February 4, 2023

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Germany wants to send Panther 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine

Berlin President Olaf Scholes (SPD) wants to supply Ukraine with 2 Leopard main battle tanks. According to Handelsblatt, the decision was made on Tuesday. As “Spiegel” first reported, at least one company from the Bundeswehr stock should have first received the Leopard 2A6 version.

Accordingly, it is about 14 vehicles. New Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said this morning that he expects Germany to make a quick decision to supply Ukraine with Leopard main battle tanks. This is expected “soon”, said the SPD politician in Berlin during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

For months, Ukraine has been asking for Western-style main battle tanks to fight Russian invaders. The front line in eastern Ukraine hasn’t moved in weeks. With battle tanks, Ukraine hopes to resume the offensive and recapture more territory. At the same time, a Russian offensive is feared for the spring.

On Tuesday, Warsaw earlier submitted an official export application to the central government for approval to supply German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine – and in doing so put pressure on Berlin to act. The government in Warsaw made it clear that it would grant German permission if necessary and begin training Ukrainian soldiers on Panther tanks.

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According to insiders, the US could supply Abrams tanks

The White House responded with caution in an initial statement. “We have nothing to announce at this time,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “We continue to communicate with Ukraine about their needs on the battlefield.” However, she did not deny reports that the U.S. will now provide Abrams tanks and left the door open for an official announcement. Not rejected,” he asserted.

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US media unanimously reported that the US government would announce the decision on Wednesday. According to the New York Times, about 30 M1-Abrams tanks are planned to support Ukraine on the battlefield in the future.

US M1 Abrams battle tank

According to AP, the US is ready to make this model available to Ukraine.

(Photo: AP)

The planned deliveries would be an abrupt departure from the previous course of the Biden administration. In the past few days, the National Security Council at the White House and the US Department of Defense have presented several reasons against US tank deliveries. On Friday, the Ministry of Defense said: “The maintenance effort and high costs of an Abrams are enormous. It doesn’t make sense right now.” Government officials continue to say it could take months or even years for the Abrams tanks to become fully operational in Ukraine. American tanks consume a lot of kerosene because of their jet propulsion and require extensive training to operate.

>> Read More: From air defense to training: These factors will determine the outcome of the war in Ukraine

Major General Mark Milley described the use of American tanks as a “very difficult path”. So Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Ramstein with the aim of persuading Germany to supply the relatively fast Leopards. According to the approach of the responsible American ministries, the period of the war in Ukraine is entering a decisive phase. Germany can act fast and advance. According to the Wall Street Journal, US President Joe Biden is more open to tank deliveries than his Defense Secretary Austin, who until recently advised against it. According to the newspaper, after days of intense negotiations between Berlin and Washington, the decision finally fell in favor of the tanks.

Leading US Republicans recently asked Biden to provide tanks to speed up Germany’s Panther deployment. However, it is unclear how long the US will continue to send heavy military equipment into the war zone at current levels. The Republican factions that have dominated the U.S. House of Representatives since January and could block the budget want to cut aid to Ukraine.

Germany has a special role in the Leopard main battle tank

As a producing country, Germany plays an important role in the issue of leopard supply. When weapons are sold to other countries, end-use provisions are always built into the contracts. It stipulates that the central government must agree to transfers to third countries. A government spokesman said on Tuesday that the Polish government intends to examine the application “with the necessary urgency”.

Olaf Scholz has been criticized for weeks over the issue of the cheetah delivery – he has been accused of being too reluctant. There was also discontent within their own coalition. The government justified its actions by, among other things, increasing risk and the need for international coordination.

>> Read about: Commentary: No more “Schollson” – the chancellor has made it hard to believe

FDP security expert Markus Faber on Tuesday evening called the decision to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine correct. “After eleven months, the training of the Ukrainian crew can finally begin,” he said. “Smooth and rapid implementation is now critical and at the same time the most important challenge for the new defense minister. Ukraine urgently needs tanks to drive home the invading troops.

According to Faber, all the details, such as spare parts packages or training of Ukrainian soldiers on the Leopard, should be discussed in the Bundestag’s security committee on Wednesday.

CDU leader Merz welcomes the decision

Union branch leader Friedrich Merz welcomed the federal government’s decision, but at the same time accused Chancellor Scholz of hesitancy. “The decision is correct,” the CDU leader told the German Press Agency in Berlin on Tuesday evening.

Foreign Minister Baerbach, President Scholz, Defense Minister Pistorius (from left)

Ultimately, the chancellor alone decides whether Germany will supply main battle tanks.

(Photo: dpa)

At the same time, Merz criticized if the chancellor had announced such a decision together with the French president (Emmanuel Macron) at the Franco-German cabinet on Sunday at the 60th anniversary of the Élysée agreement in Paris. There would have been collective political leadership. So there is the image of a motivated person who has hesitated for too long.

Last week the media reported that Germany would supply Panther tanks to Ukraine only if the US sent Abrams main battle tanks. The central government denied that there was any such connection.

However, if the Americans are now ready to supply Abrams tanks, it seems that an understanding has finally been reached. Above all, President Scholz emphasized that he wants to take qualitative new steps in the supply of weapons to Ukraine in close coordination with the United States.

Cheetah 2 main battle tank to help Ukraine counteroffensive

The Leopard represents a new standard, as it will allow Ukraine to combine armored personnel carriers and artillery to launch counterattacks or recapture territories occupied by Russia. The German government also hesitated because Russian President Vladimir Putin might use the supply of battle tanks as an excuse.

We have 29 Leopard 2 almost ready. They could be handed over to Ukraine in March or April. Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger

As FDP security expert Faber said, the planned distribution of 14 copies should only be seen as a start. “Safety and security” on the margins of the Handelsblatt conference. RheinmetallCEO Armin Papperger offered industry support on Tuesday: “We have 29 Leopard 2 almost ready. They can be handed over to Ukraine in March or April,” he said. The following also applies: “The decision rests with the Chancellor.” It has now been taken openly.

Levy’s pain is more common, and chronic pain comes later in the timeline. Alphonse Mies, Military Inspector of Bundeswehr

It is now conceivable that Bundeswehr will first hand over the Leopard 2 from its own stock, which will then be replenished by the industry. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius commissioned a review of his department last week. The goal is to provide Ukraine with Leopard versions compatible with other countries.

In addition to Poland, Finland had also expressed interest in providing leopards. Sweden and Spain may participate in a willing coalition. Britain has pledged 14 Challenger 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.



Leopard tank

The Bundeswehr has five different versions in its inventory.

A small opposition party in the German Bundestag criticized the decision to hand over the leopard on Tuesday evening. “The delivery of Leopard battle tanks, another obstacle that falls, will bring us closer to World War III than to peace in Europe,” Dietmar Bartsch, leader of the Left Party, told the DPA news agency. AfD faction leader Tino Chrupalla said in Berlin: “Germany is in danger of being dragged directly into war. Our armed forces will be further looted by supplying tanks from Bundeswehr stocks.

The Bundeswehr, which has around 320 Leopard tanks in five different versions, would be hurt if the vehicles were handed over and would affect the operational efficiency of the armed forces as a whole. If the Cheetahs were delivered to Ukraine, the country would have to be supplied with spare parts and ammunition, which the troops would lack for the mobility of the remaining vehicles, military analyst Alphonse Mies told the Handelsblatt briefing. “Levy’s pain is high, and chronic pain comes later in the timeline.”

Further: All developments on the live blog