Germany wants to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine

Berlin Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wants to deliver Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine. According to information from the Handelsblatt, the decision was made on Tuesday. As the “Spiegel” first reported, at least one company should initially be equipped with the Leopard 2A6 version from Bundeswehr stocks.

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

Ukraine has been asking for Western-style main battle tanks to fight the Russian attackers for months. The front line in eastern Ukraine has hardly moved in weeks. With the battle tanks, Ukraine hopes to get back on the offensive and recapture more territory. At the same time, an offensive by Russia is feared for the spring.

On Tuesday, Warsaw had previously submitted an official export application to the federal government for approval for the delivery of Leopard main battle tanks made in Germany to Ukraine – and in doing so had put Berlin under pressure to act. The government in Warsaw had made it clear that if necessary it would deliver without German approval and that it would start training Ukrainian soldiers on Leopard tanks.

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According to insiders, the USA could deliver Abrams tanks

The White House reacted cautiously in an initial statement. “We have nothing to announce at this time,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday. “We are in constant communication with Ukraine about their needs on the battlefield.” However, she did not deny reports that the US would now provide Abrams tanks after all and left the door open for an official announcement. “We have never ruled out tank deliveries,” she stressed.

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 the model available to Ukraine.

(Photo: AP)

The planned deliveries would be an abrupt departure from the Biden administration’s previous course. In the past few days, the National Security Council in the White House and the US Department of Defense have put forward many reasons against American tank deliveries. As recently as Friday, the Ministry of Defense said: “The maintenance effort and the high costs of an Abrams are immense. It just doesn’t make sense right now.” Government officials have consistently said it could take months or even years for Abrams tanks to be fully operational in Ukraine. The American tanks consume a lot of kerosene because of their jet propulsion, the operation requires extensive training.

>> Read also: From air defense to training: These factors will decide the outcome of the Ukraine war

Major General Mark Milley had described the use of American tanks as a “very, very difficult path”. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had therefore traveled to Ramstein with the aim of persuading Germany to deliver comparatively faster Leopards. According to the attitude of the responsible US ministries, the time during the Ukraine war is entering a decisive phase. Germany can act and move forward the fastest. Apparently, according to the Wall Street Journal, US President Joe Biden was more open to tank deliveries than his Secretary of Defense Austin, who advised against it until the very end. According to the newspaper, after days of intensive negotiations between Berlin and Washington, the decision finally fell in favor of the tanks.

Leading US Republicans recently asked Biden to deliver the tanks to speed up Germany’s Leopard deployment. However, it is unclear how long the United States will continue to send heavy military equipment to the war zone on the current scale. Sections of the Republicans, who have dominated the House of Representatives in the US Congress since January and can thus block the budget, want to reduce aid to Ukraine.

Germany has a special role in the Leopard main battle tank

As a production country, Germany plays a key role in the issue of Leopard delivery. If armaments are sold to other countries, end-use clauses are always built into the contracts. This stipulates that the federal government must agree to the transfer to third countries. A government spokesman said on Tuesday that he wanted to examine the Polish government’s application “with the necessary urgency”.

Olaf Scholz has been criticized for weeks on the issue of Leopard deliveries – he is accused of acting too hesitantly. There was also resentment in their own coalition. The government justified its actions, among other things, with the risk of escalation and the necessary international coordination.

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

FDP defense expert Marcus Faber called the decision to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine correct on Tuesday evening. “After eleven months, the training of the Ukrainian crews can finally start,” he said. “The consistent and rapid implementation is now crucial and at the same time the most important challenge for the new Minister of Defense. Ukraine urgently needs the tanks to convince the invading troops to go home.”

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

CDU leader Merz welcomes the decision

Union faction leader Friedrich Merz welcomed the decision of the federal government, but at the same time accused Chancellor Scholz of hesitation. “The decision is correct,” said the CDU chairman on Tuesday evening of the German Press Agency in Berlin.

Foreign Minister Baerbock, Chancellor Scholz, Defense Minister Pistorius (from left)

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

(Photo: dpa)

At the same time, Merz criticized the fact that if the Chancellor had announced such a decision together with the French President (Emmanuel Macron) at the Franco-German Council of Ministers on Sunday at the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty in Paris, then this would have been joint political leadership. So the image of a driven person who has hesitated too long remains.”

The media reported last week that Germany would only supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine if the US in turn sent Abrams main battle tanks. The federal government denied that there was such a connection.

However, if the Americans are now prepared to deliver Abrams tanks, an understanding seems to have been reached in the end. Chancellor Scholz had emphasized that he only wanted to take qualitatively new steps in arms deliveries to Ukraine in close coordination with the allies – above all the USA.

Leopard 2 main battle tank could help Ukraine in counter-offensives

The Leopard means a new quality insofar as it could also allow Ukraine, in combination with armored personnel carriers and artillery that are also to be delivered, to launch counter-offensives or to recapture areas occupied by Russia. The German government had also hesitated because Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the delivery of battle tanks as an excuse for a further escalation of the war.

We have 29 Leopard 2 almost ready. We could hand them over to the Ukraine in March or April. Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger

As FDP defense expert Faber said, the planned delivery of initially 14 copies should only be seen as a start. On the fringes of the Handelsblatt conference “Security and Defense”. RheinmetallCEO Armin Papperger offered industry support on Tuesday: “We have 29 Leopard 2 almost ready. We could hand them over to Ukraine in March or April,” he said. The following also applies: “The decision lies with the Federal Chancellor.” It has now apparently been made.

The pain of levy is high, the chronic pain then comes down the timeline. Alfons Mais, Army Inspector of the Bundeswehr

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

In addition to Poland, Finland had also announced its willingness to supply leopards. Sweden and Spain could also participate in a coalition of the willing. Britain has pledged 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.



Leopard tank

the Bundeswehr has five different versions in its inventory.

The smaller opposition parties in the German Bundestag criticized the decision to deliver Leopard on Tuesday evening. “The delivery of Leopard battle tanks, which falls another taboo, potentially takes us closer to World War III than towards peace in Europe,” said Dietmar Bartsch, the head of the Left Party, to the dpa news agency. AfD faction leader Tino Chrupalla said in Berlin: “Germany is at risk of being drawn directly into the war. Our armed forces will be further plundered by the delivery of tanks from Bundeswehr stocks.”

The Bundeswehr, which has around 320 Leopard tanks in five different versions, would be hurt if vehicles were handed over and would also affect the operational capability of the armed forces as a whole. If one were to deliver Leopards to Ukraine, one would have to provide the country with spare parts and ammunition, which in turn would then be lacking for the operation of the vehicles remaining with the troops, Army Inspector Alfons Mais said at the Handelsblatt conference. “The pain of levy is high, the chronic pain then comes down the timeline.”

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