Growing pressure on Germany for tanks for Ukraine

Growing pressure on Germany for tanks for Ukraine

Ahead of new talks in Ramstein on Friday on Western military aid, pressure is mounting on Germany over the issue of supplying main battle tanks to Ukraine. According to media reports, Chancellor Olaf Scholz only wants to deliver German Leopard tanks if the US also supplies main battle tanks. In a meeting of the defense ministers of the two countries on Thursday, unity was demonstrated. However, a solution has not yet emerged.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) hosted his American counterpart Lloyd Austin shortly after his inauguration in Berlin on Thursday. Both promised more support for Ukraine, which had been attacked by Russia. The US is “our most important ally” and the two countries stand “shoulder to shoulder”, Pistorius said. Austin assured his new colleague of close cooperation and called Germany one of “America’s most important allies”.

On Friday, the so-called Ukraine contact group at the US military base of Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate will discuss increased military aid to Ukraine. It will be about renewing common and long-term support for Ukraine, Austin said in Berlin. At the center of the discussion is the demand by Ukraine and also by some Western countries that Germany also supply the Leopard 2 main battle tank.

Austin and Pistorius had no comment on Thursday. Pistorius announced close coordination with the United States. In return, according to media reports, Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants the US government to hand over Abrams’ main battle tanks. Washington, on the other hand, is not ready for that. Just two weeks ago, the United States and Germany agreed to also supply Patriot armored vehicles and air defense systems to Ukraine. Poland has offered to supply 14 Leopard tanks, but it looks like they haven’t been upgraded yet. The British government promised 14 Challenger main battle tanks.

This increases pressure on the German government to also comply. On the one hand, this means that Berlin must give permission for third countries to deliver German-made weapons to Ukraine. The government emphasizes that not a single order has yet been placed. In coalition circles, it was said that it was difficult to imagine that the candidacies would be rejected. On the other hand, the federal government could supply its own Leopard tanks.

The European Parliament voted in favor of handing over on Wednesday. The German traffic light parties SPD, Greens and FDP blocked a vote on a motion by the opposition CDU and CSU on Thursday in which the delivery of the Leopard is demanded. The traffic light coalition is divided on the issue. Scholz never ruled out surrender, but insisted on joint action with Washington. “The Ramstein meeting will not change that attitude,” Portal learned from government circles.

“We don’t have time, the world doesn’t have that time,” Andryi Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, wrote on the messaging app Telegram. “The issue of tanks for Ukraine must be resolved as soon as possible,” he said. “We are paying for the slowness with the lives of our Ukrainian people. It shouldn’t be like this.” On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indirectly criticized Chancellor Scholz for setting conditions for the delivery of the tank.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikovhaben issued a public statement on Thursday calling on the international community to provide Leopard tanks. They mentioned twelve countries by name, including Germany, Turkey and Spain.

Colin Kahl, the top policy adviser to the US Department of Defense, said on Wednesday that the US was not ready to send M1 Abrams tanks. Among other things, he referred to logistical problems because the Abrams would be operated on kerosene. As a result, they would likely not be included in Washington’s next massive $2 billion military aid package, which will mainly include Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles.

The Kremlin has criticized the West’s discussion of delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine as too dangerous. This is taking the conflict to “a qualitatively new level, which does not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security”, warned Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. At the same time, he curbed nuclear threats to the West made by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Ukraine had previously relied mostly on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but these were being progressively destroyed in the eleven months of defensive fighting against invading Russian forces. Above all, the Kyiv government wants Western tanks to drive Russian troops back in decisive battles. Western tanks are considered safer and have more firepower than Soviet and Russian tanks.

Fighting in Ukraine is currently concentrated in southern and eastern Ukraine. After major Ukrainian advances in the second half of 2022, the front lines were practically frozen for two months. Despite heavy losses, neither side could make much headway in the intense trench warfare. For the spring, Kyiv expects a new Russian offensive.