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Poland: Permission from Germany is ‘a secondary issue’ with Leopard tanks


Leopard 2 tanks belonging to the Polish military conducting maneuvers in southeast Poland in November.


By RON DePASQUALE


Poland’s prime minister said Monday that his government would ask Germany for permission to send German-made tanks to Ukraine but insisted that whether Berlin approved or not, the Polish government would build a coalition of nations willing to donate some of Europe’s most advanced weaponry.


“We’ll ask for permission, but it’s a secondary issue,” the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, told reporters, according to the Polish news agency PAP.


“Even if we ultimately don’t receive permission, then, despite that, we’d transfer our tanks to Ukraine together with others within a small coalition, even if Germany is not in the coalition,” Morawiecki added.


It was unclear when Poland, whose officials have been among the loudest voices urging the provision of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, would formally request authorization from Germany. Poland is legally required to ask Germany, the tanks’ maker, for a license to re-export the tanks. The Leopards are stocked by many European countries, and Ukraine sees obtaining them as crucial to its war effort before fighting that is expected to intensify this spring.


Germany has so far resisted sending its own Leopards to Ukraine but says that no other countries have formally asked for authorization to transfer their Leopards. On Sunday, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, signaled that Berlin was open to allowing allies to send the tanks to Ukraine. She told the French channel LCI TV that Germany “wouldn’t stand in the way” if Poland decided to send them, though she added that Poland had not yet asked for such authorization.


Germany, wary of escalating the conflict with Russia, has been slower than some other European nations in sending advanced weapons to Ukraine and has said that it would coordinate with allies including the United States on the provision of tanks. Washington has supplied Ukraine with an increasingly powerful array of advanced weapons, but has so far declined to send its best tank, the M1 Abrams, pointing to the logistical hurdles posed by a fuel-guzzling vehicle that requires continuous maintenance.


On Sunday, the new chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, R-Texas, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the United States should send at least one M1 Abrams to Ukraine to persuade Germany to greenlight the Leopards.


Ukraine’s appeals for tanks and more weapons from the West have taken on greater urgency with the approach of spring, when both sides in the conflict are preparing offensives, officials have said. And Russia’s recent claims to have captured the small eastern towns of Soledar and Klishchiivka — part of a broader push to seize the city of Bakhmut — have added to the pressure.


“We need tanks — not 10 or 20, but several hundred,” said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.


Zelenskyy said that although a few dozen Western tanks might not be decisive compared with Russia’s fleet of hundreds, they would help Ukrainian forces on the battlefield and lift troops’ morale.


“They motivate our soldiers to fight for their own values,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with German TV channel ARD that was broadcast Sunday. “Because they show that the whole world is with you.”


The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday that the pressure Germany was facing showed “nervousness” among Ukraine’s allies, but he warned that Ukraine would ultimately bear the consequences if the West sends tanks.


“The main thing is that the Ukrainian people will have to pay for all these actions, for all this pseudo-support,” he said, according to the official news agency.

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