Ahead of Ukraine meeting: tug of war over tanks in hot phase

Ahead of Ukraine meeting: tug of war over tanks in hot phase

Zelenskyy said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “Sometimes you shouldn’t weigh things or compare yourself,” when he says, for example: ‘I give tanks if someone also gives tanks. I am powerful in Europe, I will help if someone outside Europe helps too’”.

“It seems to me that this is not a very correct strategy,” said Zelenskyy, who participated in a debate. He did not mention the name of the German Chancellor. According to media reports, Scholz is ready to allow the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine – but only if the US makes its Abrams main battle tanks available. US President Joe Biden apparently has yet to commit to this in a phone call with Scholz on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

AP/Markus Schreiber German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Germany with key role

In the debate over arms deliveries since the beginning of the war, Scholz always emphasized that Germany was not alone, but in coordination with partners such as France and the US. In recent days, however, the pressure on Scholz to make a decision has increased significantly.

Germany plays a key role in the debate because Leopard tanks were developed in Germany. As a rule, the transfer of German-made weapons to third parties must be approved. Ukraine has withstood Russian attacks for almost eleven months and is largely dependent on Western support for military hardware.

Bundeswehr Leopard 2 main battle tank

AP/CTK/Jaroslav Ozana The Leopard 2 main battle tank of the German Bundeswehr

New German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) announced on Thursday close coordination with the US on the issue of further arms deliveries to Ukraine. In view of Russia’s war of aggression, the two NATO countries are “as so often in history … shoulder to shoulder in action,” Pistorius said during US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin’s visit to Berlin. This can be seen in the weapons systems promised to Ukraine so far, such as armored personnel carriers and Patriot air defense systems. However, Pistorius did not comment on the delivery of the main battle tanks.

Pentagon is optimistic

However, according to a CNN report, the US government is optimistic that Germany will agree to the delivery of the Leopard main battle tanks. “We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this issue by the end of the week,” the US broadcaster said, quoting a senior Pentagon official, on Wednesday (local time). Austin will ask the German side to allow the shipment to allow Ukraine to counter a potential Russian spring offensive.

battle tank graphics

Graphics: APA/ORF.at; Source: globalfirepower.com

“We’re really opening the door to building that capability at a crucial time,” he said. Austin arrived in Berlin on Wednesday night to discuss further support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia. On Friday, defense ministers from several dozen countries will meet at the US air base in Ramstein, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, to discuss more military support for Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects a signal from the meeting that there will be “heavier weapons and more modern weapons” for Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

IMAGO/Zheng Huansong NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Meeting also in Estonia

Before the meeting in Ramstein, on the initiative of the Defense Minister of Estonia, Hanno Pevkur, and his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, representatives of several countries – including the Defense Ministers of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania – wanted to meet at the base Estonian military from Tapa to present their latest aid packages for Kyiv.

ORF Berlin correspondent Jölli on German arms deliveries

ORF correspondent Andreas Jölli speaks from Berlin about German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s hesitation to deliver heavy artillery to Ukraine.

According to a US government official, the United States wants to launch a new aid package for Ukraine worth more than two billion dollars. The Washington government intends to approve this soon, and the announcement could be made at Ramstein’s meeting on Friday. The package is expected to include Stryker wheeled infantry fighting vehicles for Kyiv, but not the M1 Abrams main battle tank – a condition imposed by Germany for the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine.

US Army M1A1 Abrams main battle tank

Portal/Ints Kalnin Two US Army Abrams main battle tanks

Kyiv: we don’t have time

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Zelensky and the head of the presidential office, Andriy Yermak, once again pushed for the delivery of tanks ahead of the meeting in Ramstein. “The issue of tanks for Ukraine must be resolved as soon as possible,” Yermak wrote in Telegram on Thursday. The same applies to additional air defense systems. “We don’t have time, the world doesn’t have that time either,” emphasized Yermak. Hesitation costs Ukrainian lives.

Pevkur also urged Germany and other allies to deliver modern weapons systems to Ukraine. “Estonia strongly supports supplying Ukraine with all the military equipment it needs to win this war, including heavy equipment such as Leopard tanks,” he told dpa ahead of the Tapa meeting. This must be done “immediately”. “The outcome of this war will determine the future of our common security,” Pevkur said.

Rheinmetall could deliver the Leopard 1

According to a report in “Handelsblatt”, the German armaments group and automotive supplier Rheinmetall is already preparing to deliver war tanks to Ukraine while political debates are still ongoing. Of the older Leopard 1 model, 20 main battle tanks could be refitted this year and another 80 in 20 months, Handelsblatt reported, citing industry circles. In addition to the Leopard 2 and Leopard 1, the British Challenger 1 main battle tank could also be refitted and delivered to Kyiv.

14 Great Britain main battle tanks

Britain announced over the weekend that it would make 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks available to Ukraine. Poland and Finland agreed to supply Leopard tanks in the European network.

The Swedish Archer artillery system

Wikimedia/Ibaril CC BY-SA 3.0 The Archer artillery system

Meanwhile, Sweden has announced more military aid to Ukraine. The government wants to deliver 50 armored personnel carriers to the country. In addition, Swedish troops were instructed to prepare for the delivery of the Archer artillery system. A specific number was not given. Sweden has 48 Archer systems.

According to the information, the new Swedish support package has a total volume of almost 390 million euros. Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. The country has also applied for NATO membership.

Medvedev is talking about nuclear war

Ahead of the meeting in Ramstein, former Russian President and Deputy Kremlin Chief Vladimir Putin on Russia’s National Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, renewed nuclear threats. In Ramstein, NATO countries planned to supply Ukraine with new heavy weapons. “None of these bastards get it in their heads to draw the next elementary conclusion: the defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war can trigger the start of a nuclear war,” threatened Medvedev on his Telegram channel on Thursday. Nuclear powers do not miss out on major conflicts, Medvedev said.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, made a similar statement. “We pray the Lord to bring the madmen to their senses and help them understand that any desire to destroy Russia will mean the end of the world,” he said in a sermon. The leadership in Moscow repeatedly emphasizes that the West and, above all, the US wanted to destroy Russia. Western governments vehemently disagree. Just help Ukraine defend itself from a war started by Moscow on February 24, 2022.

When asked whether Medvedev’s comments meant Russia was taking the crisis to a new level, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “No, it absolutely does not.” ) when the existence of the State itself is threatened”.