and the United States to reinforce its battered Soviet-era fleet. Some NATO countries, not least the Baltic States, have expressed increasing frustration with the time it has taken Germany to consent to allow Ukraine to be supplied with the Leopard 2 tanks, which are some of the most advanced in the world. At a meeting of NATO defense ministers last week, no agreement was reached on the issue.
Berlin, for its part, has argued that Washington should authorize sending its own Abrams tanks. And Pistorius emphasized that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government would not stop other nations from training Ukrainian forces on how to use the Leopards.
Britain has promised to supply 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks, but the Leopard 2 is a natural choice for Ukraine because hundreds are potentially available in Europe. Because more than a dozen countries use the Leopard 2, it would be easier to establish the supply chains, maintenance, training and logistics needed for effective deployment.
Russia’s invasion has galvanized NATO and given the European Union, which has imposed sanctions on Moscow, a renewed sense of purpose, but the disagreement over the tanks has exposed how support for Ukraine is still subject to political dynamics within individual countries.
Stoltenberg welcomed the discussion with Pistorius but urged countries to speed up delivery of arms to Ukraine.
“At this pivotal moment in the war, we must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster,” he said.