Will Olaf Scholz finally give the green light to supply Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks? As allies meet at the US base in Ramstein, Germany today to coordinate military aid to Ukraine, all eyes are on the German Chancellor.
According to several observers, the starting signal will only be given when the USA sends its Abrams tanks. But a spokesman for the Berlin government, Steffen Hebestreit, has denied this hypothesis. “At no time – the spokesman emphasized – was there an obligation or requirement that one of the two things must happen for the other to happen.” Hebestreit said he “found it difficult to imagine a German chancellor dictating conditions to an American president or makes demands”. In any case, it is important for the federal government to coordinate action with the USA in this matter.
For its part, the Pentagon remains reluctant because it does not consider its tanks particularly suitable. “The Abrams are a very complicated machine. They’re expensive. Training to use them is difficult. They have a jet engine,” said one of the Pentagon’s top security advisers, Colin Kahl. Reports of a standoff between the United States and Germany on the matter are exaggerated, according to a Berlin government source quoted by the BBC. However, the broadcaster writes, the affair is worrying the allies, while the pressure on Scholz is increasing.
There is an increasingly broad consensus that the supply of Western tanks in anticipation of the new Russian offensive expected in the spring will be crucial in the coming months. So far, only London has committed, while France, Germany and the US have sent armored vehicles. Poland and Finland say they are ready to send their Leopards, but to do so they must have permission from Berlin, which sold them to them.
As in the past with other arms deliveries to Ukraine, Scholz’s decision is being delayed by fear of provoking an escalation of the war. His cautious line is shared by the German public, and for this reason too, Scholz wants the go-ahead for the Leopards to come as part of a joint decision with the other allies, with whom responsibility will be shared. According to surveys, only 25 percent of Germans believe that Berlin is not sending enough arms to Ukraine, 26 percent believe that too many have been sent, and 41 percent are satisfied with the current status.
Meanwhile, according to a Berlin government spokesman quoted by Sky News, Poland could send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s approval. Yesterday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of “approval of secondary importance” compared to the need to send the Leopard 2 to Ukraine.
The Berlin spokesman said he was not aware of any formal request by Poland to Germany to send Leopards to Ukraine and explained that the export license for the Leopard main battle tank rested solely with the German government, which would then have to officially authorize other countries to grant it send abroad.