The new Leopard 2 A7V heavy battle tank, the most advanced version of the German-made tank.
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Germany has again refused to commit to allowing the delivery of German-made tanks to Ukraine, despite strong pressure.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Tuesday that Berlin’s position has not changed on whether to allow German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, or to allow other countries that have German-made tanks to send their units to Kyiv. He added that the government still needs to assess the situation.
“I can say that there is no new information here, the situation has not changed, and we are preparing our decision, which will be very soon,” he said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We are looking into what is happening now with our Leopard tanks,” he said in a translation of the comments. He noted that Berlin is considering not only its inventories and industrial reserves, but also the compatibility of its tanks for combat operations in Ukraine, as well as issues related to the logistics of supplies and services.
Aware that Berlin’s reluctance about the tanks had drawn widespread criticism, Pistorius insisted that Germany was one of Ukraine’s main military backers, apart from the US and Britain, and that it was “often forgotten in the public debate”.
The latest comments from Berlin came after months of pressure on the German government to offer Ukraine some of its Leopard 2 tanks or allow its allies to export their German-made battle tanks to the war-torn country.
Last Friday’s defense summit at Ramstein Air Base failed to reach an agreement on tanks for Kiev, and so far only Britain has pledged to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Stoltenberg tried to defend Germany from what is likely to be inevitable criticism after this latest refusal to give up the tanks, saying he was “confident that we will find a solution soon”.
He noted that the war, however, had reached a “tipping point” and that the allies “must give Ukraine heavier parts. And we have to do it faster.”
Kyiv has been asking its allies for months for heavy battle tanks, which it believes could be crucial in the outcome of the war.
It was believed that Germany did not want to send its tanks unless the USA has delivered its own Abrams machines. Washington was adamant, saying that just training to maintain and operate its tanks would take months.
German Defense Minister Pistorius insisted on Tuesday that there were no differences between Berlin and its allies, saying “some partners are still evaluating their decisions and others want to go a little faster, but we are not divided.”
Despite German assurances, Kiev’s allies were disappointed by Berlin’s reluctance to buy tanks.
On Saturday, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania made a joint statement that Germany should “immediately deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine.” Poland and Finland have repeatedly said they are ready to supply Leopard 2 units, with Reuters reporting that Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made it clear on Monday that Warsaw could act without Berlin’s approval:
“We will ask for such permission, but this is a matter of secondary importance. Even if we had not received this approval … we would still have transferred our tanks along with others to Ukraine,” Moravetskyi said on Monday, according to Reuters. “The condition for us at the moment is the creation of at least a small coalition of countries.”
Germany’s position seemed to darken in recent days. German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock told French news outlet LCI on Sunday that Berlin would not prevent Poland from sending its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine. On the same day, newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who only took office last Thursday, said on Sunday that he expected a decision soon.
France said that it does not rule out sending its own Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. After meeting with his German counterpart on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that he had “asked the army minister to work on this and nothing is ruled out.”
He added that the decision will be based on several criteria: ensuring that any tank offer is not “escalating” and takes into account “the reality in terms of power, maintainability and training time”. The third criterion, Macron said, is not to weaken France’s own defense capabilities.
— CNBC’s Ruksandra Yordache contributed to this story.
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